Robert Silva is back with with his series on the greatest Super Featherweights in boxing history starting with Gabriel “Flash” Elorde.
Before there was Nonito Donaire and Manny Pacquiao, there was Gabriel “Flash” Elorde. Elorde set the standard for Filipino fighters with his speed, boxing skills and southpaw style. While he eventually would be eclipsed by Pacquiao as the greatest fighter to hail from the Philippines, his legacy remains intact and was also the fifth greatest Super Featherweight in boxing history.
Elorde, like the majority of fighters from Asia, grew up in extreme poverty. He turned pro in 1951 at the tender age of 16. Throughout the 1950s, Elorde was a top contender in the Featherweight division, including a non-title decision win over legendary 126-pound champion Sandy Saddler. He would be stopped on cuts by Saddler in the rematch and would eventually move up to the 130-pound weight class. There he would begin an incredible seven-year run as the first dominant champion at 130.
On March 16, 1960, Elorde challenged World Super Featherweight Champion Harold Gomes in the Flash’s backyard of Manila. Elorde’s speed and combinations were too much for the reigning champion, as Elorde knocked Gomes down six times before putting him to sleep in the seventh to become world champion. Five months later, Elorde knocked out Gomes in the first round to cement his claim as the man at 130.
Elorde successfully defended his title 10 times over a seven year period. He was never once in danger of losing his title until he lost it. He was twice unsuccessful against World Lightweight Champion Carlos Ortiz. Elorde, like many great champions of the past, defended his title all over the world. That would eventually cost him as on June 15, 1967, Elorde would lose his title in a a questionable decision to Yoshiaki Numata in Numata’s backyard of Tokyo. Instead of seeking a rematch, Elorde moved up to 135 pounds and at the age of 32, his career was basically over, losing seven of his last 12 fights. Elorde became an ambassador of Filipino boxing until dying of lung cancer at the age of 49 in 1985.
If Flash Elorde had never existed, we probably wouldn’t have seen the likes of Donaire, Pacquiao and Donnie Nietes, legendary Filipino boxers who all cited Elorde as their idol. Donaire’s nickname is the “Filipino Flash,” an ode to Elorde’s legacy. Elorde developed the speedy southpaw style that had become synonymous with Filipino boxers. He was also the first dominant and charismatic 130-pound champion. All these ingredients culminated in Elorde being the fifth greatest Super Featherweight of all-time.