Influence of Filipino Martial Arts on Western Boxing

Before there was Manny Pacquiao here were other Filipinos making a name in western boxing. Filipinos have been in the game of western boxing since the early 1900’s. Since then Filipinos have also helped to revolutionize what is known as western boxing. In taking a brief look at the history of western boxing and the time Filipinos have been exposed to it you will see what transpired.

Go back to the early 1900’s. Picture the US military in Hawaii. The US brought to Hawaii with them the sport of boxing. The Filipino migrant workers brought with them various forms of Filipino Martial Arts like kali, escrima and arnis just to name a few. Combine those two and you get the beginning of the evolution of western boxing.

Did you know that there were Filipino World Champions in boxing dating back to the 1920’s? Would you recognize the names Francisco Guilledo “Pancho Villa”, Ceferina Garcia, Dado Marinom, Flash Elorde or Bernard Docusen? Odds are like mot those names are unknown. In short, Bernard Docusen “Filipino Cajun” in 1948 lost a decision to Sugar Ray Robinson in a welterweight title match. If you know anything about boxing odds are you have heard of Sugar Ray Robinson. Francisco Guillerdo was so good in the sport of boxing that he was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1961. There were many more great pinoy boxers but sadly are not very well known.

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What is even lesser known was the influence Pinoy boxers had on western boxing as a whole. The Pinoy fighters brought in aspects of kali, arnis and escrima into the sport. The Pinoy fighters had to adjust their styles to conform to the rules of the sport. Basically anything considered illegal or “dirty” boxing was what the Pinoy fighters had to learn to stop doing! The elbowing, head butting and stepping on the foot are all common in Filipino Martial Arts. Particular zones and angles as well as the use of both feet forward are all characteristics of Pinoy fighters which the western boxers had to get used to. Those “unorthodox” zones and angles come from weapons training, particularly the blades.

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With more and more practitioners of Filipino Martial Arts showcasing the arts more and more people begin to see the empty hands of Filipino Martial Arts. Hopefully one day references to the Pinoy boxers of the early 1900’s will be common knowledge. Until then demonstrators can only reference Pacquiao. Grandmaster Robert Castro of Eskabo Daan always like to tell the audience, ” Filipinos have hands! Just look at Pacquiao!” That is always a crowd pleaser.

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by PG Joseph B