Pancho Villa: The first Asian world champion; June 18, 1923.
The history of boxing in the Philippines is the history of boxing and the evolution and progress of the sport in the Philippines. In the Philippines, boxing is considered a famous sport together with basketball, despite of the glories and honors it brought to the country, having produced Olympic standouts, professional world champions and some of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport. The Philippines has yet to win an Olympic gold medal but amateur boxing has given the country more medals in the Summer Olympics than any sport with 5 out of its 9 total medals. On the other hand, professional boxing has produced 42 major world champions (including those of Filipino heritage), one of the most in the world. Filipino greats like Pancho Villa, Flash Elorde and Ceferino Garcia are members of the two highly respected boxing hall of fames - International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) and World Boxing Hall of Fame (WBHF). Thus, giving the Philippines the most number of boxing hall of fame members out of Asia.
Before the Spaniards and Americans came to the Philippines, Filipinos had their own kind of boxing known as suntukan, which means "bare-hand fighting" in Tagalog, generally believed to have evolved from a Filipino knife fighting technique called "kali". During the Spanish colonization, such martial arts and kinds of fighting were banned, so it was driven in the undergrounds where the deprivation of knives and rattan sticks lead to fist fighting.
The evolution of Philippine boxing was thought to be after the Spanish–American War, where Spain ceded its colonial territories, namely Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States as agreed in the 1898 Treaty of Paris. Some reports told that American soldiers brought the modern boxing in the Philippines where evidences of a pair boxing gloves were made by Sol Levinson of San Francisco and another story telling that a renegade soldier brought some boxing gloves to Filipino prisoners and taught them how to use it. However, it was generally believed that three Americans were responsible for the evolution of boxing in the country namely: Frank Churchill and the Tait brothers (Eddie and Stewart) Eddie and Stewart Tait, also dubbed as "Barnums of Borneo", were amusement park entrepreneurs who established carnivals and horse racing tracks in Manila, who arrived in the country in 1902. Eddie, believed to be a boxing enthusiast, wanted to attract crowds by teaching Filipino locals some western boxing lessons for free to create American-style Filipino boxers.
In 1921, boxing was legalized in the Philippines and began to flourish. Frank Churchill joined by the Tait brothers, established the Olympic Boxing Club in Manila. During this time, the country saw the first batch of great Filipino fighters such as Dencio Cabanela, Speedy Dado, the Flores brothers (Francisco, Elino, Macario and Ireneo), Pete Sarmiento, Sylvino Jamito, Macario Villon and the legendary Pancho Villa. The first golden age of Philippine boxing emerge as Pancho Villa won the universal world flyweight championship from Welshman Jimmy Wilde to become the first ever Asian and Filipino world champion. Villa defended his title three times including a fight in the Philippines with fellow Filipino Clever Sencio where he won by fifteen-round decision, which at the time, nobody thought it would be the last victory of his young career. The glorious era was short-lived following the ring deaths of popular fighters Dencio Cabanela and Clever Sencio along with the death of Pancho Villa from Ludwig's angina and their influential promoter Frank Churchill.
There was also the Filipino-Spanish boxer, Luis Logan, who at one time or another held the title Oriental welterweight and heavyweight champion. Logan's boxing career spanned 1925–1940; and spent half his boxing career in Spain, Argentina, outside of the Philippines.
Nonito Donaire with his WBO and WBC bantamweight belts.
On July 20, 1955, Filipino boxing fans saw the birth of Philippine boxing's second golden era as a Cebuano boxer named Gabriel "Flash" Elorde beat the then reigning world featherweight champion and later Hall of Famer Sandy Saddler in a non-title bout at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. Elorde went on to win the world super featherweight championship from Harold Gomes by a seventh-round knockout on March 16, 1960. Elorde kept his world title inside a division record of 7 years and 2 months with 10 successful defenses, including a one-round knockout of Gomes in a rematch. Flash Elorde, during his time, was one of the busiest fighters who traveled to fight very often. A great and fearless fighter, Elorde was one of the most beloved Filipino athletes since Pancho Villa. In this Elorde inspired period, twenty world champions were created spanning from Roberto Cruz to Gerry Peñalosa along with the formation of the "Big Four of Professional Boxing" or the major sanctioning bodies, namely the WBA, WBC, IBF, and WBO. However, as time goes by, boxing was becoming less popular in the country because of many alternative sports including basketball until Manny Pacquiao came.
Third golden age of Philippine boxing (present)
A Filipino boxer named Manny Pacquiao was an entertaining star in the local boxing television show called "Blow-by-Blow" by the famed Filipino manager and promoter Rod Nazario. Viewers became accustomed to Pacquiao's name not only because of his aggressive style but also due to his unique looks and catchy surname. Pacquiao's ascendancy heralded a new wave of Filipino boxers and marks the third great era of Philippine boxing.
On December 4, 1998, Pacquiao upset Thai Champion Chatchai Sasakul in Thailand to win the Lineal and WBC flyweight championship (his first world title). On his title defense, Pacquiao lost his title on the scale and was knocked out in the fight by Medgoen Singsurat of Thailand. Pacquiao lost his WBC title on the scales as he was unable to make the flyweight limit. Pacquiao gained weight and skipped the super flyweight and bantamweight divisions to fight at super bantamweight division. Pacquiao, for the second time in his career, was the heavy underdog against South African Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, the reigning IBF super bantamweight champion. On June 23, 2001, Pacquiao dethroned Ledwaba to win his second world title in two different weight divisions. In 2003, Pacquiao's career rose to its peak as he stopped the then reigning Lineal and The Ringfeatherweight champion Marco Antonio Barrera of Mexico via 11th-round technical knockout. Since that time, Pacquiao has acquired three lineal titles and four major (WBC & IBF) world titles along six different divisions--flyweight (112 lbs.), super bantamweight (122 lbs.), featherweight (126 lbs.), super featherweight (130 lbs.), lightweight (135 lbs.) and light welterweight (140 lbs.).
The "Pacquiao Wave" regenerated boxing in the Philippines, inspiring a new generation of boxers to aim ever higher. Nonito Donaire, one of the Pacquiao-wave fighters, became the second Asian to win four world titles in four weight divisions by defeating South African Simpiwe Vetyeka to claim the WBA featherweight title on May 31, 2014. In 2017, Donnie Nietes became the third Filipino boxer to win world titles in three different weight divisions when he defeated Thailand's Komgrich Nantapech in May 2017. In Dec. 31 2018, Donnie Nietes became the third Filipino boxer and third Asian to win world titles in Four different weight divisions when he defeated Japanese Kazuto Ioka via split decision on New Year's Eve, winning the vacant World Boxing Organization belt at the Wynn Palace in Macau.
Rey Danseco is the only ring official from the Philippines and Asia to receive the highly regards award of world magnitude.
The Philippines has produced respected ring officials. Referee Carlos "Sonny" Padilla officiated the famous "Thrilla in Manila" match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1975. He worked as third man in the ring in many big matches for over 25 years.
In 2012, the World Boxing Council awarded Rey Danseco the Judge of the Year. He received the accolade in a rite held during the 50th Annual WBC Convention at the Grand Oasis Hotel in Cancun, Mexico. To date, Danseco is the only Asian boxing ring official to win an award of such magnitude. He is also a multiple Judge of the Year awardee in the Philippines until he moved to the US in 2012.
List of men's professional boxing world champions
LEGENDS: Major World Titles [Major Sanctioning Bodies: WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO] Lineal, The Ring HoF Hall of Famers [IBHOF (highly regarded) & WBHF (lightly regarded)] U Undisputed World Champions [Universal (USA & Britain) or Now (Having held 3 of the 4 major titles in a single division)] L Lineal World Champions (Transnational Boxing Rankings Board) R The Ring World Champions (The Ring magazine) S Super World Champions [Sanctioning Bodies: WBA (Super), WBC (Emeritus) & WBO (Super)] H Boxer of Filipino heritage [due to parent's nationality, residence or other circumstances] C Current World Champions
List of women's professional boxing world champions
LEGENDS: Major World Titles [Major Sanctioning Bodies: WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO] HoF Hall of Famers [IBHOF (highly regarded) & WBHF (lightly regarded)] U Undisputed World Champions [Universal (USA & Britain) or Now (Having held 3 of the 4 major titles in a single division)] H Boxer of Filipino heritage [due to parent's nationality, residence or other circumstances] C Current World Champions