By Ronnie Nathanielsz
World Boxing Organization flyweight champion Brian Viloria is dedicating his title defense against Mexico’s Omar Nino Romero at the Ynares Sports Center in Pasig City on Sunday to his close friend and former world champion Andy Ganigan who passed away recently, two years after suffering permanent brain damage following an unprovoked assault by a drunken man in Honolulu.
The hard-hitting southpaw of Filipino descent won the World Athletic Association lightweight title with a spectacular 2nd round knockout of Sean O’Grady on October 31, 1981 after dropping the Irishman three times in the round.
The win over O’Grady earned Ganigan a shot at the WBC lightweight title held by the great Alexis Arguello of Nicaragua. Ganigan dropped Arguello in the first round but couldn’t put him away and eventually lost by a 5th round knockout in a 15 round title fight refereed by Filipino Carlos “Sonny” Padilla on May 22, 1982.
Viloria told BoxingScene.com/Manila Standard that Ganigan “is like an uncle to me. He taught me how to throw a good body shot (when Viloria was 13 years old). He loved that left hook and he taught me the mechanics of it and why you have to sit down on your punches, how you turn your body and throw the hook. I practiced for a few weeks after that, just body shots alone."
Viloria said “I remember him coming up to me and telling me if you have a great body shot you can slow down a great fighters. To this day it still resonates. Every time I hit the bag or the punch-mitts I always hear Andy teaching me in the back of my mind on how to throw a good body shot. I guess that’s what relates to me right now - his mentorship.”
The two-division, three-time world champion described Ganigan as “really personable, really nice and really down to earth.”
Looking at the photo he had with Ganigan, Jesus Salud and Ben Villaflor who were all world champions, Viloria recalled “taking that picture with him and Jesus and Ben who were called the Filipino connection coming out of Hawaii was a thrill. Andy was Filipino but a local born and raised Hawaiian. We called him “Sugarman”. He was the original “Hawaiian Punch.”
Viloria said it was unfortunate that he passed away at a young age of 59 “in such a tragic fashion.”
Viloria recalled that he trained with Ganigan’s sons growing up in Hawaii and said “ the whole family, they were just great people.”
He said Ganigan who was named by Ring Magazine as one of the top 100 hardest punchers in boxing in 2003 “could hit.” Viloria remembered that Ganigan used to invite him over to his house “just to show me some of the great fights of Jesus Salud, Ben Villaflor and Andy Ganigan himself. “
Viloria said “those were the guys I looked up to when I was training. He was an old school, rugged type of fighter who came to fight. Those were the type of guys I grew up with and they helped me along. They were all guys who just loved to fight. Andy didn’t care about the glitz and glamor he just wanted to beat down his opponents. Just the old school mentality.”
Viloria said “I want to dedicate this fight to Andy and my late trainer also and everyone who came out and helped me as a fighter and made me who I am today. Andy is the one that really resonates within me to this day. Teaching me how to throw a body shot is something special I can live with for the rest of my life and I can hold near and dear to my heart.”