By: Maloney L. Samaco

    Today, January 02, 2008, the relatives and friends of the legendary Gabriel "Flash" Elorde will commemorate his 23rd death anniversary.

    Born on March 25, 1935 and raised in Bogo, Cebu, he is generally considered as one of the greatest Filipino boxers of all time in the same category with Super-Featherweight Superstar Manny Pacquiao and Flyweight Champion Pancho Villa. Being a "Chain Smoker," Elorde died after losing a battle with lung cancer at the age of 49 on January 02, 1985.

    In spite of his achievements and awards, Elorde remained humble and kind earning the love and adulation of his countrymen. As World Champion, he visited Boys Town and the Tala Leprosarium bringing toys, food and providing amusement every Christmas season.

    He also built the chapel, orphanage, and some school buildings of St. Rita College in Paraρaque. In his memory, his wife, Laura, the daughter of his manager Lope Sarreal, and children continue to provide food and shelter to numerous street boys who dreamed of following the "Flash's" career path.

    Elorde, who turned pro at the age of 16, is one of the greatest fighters in the Asia-Pacific region. Every year from 1952 to 1967 he fought in a national, regional, or world title bout. He was undefeated as Philippine and Orient-Pacific Bantamweight Champion. He reigned also as Orient-Pacific Lightweight King for nine (9) years.

    In March 20, 1960, he won the World Junior Lightweight title with a seventh-round stoppage of Harold Gomes at the Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City. He was the WBC Junior Lightweight (Super-Featherweight) Champion from March 20, 1960 until June 15, 1967 and WBA Super-Featherweight Champion from February 16, 1963 to June 15, 1967 making him the longest reigning World Junior Lightweight Champion ever for seven (7) years and three (3) months.

    Elorde won over all-time great Featherweight Champion Sandy Saddler in 1955 in a non-title bout. In 1956 a rematch with Saddler was held in San Francisco, California, this time with Saddler's Featherweight title at stake, but Elorde suffered a cut in the eye and lost the fight via a 13th-round technical knockout.

    General Carlos P. Romulo, the only Filipino Secretary General of the United Nations, who at that time was Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States, witnessed the fight in New York with General Douglas McArthur, and sent this message to Elorde: "You may have lost the fight but you won the heart of America."

    Elorde also challenged lightweight Carlos Ortiz for his world title twice but was stopped both times in the 14th round. The "Flash" retired with a record of 87 wins (24 knockouts), 27 losses, and 02 draws, and was named "The Greatest World Junior Lightweight Boxing Champion in WBC History" in 1974.

    In 1960, Elorde was awarded together with Ninoy Aquino as one of the Ten (10) Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM) by the Jaycees. In 1993, he became the first Asian inducted into the New York-based International Boxing Hall of Fame. He was also enshrined into the World Boxing Hall of Fame.

    Other awards collected by the "Flash" were the President Carlos P. Garcia belt for his second successful defense of the World Junior Lightweight title versus Joey Lopes, the Golden Heart Medal from President Diosdado Macapagal; the Presidential Award of Merit in 1984 from President Ferdinand E. Marcos, and the Papal Medal conferred by the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in the same year.

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