Francisco Guilledo also known as Pancho Villa was the first Asian and Filipino who won a world boxing title. Many in our generation are wondering who is Pancho Villa, where it didn’t appear on any historical reference books as the first Filipino boxer to win a world boxing title.

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The name Pancho Villa was inspired by the Mexican revolutionary general “Pancho Villa” as they shared the same first name “Francisco” and his surname was adapted from his boxing manager Paquito Villa. He was born on August 1, 1901 in Ilog, Negros Occidental who grew up without his father as they was abandoned just six months away from his birthday. At a young age, he worked with his mother by raising goats in a hacienda of a wealthy family.

At age 11, he left Negros Occidental and went to Iloilo to create a new beginning with his life. He worked as a shoeshiner to have food in his table and later gained a boxer friend that helped him migrate and be a boxer in Manila and settled in Tondo. He didn’t waste time as he trained and occasionally spar with friend and gathered attention with local boxing fans. At 18 years old, he debuted as a professional boxer and two year later named as Philippine Flyweight Champion. He was contemplating his retirement in boxing after he was rejected by a woman he courted in 1922 but the local boxing fans compelled him to return in the ring.

Frank Churchill, one of American boxing promoters that was based in Manila, along with Paquito Villa who served as the manager of Guilledo declared to rename Francisco Guilledo to Pancho Villa as his boxing name. Those two people who manage and promote Pancho Villa were the key people why he got up in the ranks and make a shot to play boxing in the land of America. Early in his career, he got himself an expected rivalry with Mike Ballerino whom he fought for 9 times in Manila and defeating him in those 6 matchups. Ballerino was also managed by Churchill in America.

Villa was invited to fight in the United States by boxing promoter Tex Rickard at Oakland A.A., Jersey City. His first two fights last June and July 1922 in the America resulted in loss as he was matched up against Abe Goldstein and Frankie Genaro. Although his international debut fights went south, he was chosen to fight the American Flyweight Champion Johnny Buff on September 15, 1922. Pancho upset Johnny Buff in the 11th round of boxing and claimed the American Flyweight Championship title in just 3 months of stay in America since he landed.

Eight fights after he won the title, he was matched up again with Frankie Genaro and lost his title via Split Decision in a widely criticized decision. His division ranking improved in 5 fights after his lost as he was qualified again to fight for the vacant World Flyweight Championship belt with the great flyweight boxer Jimmy Wilde. Two years after his retirement in 1921, Jimmy unretired himself to get another championship belt versus Villa. They met at the Polo Grounds in New York City last June 18, 1923 and by surprise the great Jimmy Wilde was knockout in the 7th round by Villa’s thundering right hand to the jaw.

In the boxing world, Jimmy Wilde is the all-time greatest flyweight boxer in boxing history and he was just defeated three times in his 143 bouts. He recorded 98 Knockouts in his 131 wins as professional boxer. His fight with Villa turned to be his last boxing match and third boxing defeat.

Pancho Villa’s prominence in boxing resulted in a hero’s welcome by former President Emilio Aguinaldo then later invited to the Malacañan Palace by former President Manuel Quezon. After his visit, he came back to USA to defend his title multiple times and losing one time over Bud Taylor and forcing a draw match with Eddie Mckenna.

Three months later, he recovered his title to Bud Taylor and eventually have to defend his title over fellow Filipino Clever Sencio in our homeland. It was reported that Pancho Villa was running out of cash that’s why he decided to fight in the Philippines and defend his title. He didn’t disappoint as he successfully defended his title via Unanimous Decision in Wallace Field, Manila which is now called Luneta. The boxing match between the two marked as the first ever Filipino vs Filipino fighting for the world championship title. None of his fans knew that fight was his second to last fight and his last ever boxing win.

Two months later, he was scheduled to fight Jimmy McLarnin for a non-title fight in Oaks Ballpark, Emeryville but days leading to the fight, he got his tooth extracted due to ulcerated tooth. His dentist advised him to bed rest and postponed his upcoming fight. Pancho Villa insisted to proceed with the match resulting to one hand protecting his affected face and eventually lose the fight. Three days after the fight, the infection worsen and the dentist need to extract three more teeth and advised him again to bed rest for a while. Again Villa insisted to do something fun and choose to carouse with his friends against his dentist’s prescription.

July 13, 1925, he was rushed in the hospital because he can’t handle the infection and found out that his condition resulted to a disease called Ludwig’s angina. Surgery has done into his mouth resulting in a coma which eventually caused the tragic death of Francisco Guilledo. He died on July 14, 1925, just 17 days before his 24th birthday.

His remains was buried at Manila North Cemetery in August 1925. Pancho Villa was one out of two Filipino boxers who were recognized in the Top 100 Greatest Pound for Pound boxers of all time, the only other Filipino boxer is Manny Pacquiao.

It’s a wrap

Francisco Guilledo deserved to be in every historical books here in the Philippines especially he was the one who originally put our country in the map of world boxing. He deserved to be celebrated even though his boxing career tragically ended by a tooth infection. A pure Filipino who excelled in an American sport and became a world champion in early stage of his career. Pancho Villa rightfully belongs as one of the legends of Philippine Sports History.