Ceferino Garcia, forgotten ring hero

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Filipino Ceferino Garcia scores with a right against Barney Ross in a futile attempt fir the latter’s welterweight crown before moving up to claim instead the middleweight plum.
PHOTO FROM EDDIE ALINEA’S FILE

Ceferino Garcia a has largely been forgotten, especially nowadays with the emergence of new fistic horoes as Manny Pacquiao and a few others whose names are being floated in heated debates on the relative merits of Pancho Villa, Flash Elorde and Garcia himself.

The memory of his being one of only few Filipino fighters who populated the middleweight division and the only one at that to win the world championship in that category, looked to have faded completely.

Even his biggest contribution to the sport of sweet science – the “bolo punch” – has already been written off the books and relegated to total obscurity.

Only a few, perhaps remembers that a draw decision forced by the Filipino 160-pound titlist on the then three-division world champion Henry Armstrong their in showdown for Garcia’s middleweight crown on March1, 1940 in Los Angeles deprived Armstrong of being bestowed the honor of “Fighter of the Century” at the close of the last millennium.

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Then already the owner of the featherweight, lightweight and welterweight belts simultaneously, the only man to have done so up to the present time, Armstrong was eyeing to add the middleweight title to his collection in what could have tilted the “Fighter of the Century” honor in his favor.

It didn’t happen as the distinction was accorded to Sugar Ray Robinson instead, known as “poetry with a punch, ” a world welterweight champ and five-time middleweight kingpin.

Garcia simply overcame Arm­strong famous perpetual –motion attack that destroyed Barney Ross from whom the took the 152-pound plum on May 31, 1938 and 11 other challengers, including five in an incredible 22-day stretch between October 9 and 30 and six more in 1940 until he lost the crown to Fritzie Zivic.

In all those successful title defense, only four of Armstrong’s challengers lasted then distance proof, according to former local Games and Amusements Board chair Dominador Cepeda was no mean record that could have been taken into consideration in the race for the Fighter of the Century honor.

“But still, you have to give credit to our own Ceferino Garcia for holding his own against a fighting monster like Armstrong,” Cepeda told this writer in a conversation during his watch GAB head. “Ang ibig lang sabihin, hindi natin puwedeng kalimutan ang legacy na iniwan sa atin ni Ceferino.”

“If Armstrong is being acknowledged as one of boxing greats, so is Ceferino,” he added. “Kaya nga si Armstrong is a boxing legend kasi hindi lang siya basta three-division champion. Sabay-sabay niyang hawak yung tatlong titulong yun.”

“Meaning if he was defending his featherweight and lightweight crown, he had to reduce weight. Kung welterweight naman ang itinataya nya, dagdag naman siyang timbang,” Cepeda explained. “The fact that he failed to contain Garcia, our own boy is as great if not greater than him.”

The decision handing Robinson the Fighter of the Century honor was arrived at by a five-man panel of experts formed by the Associated Press. He edged “Heavyweight of the Century” honoree Muhammad Ali. Robinson and Ali received two first place votes each. Armstrong got one first place vote along with Willie Pep who as adjudged the best featherweight. ,

Filipino Hall of Famer Pancho Villa was named Best Flyweight of the Century.

Garcia, definitely one of the greatest fighters that came this shore, stopped New York and European title holder Fred Apostolic to win the crown on October 2, 1939. He defended the title against Glen Lee in Manila via a 13-round KO a little more than two months later on December 23,1939.

Two months after drawing with Armstrong, the then 30-year-old Garcia flew to New York only to lose the plum to Ken Everlin over 15 rounds on May 23, 1940.

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