The Philippines has a proud history of boxing, dating back in the 1890s. It has become one of the best sporting events in the country and it did not lose its appeal to every Filipino. Up to these days, boxing has an impressive following in the Philippines. Manny Pacquiao, Nonito Donaire Jr. and Donny Nietes are among the top names in boxing not only in the Philippines but all around the world.
But did you know that before Pacquaio became an eight-division world champion, there were Filipino boxers who have made their countrymen proud? Let’s check the list of the all-time great Filipino boxers who graced the square ring. Take note that we did not include active boxers as they have yet to complete their journey, and they still got something to prove.
On this list are pure Filipino boxers who brought honor, pride and enduring legacy to the Philippine boxing scene.
List Of The Greatest Pinoy Boxers
1. Pancho Villa (91-8-4)
Pancho Villa was the first Filipino boxing champion, and it made way for the Philippines to be at the center of the boxing limelight. However, Villa died at a young age of 24 after suffering blood poisoning. In his six-year tenure as a boxer, he fought more than a hundred fights. He was successful of bagging two national titles, even beating men larger than him.
2. Gabriel “The Flash” Elorde (88-27-2)
Up to these days, Gabriel Elorde remains one of the most popular, if not the most, boxers in the Philippines. He was regarded as the best boxer in and out of the ring. He holds the record of the longest-reigning junior lightweight champion. His nickname, The Flash, was also his strongest arsenal. His lightning speed was instrumental to win hard-fought fights.
3. Ceferino Garcia (102-28-12)
After being refused to enter the U.S. Navy, Garcia channeled his frustration to boxing. He’s the first and only Filipino to win a boxing title at the highest weight limit; the world middleweight championship.
4. Luisito Espinosa (47-13)
Luisito Espinosa is the first “Mex-ecutioner”. Long before Pacquiao rose to fame, Espinosa was the problem among Mexican boxer. He’s also tall for a bantamweight (5’7″), and he used his height advantage.
5. Benjamin “Small Montana” Gan (82-24-10)
Small Montana’s inspiration was Pancho Villa. He has a penchant of bringing with him a photo of his idol. He’s one of the best flyweights the Philippines has produced. He held the flyweight championship for two years and was recognized by the New York state authority following his defeat of Midget Wolgast.
6. Dodie Boy Peñalosa (31-7-2)
If you’re looking for an all-around Filipino boxer, look no further than Dodie Boy Peñalosa. During childhood, he suffered from a disease called polio, which made his left leg shorter than the other. But it did not stop him from his dreams of becoming a boxing icon. His younger brother, Gerry Peñalosa, was also a world boxing champion.
7. Eleuterio “Little Dado” Zapanta (45-4-9)
Although he never won any recognition as a world champion, Little Dado is still considered a Filipino boxing icon. He was not a knockout artist, but he sure knew how to land effective blows against his foe.
8. Rolando Navarette (54-15-3)
Navarette’s title shot came after seven years in boxing. He was a power puncher and he fought almost every boxer in Asia. Navarette was not a typical Southpaw, which caught Cornelius Boza-Edwards by surprise. His round-five-knockout victory against Boza-Edwards made him an instant boxing star in the Philippines. However, his life made a shocking turn and he was jailed for rape charges.
9. Rene Barrientos (39-7-2)
Although his entire career he was a runner-up, one fortunate event let Barrientos had the chance at a title shot. His first title bout after two years of successful fights came against Japan’s Hiroshi Kobayashi. He lost but awarded a second title shot when Kobayashi was stripped of the title. He fought Ruben Navarro of California, and he won.
10 Erbito Salavarria (39-11-3)
Salavarria was a flyweight. He became the first Filipino to regain a world title. After four fight with fellow Filipino boxer Ric Magramo and a split decision defeat against Tsuyoshi Nakamura of Japan, Salavarria got a shot. After his losses, he went on a three-year winning streak. He defended his title two times before losing it to Thailand’s Venice Borkhorsor.