LOS ANGELES, Cali. – On this day on June 18, 1923 or 96 years ago, Pancho Villa of the Philippines knocked out cold Jimmy Wilde of Wales in the seventh round of their world flyweight championship fight before a jubilant 23,000 fans at the Polo Grounds in New York.
The small, but terrible Villa, then only 22, thus, became the first Filipino and Asian, for that matter, to win a world boxing title, a feat duplicated by at least no less than a dozen more of his compatriots – Small Montana, Little Dado, Dado Marino, among others of the olden times and present day hero Manny Pacquiao, who, likewise, at one time or another ruled the 112-pound class.
Pacquiao, now 40 and a sitting Philippine senator, was to eclipse, though Villa’s accomplishment, succeeding in jumping from one division to another, crowning himself champions 11 times more to become the only man on planet earth to win titles in eight weight categories.
Without Villa (Francisco Guilledo in real life), who stood just a little over five-feet, there might not have been a Pacquiao.
Villa was tenacious on top of that squared arena, the man who opened the gate to the lucrative, rich U.S. market to every Filipino simon-pure, who followed in his footsteps.
Villa’s fearless, fast two-handed style endeared him to the fans and like Pacquiao, he was the highest-paid little man of his time. It was the Villa blazed that Pacquiao followed and it was that whirlwind style that the Pacman enjoyed to punch his way to where he is now.
“It’s a great honor to be compared to Pancho Villa, a great man and a great boxer. His memory has always been my inspiration in my every fight,” Pacquiao told The Manila Times when reminded of Villa’s heroics after his rigorous climb at Griffith Park Monday morning.
Paquiao is inn his second leg and most rigorous stage of his preparedness program for his July 20 fight against Keith Thurman at the MGM Grand Arena.
Villa came to the American soil only in 1922 following years of Philippine and Asian campaign. He won the world title in 1923, but was dead two years later in July 1925 from ailment called Ludwig’s engine of infection of then throat.
He last fought welterweight Jimmy McLarnin on July 4, 1925 despite suffering toothache. McLarnin, of course was bigger and heftier who became world 147-pound titlist later in his career.
Pancho’s remains were shipped to Manila in August, 1925. The entire nation was in mourning. The streets were draped in black. Every shop in Manila were closed. Over 100,000 paid homage to Villa at his funeral.
He was laid to rest at the North Cemetery.
In October 1961 Pancho Villa was enshrined to the boxing HALL OF FAME.
“A fast, two-fisted battler, an excellent boxer with a stinging jab. His record was a splendid one,” was how the HALL OF FAME paid Villa tribute.(By EDDIE G. ALINEA)