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Chance of a lifetime for Elorde

By Joaquin Henson
Sat, 14 Sep 2019

Juan Miguel Elorde.

Juan Miguel Elorde was born nearly two years after his grandfather, former world junior lightweight champion Gabriel (Flash) Elorde, died in 1985 so their paths never crossed. But against WBO superbantamweight champion Emmanuel (Vaquero) Navarrete of Mexico at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas tonight (tomorrow morning, Manila time), Elorde is praying that the Flash?s spirit will give him strength in the fight of his life.

Before leaving Manila for Los Angeles early this month, Elorde watched videos of the Flash?s greatest fights, drawing inspiration from the Hall of Famer who reigned over seven years in the 130-pound division. He also spoke to the Flash?s widow Laura, his prayerful grandmother who gave her blessings and sage advice.

?Mommy Laura told Mig to do his best, just relax and pray hard,? said Elorde?s mother Liza. ?She gave Mig several stampitas with prayers to God and the Saints.? Elorde took off with the stampitas in his bag. He stayed in L. A. for a week to train at Marvin Somodio?s Combinations Boxing Academy gym and retrace WBA welterweight champion Sen. Manny Pacquiao?s steps running all over Griffith Park then motored to Las Vegas.

Elorde, 32, is a 10-1 underdog and if he wins, it?ll be a windfall for those who bet for him. At the moment, the betting line is a $100 wager on Elorde to win will gain $1,000 while $2,500 will earn only $100 on a Navarrete victory. Elorde said nothing is impossible and despite the odds, he?s going all out to win.

Navarrete, 24, will make his third defense of the title he won on a decision over Isaac Dogboe in December last year. He disposed of his second challenger Francisco de Vaca in the third round in Los Angeles less than a month ago. Coincidentally, both fighters? records are identical, 28-1. Navarrete, however, has more KOs than Elorde, 24 to 15. Elorde is the WBO's No. 2 contender.
At a media workout a few days ago, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum said Navarrete isn?t just fighting a Filipino, he?s fighting the Flash?s grandson. Arum presented Elorde with a rare print of a sketch of the Flash by the late artist LeRoy Neiman. It was Arum?s gesture to pay tribute to the Filipino legend. ?Juan Miguel is a chip off the old block,? said Arum. ?I?m delighted to have him in this event. It?s a great honor for me to promote someone from the Elorde family. Manny Pacquiao certainly took over the mantle (from the Flash). He?s a great credit to boxing in the Philippines and Juan Miguel Elorde hopes to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and Manny.?

Working Elorde?s corner for the fight will be Somodio, his father Johnny, his brother Juan Martin and strength/conditioning coach Dan Rose. Elorde?s trainer Toto Laurente failed to make the trip as his visa couldn?t be issued on time.

?So far, all is OK,? said Liza. ?Mig knows Navarrete will attack. Mig will move side to side and make it a tactical fight. Of course, lamang si Navarrete. Mig watched Daddy?s fights before he left for L. A. and trained a week in L. A., sparring at Marvin?s gym. Mig realizes this is a difficult fight but he?s in high spirits.?

Somodio said it?s a tough challenge for Elorde but an awesome opportunity to do something special. ?Malakas at matibay si Navarrete,? he said. ?Pero medyo open siya at madaling tamaan. Kundisyon naman si Mig. Pagdating ng laban, mag-adjust lang kami kung anong style mas pabor kay Mig. Five days kami nagsama sa L. A. kaya mahirap na baguhin kung ano man ang napag-aralan niya dati.?

Elorde said this is his chance of a lifetime. His dream has always been to fight for the world title. He?s a win away from becoming the first Elorde to capture a world crown since his grandfather claimed the junior lightweight championship in 1960.

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Joaquin Henson.

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