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The 13th Gabriel “Flash” Elorde Annual Awards and “Banquet of Champions”, which was held last March 25 to mark the 78th birth anniversary of the late world junior lightweight champion, was truly a “gathering of eagles.”

Manny Pacquiao, undoubtedly the finest of them all who has soared to incredible heights, compared Elorde to an eagle which banks on its strong vision to overcome obstacles.
A fitting choice as guest of honor and speaker, Pacquiao said that Elorde’s example “reminds us to keep raising our personal standards. His legacy inspires us to carve a memory of a great name and leave an inheritance of a great example.”
In his prepared address, Pacquiao said, “If you would look closer and deeper, you would realize that athletes are like eagles with strong vision. Athletes, like eagles, are able to focus up to five kilometers from the air. No matter the obstacle, the eagle will not move his focus from his target until he grabs it.”
Waxing emotional, Pacquiao said Elorde is “a constant reminder that what we do in life echoes in eternity. With the inspiration we get from eagles like Flash Elorde, let us become more committed in strengthening our vision and our resolve to face the storms of life with courage and wisdom.”
While he pointed out that eagles do not fly together, Pacquiao noted that the past and present Filipino boxing heroes in attendance are “coming together to celebrate as a family.”
'Bad Boy' Navarette and other ex-champs
Among the former world champions present were some of the men who gave Filipino fight fans unending joy with their exploits in the ring and the courage with which they chased their dreams.
One of the most exciting fighters who ever donned a pair of gloves was 71-year-old world flyweight champion Bernabe Villacampo, whose whirlwind style endeared him to fans and scared his opponents to near death.
Villacampo grabbed the WBA world title with a 15th round unanimous decision over Japanese champion Hiroyuki Ebihara in an action-packed battle of southpaws in Osaka on October 19, 1969 after which Ebihara retired.Villacampo was seated at the same table with former world junior lightweight champion Rolando Navarrette, the exciting southpaw with a vicious left who was known in his prime as “The Bad Boy From Dadiangas”.
The fighter has fallen on hard times but insisted he is now “The Good Boy from Dadiangas”. He showed off his fists that even with the ravages of alcohol and the passage of time, still possess the speed and power of old.
It was that devastating power that helped knock out Villacampo in the second round of a fight in Cebu in January 1976.
Navarette won the WBC super featherweight/junior lightweight title with a stunning fifth-round knockout of one of the top pound-for-pound fighters of that era, Cornelius Boza Edwards in Viareggio, Italy on August 29, 1981 in a title fight covered by CBS and telecast over the government TV network, MBS 4 or the Maharlika Broadcasting System.
Just as Pacquiao was noting that “this place is filled with eagles who do not allow problems and trials to stop them from achieving their goals,” we looked at another southpaw Rene Barrientos, who was a stylish boxer who won the world super featherweight /junior lightweight title with an impressive fifteen round decision over American Ruben Navarro on February 15, 1969.
Completing the “Gathering of Eagles” was WBC flyweight champion Erbito Salavarria, a classy boxer who shocked Thai boxing fans when he demolished their hero Chatchai Chinoi in two rounds, dropping him three times en route to a stunning victory on December 7, 1970.
But for all of the boxers present, their one true idol and hero was humble Elorde, who reigned as junior lightweight champion for over seven years and whose fights routinely attracted over 20,000 fans at the Araneta Coliseum.
Donaire and Viloria honored
Today’s generation of world and regional champions look up to Pacquiao as the fighter responsible for redeeming the country’s image internationally and providing the inspiration, while opening the doors for young fighters to try to emulate his achievements.
Two of these young men were dutifully honored by the Elorde family headed by the distinguished matriach Laura Elorde, widow of Flash. These were reigning WBO super bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire and WBO/WBA flyweight champ Brian Viloria.Donaire, who was named “Fighter of the Year” by the prestigious Boxing Writers Association of America as well as ESPN, Ring, Yahoo and Boxing Scene among many others made his mark by winning all his four title fights last year in spectacular fashion.
We had the rare honor and privilege of accepting the handsome trophy and a replica of the WBC Championship belt Elorde won when he scored a sensational 7th round knockout of American Harold Gomes at the inauguration of the Araneta Coliseum on March 16, 1960 before 26,000 wildly cheering fans, on behalf of Donaire.
Form one Flash to another. Replica of Flash Elorde's championship belt awarded to Nonito Donaire. (R. Nathanie …
Donaire is the first Filipino boxer to win the coveted replica of the championship belt with the previous awardees being Harold Gomes, Shigeki Kaneko and Carlos Ortiz.
Also honored as a “Fighter of the Year” was Viloria who graciously requested us to receive the trophy on his behalf since he, just like Donaire, was in the final stages of preparation for a title defense. Viloria will fight in Macau on April 6 against Juan Francisco Etrada, a warrior from Mexico while Donaire was to clash with former Cuban two-time Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux at the Radio City Music Hall in New York, one week later.
Pacquiao's next move
Pacquiao began his address at the stroke of midnight after spending hours watching the awards ceremony unfold while signing autographs, posing for photos with local and foreign guests and with TV networks sneaking in some interviews in-between.
He gave no real inkling about his plans or his next fight while telling Yahoo! Philippines that he is currently enjoying staying in shape by playing lots of basketball and not thinking about boxing. He has been campaigning hard for wife Jinkee who is running for vice governor of Sarangani Province and brother Roel who is seeking the congressional seat in General Santos City.
Besides honoring the men and women of strong vision, Pacquiao said the night belonged to the men and women “who are not afraid if only to survive the storms of life.”
To him the awards night celebration was a tribute to the awardees commitment never to give up.
Speaking from personal experience in his poverty-stricken childhood days and his setbacks in the ring Pacquiao recalled, “We have seen the face of defeat and failures, but we did not surrender. Those times that we won our fights, we remained humble. We did not give up our dignity and principles.”
Even when he lost Pacquiao pointed out in telling fashion “We remained honorable. We did not lose our dignity and principles.”
In closing, Pacquiao reminded his audience of a quote from the redoubtable wartime British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, “Success is not final … failure is not fatal … it’s the courage to continue that counts.”
Pacquiao will heed those words because in the final analysis, he is an eagle who has soared high in terms of achievements but has come down as always to a life resplendent with grace and utter humility in the same mold as the man the nation remembered and honored on Monday – the quintessential Filipino champion Gabriel “Flash” Elorde.

article from http://ph.sports.yahoo.com/blogs/fortherecord/pacquiao-navarette-attend-gathering-eagles-064442180.html


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