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Before Manny Pacquaio, Luisito Espinosa and Nonito Donaire made their mark on the boxing world, a Cebuano boxer named Gabriel “Flash” Elorde brought glory to the Philippines.
Born in the town of Bogo, Cebu, Elorde fought his way out of poverty. The youngest of 15 children only finished third grade of his elementary education, and worked as a bearer of bowling balls and as a carpenter. At the age of 16, Elorde made his professional debut in 1951 against Kid Gonzaga, a foe he stopped on the fourth round. He was able to steal the bantamweight title within a year.
Nine years later, Elorde became a world super featherweight champion when he knocked out the defending champion Harold Gomes on the seventh round. This victory actually ended the Philippine’s lack of world championships in 20 years. A southpaw boxer, he bulldozed his opponents through his boxing skills and speed. He was inaugurated as WBC and WBA champion in 1963. He is still the junior lightweight division record holder for longest title reign that spanned for seven years.
Considered the greatest super featherweight champion of all time in WBC history, the “Flash” ended his career with a record of 88 wins (33 KOs), 27 losses and 2 draws. He died at the age of 49 from lung cancer on January 2, 1985.
In 1993, Elorde was inducted into the New York-based International Boxing Hall of Fame, making him the first Asian to be included. He also became part of the World Boxing Hall of Fame and was voted the 78th best fighter in Ring Magazine’s list of the “80 Best Fighters of the Last 80 Years.”