Sunday, 25 March 2012

'Flash Elorde' and me - a surprise encounter

Harold Gomes drops to the canvass for the fifth time before finally succumbing to Da Flash in their March 16, 1960 bout at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. - Website photo

Michigan, USA
I WAS IN elementary school in the mid-50's when I heard the name Gabriel "Flash" Elorde from our Tatay and his co-employees at San Mauricio Gold Mines .

Usually, with a few bottles of "San miguel Beer" and lots of "balot pampulutan", everything would go wild whenever he fought. It was as if they could see the action in the ring. But no.

There was no television during those days and owning a transistorized" battery-operated" radio was a luxury. But they made do with a cheap battery-operated radio, just imagining the flurry of punches and busy foot works around the small space bounded by ropes, where only three people existed in the world: "D Flash', his opponent and the ring referee.

Tatay was a big fan and follower of "d' Flash" and by being with his group in our house as "stand-by helper", I became a boxing fanatic as well instantly ... just like them.

To boxing afficionados and sport writers not only in the Philippines but also around the world, Gabriel "Flash" Elorde, according to them, gave biggest name to our country in the 60's and an Icon living in a dream of courage and rising from poverty and becoming the "longest reigning World Junior Lightweight Champion ever in the history of boxing".
Garbrief "Flash" Elorde
For seven years and three months, (March 16, 1960 to June 15, 1967) "Bay"("friend" in Visayan dialect and also his casual nickname) was the World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Association (WBA) Universal Champion.

Based on records, it said that Elorde started boxing professionally at the age of 16 on June 16, 1951 in Cebu City and piled up 88 win (33 KO'S) - 27 losses - 2 draws in his boxing career.

"D' Flash's" powerful right-left combination and uppercut with tenacity and lightning speed brought Harold Gomes, the depending WBC/WBA American champion in March 16, 1960 five times to the canvass enroute to seven round knockout victory and snatched his crown at the then newly-built Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.

Harold Gomes tried and failed to get his crown back when they had the rematch in San Francisco, California, the following year. And this time, Elorde sent him to the canvas in the first round with hard left hand to the face.

Challenging Carlos Ortiz of Puerto Rico, the reigning lightweight champion of the world twice, proved to be the nightmare in his long boxing career.
Gabriel "Flash" Elorde was knocked out on the same occasions at 14th round of their scheduled 15-round fight.

He lost his Junior lightweight crown on June 15, 1967 to a young Japanese boxer Yoshiaki Numata via unanimous decision in Japan.
Soon after, Elorde retired from boxing.

THE DAY  I  met "Bay"........March 26, 1982, approximately 11:25 am  at their family-owned Santa Rita Chapel

Never in my imagination that one day, I would have the chance to meet and shake hands with the boxing legend.

On March 26, 1982, I arrived at Manila International Airport for my annual month-long vacation from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia as OFW.

From there,  my wife, relatives and I went home for couple of hours' rest and then proceeded to the preschool where my daughter was enrolled.

As "pasasalamat sa Diyos" (prayers of thanks to Almighty), my wife told me that since we were there in Sucat, Paranaque anyhow, "dropping by at Santa Rita Chapel "was a good thing to do" she said.

We were walking towards the door of the Santa Rita Chapel when I saw a man with colorful polo shirt in a pair of khaki pants and wearing a pair of sandals.

He said: Tuloy po kayo, ako po si Bay at magandang araw po sa inyong lahat.

"Magandang araw din po", we replied.

My wife and daughter stayed some 12 to 15 minutes inside the chapel and I was out in about seven minutes.

At the back of my mind, I  kind of know  this man in colored shirt and who seemed familiar to me. Have I ever met this guy before? Well, maybe not.

The man was busy tending to rows of flowering plants at that time but I approached him and asked: Eh, kilala n'yo po ba si Flash Elorde, kamukha n'yo po siya". 

Flash Elorde with Percy A Ostonal

 "Talaga!! Eh, ako nga si "Bay "... 'yan ang palayaw ko... (do you know Flash Elorde? You look like him ... [Really!! Well, I am ... "Bay" is my nickname).

Vividly as I recalled, he then said: Marumi ang kamay ko ...  hindi kita makamayan"(I can't have a hand shake with you as my hands are dirty).
I insisted to shake his hand anyway and told him that he was my idol and was so proud that in my lifetime, I had that opportunity of meeting him in person and will certainly cherish it for so long.

It was stunningly unexpected and we had this short conversation:

Percy: Curious lang po ako Flash, pero may tanong po ako sa 'yo: Sa mga nakalaban ninyo since na maging professional boxer kayo, sinong opponent(s) ang hindi mo makakalimutan at bakit?"

Gabriel 'Flash" Elorde: Si Harold Gomes at si Carlos Ortiz. Before the fight, balitang mahusay itong si Gomes, pero sa fight night, kaya ko pala ang dating niya at sa seventh round noong unang laban namin "napuruhan" ko siya sa panga at bagsak.

"Doon naman sa San Francisco, California, sa rematch naming, dahil alam ko na ang "movement" niya, first round pa lang tapos na ang laban.

"Bukod sa matatag si Ortiz, malakas at malaki siya kahit pareho kami ng heights (5'7") ... dalawang beses akong kinapos "Bay", pero alam ko nahirapan rin siya sa akin.

"Iyan ang storya ng madali at pinaka-mahirap na laban ko sa aking boxing career".

"Flash" Elorde was born in the Town of Bogo, Cebu and the youngest of 15 children. He was so poor that he had to stop going to school, finishing only Grade 3.

He died on January 2, 1985 at the age of 49.

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