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Ring matriarch passes away


PhilBoxing.com




The boxing world lost a shining light yesterday when Laura Sarreal Elorde passed away of natural causes at home in Sucat, Paranaque, leaving behind a legacy of a matriarch who was an inspiration to her late husband, former world junior lightweight champion Gabriel (Flash) Elorde, and hundreds of fighters brought out of poverty to a live a better life by her family.

Laura was 92. She will lie in state at the family residence in the Elorde Sports Complex on Sucat until the burial, tentatively on Wednesday, at the Manila Memorial Park. Laura will be buried beside her husband. Her late father Lope, Sr. and Flash are enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.

Laura was confined at the Perpetual Help Medical Center in Las Pinas for three weeks then brought home last Saturday afternoon in an ambulance. She was swabbed twice in a COVID-19 test at the hospital and turned out negative. Because she had difficulty in breathing, the initial suspicion was coronavirus infection. But the tests showed otherwise. Laura was in an ICU regular room until her discharge.

“We couldn’t visit Mommy because of the quarantine,” said daughter-in-law Liza, married to her son Johnny. “But a week ago, she wanted to go home. We communicated with her through video and letters. She wrote a note saying ‘take me home, I’m not sick,’ put down her address and signed it. We decided to take her home rather than risk infection at the hospital.”

When Laura arrived home at about 1 p.m. last Saturday, her brood of children and grandchildren welcomed her with posters of “We love you.” She smiled, couldn’t be happier and was at peace. But by nightfall, her condition deteriorated. Doctors pronounced her dead at 2:33 yesterday morning.

“We’re all complete, except for Teresa who’s in the US and Malu who passed away in 2015,” said Liza, referring to Laura’s seven children. “Mommy wanted to come home to be with the family.” Laura would’ve delivered the welcome address at the 20th Elorde Awards Night that was set in the Okada Hotel last March 25 but the event was cancelled because of the pandemic. Last year, she celebrated two milestones in her life----her grandson Mig became the first Elorde since Flash to fight for the world championship and another grandson Nico, a PBA player with NorthPort, got married to long-time girlfriend Mich del Carmen. She is survived by 20 grandchidlren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Before Sen. Manny Pacquiao fought undefeated Keith Thurman in Las Vegas last July, Laura sent a good luck video and stormed the heavens with prayers. Pacquiao scored a resounding victory to win the super WBA welterweight title. Throughout her life, Laura was known as a caring and religious person. Even as she was wheelchair-bound in her late years, Laura stuck to her daily routine of rising at 4:15 a.m., going to Mass at 5 a.m., in the Fourth Estate chapel in Paranaque then taking breakfast with the boxers who stay in the Elorde compound.

Laura earned a liberal arts degree, major in English and History, at FEU. She studied elementary in Hong Kong and went to Imus Institute High School where a classmate was Sen. Ramon Revilla, Sr. Laura and Flash were married in a small ceremony in Tokyo in 1954. As Flash never finished high school, her upbringing and educational background brought stability to the fighter’s life.

“When Bay (Flash) fought, there was no live TV so we just relied on radio for news,” recalled Laura during an interview for the book “50 Greatest Filipino Athletes of All Time” last year. “I never watched his fights. I stayed home and prayed.” She was proud of her father, fondly known as Papa in boxing circles. “Papa produced 22 world champions from the Philippines, Japan, Thailand and Mexico,” she said. “He promoted fights all over the world and even met Fidel Castro in Cuba. He was an influential impresario with a lot of connections and he used his network to benefit Filipino boxers.” Laura followed in the footsteps of her father and husband to give fighters the opportunity for a better life and her sons, Bebot, Johnny and Marty have kept the family tradition intact.

Laura Elorde points to the target for her husband Flash to bang on the heavy bag. Laura died yesterday, 35 years after the former world junior lightweight boxing champion passed away.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.


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