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Remembering one of the greatest The Flash Elorde story

By Ronnie Nathanielsz | Sep. 08, 2013 at 12:03am
WITHOUT a doubt Gabriel “Flash” Elorde was not merely one of the greatest Filipino world boxing champions but an exemplary human being who richly deserves to be remembered not just by those who knew him, loved him and enjoyed his performances in the ring but also the younger generation to whom he is just a name.

Flash Elorde was one of the greatest Filipino world boxing champions and an exemplary human being who richly deserves to be remembered for his great achievements. He was part of many great rivalries. Flash Elorde was one of the greatest Filipino world boxing champions and an exemplary human being who richly deserves to be remembered for his great achievements. He was part of many great rivalries.


Some years ago, respected boxing patron  Antonio “Tony” Aldeguer told us that as one of those who knew Elorde better than most and someone who had covered most of his fights, we owed it to his memory to tell the story of his life and times.

Elorde was known not only for his incredible skill and raw courage but even more so for the exemplary human qualities that shone like a beacon among the heroes of our time.

Both Aldeguer, Elorde’s widow Laura Elorde, daughter of the “Grand Old Man” of Philippine and international boxing, Lope “Papa” Sarreal who was Elorde’s manager besides being his father-in-law, wanted the documentary so that the younger generation of boxers and those who hadn’t seen his fights could  get a glimpse of a quintessential Filipino worth remembering.

Laura Elorde and her daughter-in-law Liza Elorde, wife of son Johnny Elorde, were gracious in allowing us access to the scrapbooks of Elorde and the historic memorabilia which included a couple of film clips.

We had an opportunity on Johnny Elorde’s recent birthday celebration to screen the documentary for the entire Elorde clan including his grandchildren and great grandchildren, relatives and friends. They were touched and re-embraced and re-kindled the memories of a wonderful human being.

Laura Elorde remarked  “after watching this compilation of the boxing career of my husband I think the person who did a painstaking job to make it so complete will help keep the memory of my husband “Bai” alive, now that I have three grandsons who want to try his career also.”

While thanking us, Laura said “this documentary shows us how the boxing of yesteryear was  over 15 rounds. It was a really hard job.”

She said the fights of Saddler and Gomes “were very memorable and I wish my family will always remember this and I hope Filipino boxers try their best in the careers they have chosen” even As she appealed to us to produce documentaries on other Filipino boxers which is actually in the works.

Liza Elorde said “this story is something very great. This is the time that the new generation should take a look at this great story about ‘Flash’ Elorde because we have somehow forgotten him. It’s not only about him being an excellent boxer but he (whom she referred to as ‘Daddy’) exemplified a wonderful trait of being humble and was someone who loved being with ordinary people in spite of the fact that he was a world champion.”

Flash Elorde drops rival Teruo Kosaka of Japan in their fifth and final battle. The late Elorde, world junior-lightweight champion from1960 to 1967, faced the Japanese banger five times from 1961 until 1965 establishing one of the great rivalries of the day. Flash Elorde drops rival Teruo Kosaka of Japan in their fifth and final battle. The late Elorde, world junior-lightweight champion from1960 to 1967, faced the Japanese banger five times from 1961 until 1965 establishing one of the great rivalries of the day.


Liza remarked that Elorde should serve as an example “not only to athletes but to people around the world. They should get a copy of this, it’s one of a kind, a masterpiece that Ronnie Nathanielsz has produced. It’s something that the Elorde family, children and grandchildren will cherish all the days of our lives.”

We ourselves, through the years of chronicling the saga of Elorde and other Filipino champions, kept a library of whatever fight videos we could secure here at home and abroad.

For the first time, the DVD which will be available through the Video City outlets throughout the country, will show the first and only knockout suffered by Elorde in his illustrious career in a fight we covered at ringside for Radio Station dzHP of the Radio Mindanao Network as well as the now defunct Philippines Herald newspaper.

While there are no films available of Elorde’s spectacular 7th round knockout victory of American Harold Gomes at the inauguration  of the Araneta Coliseum on March 16, 1960, we have had to settle for photographs that mirrored the memorable event.

Videos of Gomes fights prior to his title defense against Elorde provide an idea of just how good and strong the champion was and allows the viewers to realize the classic dimensions of Elorde’s victory in a fight where he dropped Gomes no less than five times.

There are highlights of Gomes winning the title from Paul Jorgensen of Houston, Texas in July 1959 and his demonstration of punching power in a 7th round knockout of Harold Smith of New York on January 20, 1958.

Gomes who was “Guest of Honor” at the Annual Gabriel “Flash” Elorde Banquet of Champions along with his entire family and visited the Philippines as he himself told us “to honor a great champion and more than that a great human being,” recalled the title fight and the 1st round knockout he suffered in the rematch some months later at the famed Cow Palace in San Francisco.

 

Elorde, in a poster printed in the US, went on to become the greatest Junior Lightweight champion of all time. Elorde, in a poster printed in the US, went on to become the greatest Junior Lightweight champion of all time.


George “Nene” Araneta, the handsome young son of visionary businessman-sportsman  Amado J.  Araneta, was the registered promoter of the  fight and recalls what he referred to as the fantastic crowd of 36,000 who crammed into the coliseum which at that time was the biggest domed venue in Asia and later became the acknowledged  “Mecca of Philippine Sports and Entertainment.”

But the Cow Palace will forever be remembered as the site of the epic rematch between Elorde and American champion Sandy Saddler.

The two first clashed in Manila on July 20, 1955 which was a fight that even the World Boxing Council recalled in its daily flashback of memorable ring encounters.

That was the night Elorde stunned the boxing world when he outpointed the world featherweight champion in a ten-round non-title fight.

It was a fight etched in the memories of many for the sheer gallantry of Elorde against a veteran world champion who was regarded as one of “the dirtiest boxers in the business.”

Renowned journalist, the late Teddy Benigno didn’t give Elorde a chance against Saddler. When it was over, Benigno, in his usual masterful fashion wrote “with his legs almost shot from under him… his face a rucksack of welts, cuts and bruises ... his eyes mere slits, Elorde would pull that courage from some inner, invisible scabbard and turn the tide.”

Both Benigno and “Nene” Araneta are featured in the documentary along with several others including the late founding secretary general of the WBC, Atty. Rodrigo “Rudy” Salud, the late Rod Nazario, business manager of Manny Pacquiao, the late Moy Lainez who was a partner of Nazario in shaping the  career of Pacquiao along with Lito Mondejar who owned the L&M Gym and together with Lainez managed world champions of that era.

A trip to Elorde’s hometown of Bogo, Cebu with youngest son Marty Elorde was truly fascinating. We met a former classmate of Elorde, Teodoro Pedroso who spoke of their friendship, Mayor Celestino Martinez who told us about how even though Elorde was beaten by Ortiz town folk went to the cinema two weeks later to watch a fight movie believing that somehow their “Flash” would win!

There  was lanky boxer Romy Masong who recalled how they used to spar in the churchyard of the San Vicente Parish Church which Elorde would visit after every title fight to give thanks and would, on his knees, trek from the door to the altar which was some distance away.

Tanny Campo from whom Elorde won the Philippine bantamweight crown remembers Elorde as someone who never changed even when he became world champion.

Elorde was the consummate gentleman in and outside the ring. A good and decent family man he cared for his children and loved his wife, Laura.

A devout catholic, Elorde built Saint Rita’s Chapel along Sucat Road in Parañaque and actually helped in the construction work.

He attended Mass every morning when the chapel was built and served as an altar boy.

Whenever Elorde fought the nuns at Saint Rita, led by the elderly Sister Theresa, would gather around the radio listening to our coverage  over dzHP Radio while praying the rosary.

Sister Teresa told us many years ago, on television, that she would never forget “Flash” Elorde because of her respect for him and affection for what he did and the man he was.

When Elorde was knocked out by Ortiz the nuns intoned together—“Thank you Lord it was Your will” while one brave sister remarked “this is God’s way of protecting our Elorde because if he won, he would have to fight again and again.”

In recognition of Elorde’s greatness, the World Boxing Council on its 20th anniversary celebration in New York named Elorde and the classy Nicaraguan Alexis Arguello as the best junior lightweights in the history of the WBC.

In a special message recorded for the documentary, Sulaiman paid tribute to Elorde as an exemplary champion, a role model for other fighters and referred to “Flash” as “my hero.”

Gabriel “Flash” Elorde was truly a hero of our time—someone who deserves to be remembered because for many of us the passing of the summers hasn’t dimmed the cherished memories of one of the greatest Filipinos of all-time.
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