“If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.” MUHAMMAD ALI
By Alex P. Vidal
After absorbing back-to-back defeats to Yoshiaki Numata, Akihisa Someya, and Eugenio Espinoza from 1967 to 1969, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde refused to heed calls for his retirement.
The longest reigning world juior lightweight champion from Bogo, Cebu was already 34 years old when pitted against Japanese journeyman, Jaguar Kakizawa, at the Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City on April 26, 1969.
The same age of Manny Pacquiao today who will tangle against 27-year-old brawler, Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios, for the vacant WBO international welterweight crown at the The Venetian Macao Resort in Macau, China on November 24.
Younger by 12 years, Kakizawa (35 wins, 11 losses with 5 KOs and 2 draws), embarrassed Elorde (89 wins, 27 defeats with 33 KOs and 2 draws) before a partisan Filipino crowd via 10-round unanimous decision.
The loss to Kakizawa was a bitter pill to swallow for Elorde’s father-in-law and manager Lope “Papa” Sarreal Sr. as it was supposed to be Elorde’s tune-up fight for him to shoot once more for the WBC junior lightweight title against Hokkaido-born Numata (44-8, 12 KOs, 2 draws).
It was Numata who ended Elorde’s reign as WBC junior lightweight ruler for seven years via 15-round majority decision on June 15, 1967, and Sarreal could not forgive Numata, then 22 years old, and the reigning Oriental Pacific champion, for snatching away Elorde’s belt.
The name Numata was an enigma to both Elorde and Sarreal. The same Numata stopped Elorde eight-fight winning streak when he also grabbed Elorde’s OPBF crown by 12-round unanimous decision in Tokyo, Japan on June 9, 1966.
For Elorde to earn a third match against Numata and a crack at the Japanese’ WBC jewels, he needed to surpass two barriers — Someya and Espinoza. But, alas, Someya repulsed Elorde by 10-round majority decision in Manila on October 28, 1967. To compound his woes and further delay his climb to Numata’s throne, Espinoza bombed Elorde out via 10-round unanimous decision in Quito, Ecuador on February 16, 1969. The loss the Kakizawa further derailed the Elorde Express.
Elorde’s three straight defeats to Someya and Espinoza and later to Kakizawa, proved to be moot and academic as Numata lost the WBC crown to compatriot Hiroshi Kobayashi on a shock 12-round knockout in Tokyo on December 14, 1967.
As Elorde struggled to get past Someya, Espinoza, and Kakizawa, Numata tried in vain to add the WBC lightweight bauble in his collection of world belts when he was flattened in sixth canto by Mando Ramos in Los Angeles, California on October 4, 1969.
As Numata disappeared from Elorde’s radar, Kobayashi was stripped of the WBC title and another Filipino, Rene Barrientos (37-7, 2 draws) of Balete, Aklan, was awarded the world crown that originally belonged to Elorde, who had previously beaten Barrientos on points in Cebu on February 27, 1965.
Elorde never had a chance to fight for world title again. No more third meeting with Numata. No title shot against fellow southpaw Barrientos, who didn’t stay long as world champion. Elorde was already aging when young Panamian dynamo Roberto Duran entered the picture and dominated Elorde’s division for a decade.
Elorde retired after being humiliated by a patsy Japenese Hiroyuki Murakami in Tokyo on May 20, 1971. He had the universe under his feet when he wrapped up the WBC junior lightweight title with a devastating 7th round knockout against Harold Gomes on March 16, 1960 at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. The embarrassment inflicted by Murakami in Elorde’s farewell fight had served as an ugly blot in a magnificent record that started in 1951.
If Rios (31-1, 23 KOs 1 draw) will upset Pacquiao (55-7, 40 KOs 1 draw) on November 24, history will be repeated after 46 years. Pacquiao has incurred back-to-back losses to Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez, and is itching to climb back the ladder in a hope to get a stab at the legitimate world title once more.
The vacant WBO international welterweight belt to be disputed by Pacquiao and Rios does not have the legitimacy of a regular world championship. “International” champions, however, are compulsory candidates for world title matches.
Pacquiao badly needs to roll back into the win column and must beat Rios decisively in order to avert the misfortune that befell Elorde, who refused to hang up his gloves after amassing a fortune in prizefighting–and after securing his highly revered seat in fistic history. Or Pacquiao can opt for a choice retirement while he is still “ahead.”