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Why Villaflor retired at 23


PhilBoxing.com



Ben Villaflor.
It’s not widely known why former WBA superfeatherweight or junior lightweight champion Ben Villaflor retired from the ring at 23. In a recent week-long visit to Manila after a 30-year absence, Villaflor divulged never-before-disclosed details about his boxing career during an interview by PlayItRightTV.

Villaflor, 69, quit boxing after losing the WBA crown to Sammy Serrano on a unanimous 15-round decision in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1976. “I wouldn’t consider Serrano the toughest fighter I faced because all he did was run around,” said Villaflor. “Victor Echegaray of Argentina was the toughest, he was big, strong and tall. We fought to a draw and I would’ve lost if not for scoring knockdowns in the seventh and 13th rounds. After the Serrano fight, I consulted a doctor. A bone was broken in my hand and my elbow was shattered. The doctor told me if I fight again, I might never be able to use my arm. So I decided to retire from the ring.”

It wasn’t Villaflor’s first brush with a major injury. In 1975, he was diagnosed with a detached retina in the right eye. Villaflor said his vision blurred in the seventh round of his fight against Korean Kim Chi Hyun at the Araneta Coliseum. “His thumb poked my eye and I couldn’t see,” said Villaflor who soldiered on to score a split decision in retaining the WBA title. “I was advised not to travel because my eye could burst so I underwent surgery in Manila. Dr. Ramon Batungbacal did the operation. I was in the hospital for a month and it took six months before I could do physical contact so during my recovery, I only ran and did drills in the gym.”

Villaflor made his pro debut in 1966 and was only 13. “My brother Ernesto was a pro and I learned boxing from him,” he said. “We sparred together. Ernesto is eight years older and now lives in Colorado. When I saw Ernesto box, I told myself I can do this. I was pulled in for a fight with no pay because the promoter needed a fighter at short notice. That was my first fight and I wasn't paid. My first pay as a pro was P20 and my biggest pay was $175,000 for the Serrano fight.”

Villaflor was born in Hacienda Florentina, Tanjay, Negros Oriental and moved to Hawaii to pursue his dream of becoming a world champion in 1971. He settled down in Honolulu after falling in love with a Hawaiian, Denise who’s half-Filipina. The Villaflors have three children and six grandchildren. A daughter is an administrator at a pre-school while a son is a police lieutenant and another son works at an oil refinery. One of Villaflor’s grandchildren Benny, 20, is trying out for the Maharlika Manila Football Club. It’s the reason why Villaflor flew in.


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


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