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STORY OF PHILIPPINE BOXING PART II: PANCHO VILLA, THE FIRST ASIAN WORLD CHAMPION


PhilBoxing.com



Pancho Villa.

The international popularity of Philippine boxing started when Pancho Villa won the universal world flyweight title from Welshman Jimmy Wilde to become the first ever Asian and Filipino world champion in 1923. Villa defended his title three times including a fight in the Philippines with another Filipino Clever Sencio where he won by a fifteen-round decision. Nobody expected it would be the last victory of his young illustrious career.

Francisco Guilledo in real name, Villa stood only 5 feet and 1 inch tall and did not weigh more than 114 pounds. At that time racial discrimination was very prevalent, but he rose from anonymity to earn the stature as one of the greatest flyweights in boxing history. He was never been knocked out in his entire boxing career, which tragically ended with his instantaneous death at only age twenty-three from complications of a tooth extraction.

Guilledo was born in Ilog, Negros Occidental, son of a rancher, and grew up in the hacienda of a wealthy plantation owner, assisting his mother who raised goats as she looked into the farm. At the age of 11, he traveled to Iloilo City to work as a shoeshiner. There, he met a local boxer who he accompanied to Manila, and lived in Tondo. He would sometimes spar with friends and fascinated the local boxing regulars.

He fought his first professional fight in 1919 against Alberto Castro and won by 3rd round KO. Within two years, he was the Philippine flyweight champion, having dethroned Terio Pandong on points. He almost left boxing after being rejected by a woman he courted, returning to Negros in 1922 to retire. But the demand of the Filipino boxing fans pressured him to return to the ring.

Guilledo fought under the guidance of at least two renowned local boxing personalities. The first one was the American boxing promoter based in Manila Frank Churchill. Another patron was a Filipino ice plant entrepreneur and boxing manager named Paquito Villa.

The changing of the name of Francisco Guilledo to Pancho Villa was credited to both of his benefactors. One version identifies Churchill as using the name of the Mexican guerrilla leader. While the second version says that Paquito Villa had legally adopted Guilledo in 1918, renaming him Pancho.

Not long before traveling to America, he fought future American world junior lightweight champion Mike Ballerino nine times in Manila between January 1920 and October 1921 winning six bouts. Later Ballerino was also managed by Frank Churchill after traveling to America.

In May 1922, Villa was invited by the famous boxing promoter Tex Rickard to fight in the United States. He accepted the invitation and sailed to America with his handlers Churchill and Paquito Villa. As soon as he arrived there, he was paired with a young but tough sparring partner in Enrique Chaffardet and immediately won his first international fight against Abe Goldstein in Jersey City on June 7, 1922.

He immediately faced and was defeated by Frankie Genaro on August 22, 1922. Villa attracted the attention of boxing fans and he was slated to fight against the American flyweight champion Johnny Buff on September 15, 1922.

To the surprise of many boxing enthusiasts, Villa defeated Buff in an upset, knocking out the champion in the 11th round to win the American flyweight championship. Villa had been in America fighting for just four months. Villa lost the title the next year to Genaro on points in a highly controversial decision which the fans severely criticized.


Pancho Villa and Jimmy Wilde.

The unpopularity of Villa's defeat on points was crucial on the turning point of the Filipino's career. Jimmy Wilde, the Welsh boxer and former world flyweight champion, decided to come back from his recent retirement and targeted the then vacant world flyweight title in a match to be staged in America.

While Genaro, the American flyweight champion who wrested the title from Villa was the first choice to fight Wilde, Villa's surging popularity persuaded the promoters that the Filipino boxer would make the better opponent.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Maloney L. Samaco.


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