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28 Years Ago This Month Morris East Becomes PH Youngest Champ With Ring Magazine KO of the Year Victory


PhilBoxing.com




Twenty eight years ago this month, Morris East did the Philippines proud by winning the WBA junior welterweight championship with an upset 11th round knockout of defending Japanese titlist Akinobu Hiranaka in Tokyo on September 9, 1992 becoming the country's youngest world boxing champion in the process.

Morris's title knockout win over Hiranaka who had wrested the WBA title by spectacular 92 seconds stoppage of the highly regarded Puerto Rican Edwin Rosario the previous June also won the KO of the Year 1992 award from the prestigious Ring Magazine.

Morris who was 19 years, 1 month and 1 day old when he beat Hiranaka, supplanted as the Philippines youngest boxing world champion Ben Villaflor who was four months older when he won the WBC junior lightweight title over Venezuelan Alfredo Marcano in 1972.

Morris is the second youngest boxer to win a world title after Puerto Rico's Wilfred Benitez who won the WBC junior welterweight championship in 1979 at 17 years of age.

Morris was born on August 8, 1973 in Olongapo City to a Filipina mother and an American navyman father. Due to his father's job that required shifts in overseas assignments, they got separated and did not meet until Morris had become a world champion years later. But his father was then already very sick and passed away not long after their reunion.

In search of livelihood, Morris found himself in Cebu City where he was discovered by a boxing scout Lito Cortes who introduced him to sports impressario Sammy Gello-ani. Gello-ani took Morris under his wings and staged amateur bouts for him to earn some money to fend for himself.

Morris turned pro at the tender age of 15 in May 1989 and figured in six bouts during that same year, winning five of them. His lone loss was to Boy Masuay by 10 round decision which he immediately avenged by 6th round TKO a few months after.

Despite suffering another loss and figuring in a no contest the succeeding two years, Morris progressed steadily in the pro ranks and by early 1992, he was ready for bigger fights.

Then just 18 years old Morris traveled to South Korea to fight for his first professional title as he challenged then OPBF junior welterweight champion Pyong Sup Kim. Although Kim was more experienced and fighting at home, he succumbed to the power of the Filipino who proceeded to claim the title via 12th round TKO.

Following Hiranaka's sensational title stoppage win over Rosario who was also a dreaded KO artist, there was a clamor in Japan for Hiranaka to defend against Morris in a bruited battle of emerging beasts from Asia.

Hiranaka was a heavy handed and offensive minded KO artist who at 28 was in his physical peak. He demonstrated it just months earlier when he claimed the WBA crown stopping Rosario in 92 exhilarating seconds Many in Japan as elsewhere expected same mayhem to befall the young challenger from the Philippines.

Far from being blasted out or overwhelmed, Morris held on his own and showed grit, courage and determination to ride out some dangerous moments before sending Hiranaka crashing to the canvas with a ponderous left to the point of the chin in the fateful 11th round.

The punch which made possible the Ring Magazine's KO of the Year 1992 award was not only the ending shot but also put a close to Hiranaka's career.

The victory over Hiranaka was a major high point for Morris who became the youngest Filipino to ever win a world title, a record that still stands today, nearly three decades later.

Morris also was the first Filipino fighter to win a KO of the Year award from the distinguished bible of boxing, the Ring Magazine which started giving out the award in 1989.

Nonito Donaire won two KO of the Year awards with his victories over Vic Darchinyan and Fernando Montiel in 2007 and 2011, respectively and Manny Pacquiao, one in 2009 over Ricky Hatton.

Since retiring from boxing at a young age in 1995, Morris has done incredibly well for himself and is currently an entrepreneur, boxing manager and trainer based in Las Vegas. He has trained the likes of Nonito Donaire, Zab Judah and Chad Dawson.

The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at teddyreynoso@yahoo.com and by phone 09215309477.


Click here to view a list of other articles written by Teodoro Medina Reynoso.


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