by Ronnie Natanielsz
Eight division world champion, national sports hero and crossover superstar Manny Pacquiao will be the guest of honor and speaker at the 13th Annual Gabriel “Flash” Elorde Awards and Banquet of Champions at the Grand Ballroom of the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel on March 25 beginning at 5:00 p.m..
Liza Elorde, wife of Johnny Elorde and prime mover behind the annual awards told the Manila Standard that although Pacquiao is a politician he is running unopposed and while she didn’t wish to invite a politician during the election period, Pacquiao was very different from most politicians besides being a multi-titled champion.
She said “Manny is close to the boxers and he himself wanted to address our fighters. After all, he is the one person who opened the doors for all of them and they are eternally grateful.”
Ms. Elorde said Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire who was named “Fighter of the Year” by the prestigious Boxing Writers Association of America, ESPN, Ring, Yahoo, Boxing Scene and many others will be the first Filipino boxer to be honored with the Gabriel “Flash” Elorde Memorial Belt.
However, Donaire has expressed his regrets at not being able to attend since he is deep in training for his unification title fight against WBA champion Guillermo Rigondeaux on April 13 at the Radio City Music Hall in New York.
An admirer of Elorde, Donaire had previewed some of the old fights of the former world champion and imitated his style even as the four-division world champion he told us he hoped to someday emulate Elorde and become world junior lightweight champion.
Previous awardees of the coveted Memorial Belt were Harold Gomes from whom Elorde won the world junior lightweight title with a spectacular 7th round knockout on March 16, 1960 and won by a stunning 1st round KO in a rematch two months later, Japan’s Shigeki Kaneko who beat Elorde four times although two were controversial decisions in Japan and former world lightweight champion Carlos Ortiz of Puerto Rico who was the only fighter to win by a knockout over Elorde at the old Madison Square Garden on November 28, 1966 after winning by a 14th round TKO in Manila in their first showdown.
Four reigning world champions led by WBO, Ring Magazine and WBC Diamond Belt super bantamweight champion Donaire, WBO/WBA flyweight champion Brian Viloria, WBO light flyweight champion Donnie Nietes and IBF light flyweight champion Johnreil Casimero who retained his title with a one-sided unanimous decision over mandatory challenger Luis Alberto Rios of Panama in Panama will also be honored along with former WBC flyweight champion Sonny Boy Jaro.
Viloria who was also formally invited by Liza Elorde said he regretted being unable to travel to Manila for the awards ceremony since he will be in training for his title defense against tough Juan Francisco Estrada of Mexico on April 6.