45 Years Ago Today: Salavarria Makes History as First Pinoy to Win Flyweight Titles of WBC and WBA
By Teodoro Medina Reynoso
Wed, 01 Apr 2020
April Fools Day forty years ago today, April 1, 2020, Filipino fighter Erbito Salavarria made history by being the first Pinoy to win one after the other the world flyweight championship as recognized by the then fiercely competing World Boxing Council (WBC) and World Boxing Association (WBA).
On that day, April 1, 1975, Salavarria won the vacant WBA championship by split decision over Japanese rival Susumu Hanagata in their 15 rounds title fight held at the Toyama Prefectural Gym in Toyama, Japan.
Hanagata had assumed the title left vacant when original undefeated Japanese defending champion Masao Ohba perished in an unfortunate car crash in 1974. Ohba who had defended the title five times before since unseating Bengkerk Charvanchai in 1971 was only 23 when he was killed in the car accident.
The 71-68 scorecard of neutral scoring referee Herbert Minn, a Korean American in favor of Salavarria provided the difference as the Japanese and Filipino judges, Masao Kato and Enrique Jimenez scored the fight in favor of Hanagata, 73-69 and 71-68 respectively.
Champion Erbito Salavarria (L) of the Philippines connects his rignt on challenger Susumu Hanagata (R) of Japan on the 7th round during the WBA Flyweight title bout at the Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium on October 7, 1975 in Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan. (Photo by The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
It would be recalled that Salavarria first won the WBC and lineal world championship on December 17, 1970 by second round knockout over Thailand's Chartchai Chionoi in Bangkok.
After defending that title by beating the same Hanagata on points at the Araneta Colesium in April 1971, Salavarria would be controversially stripped by the WBC following a title draw with Betulio Gonzales in Caracas, Venezuela where he was accused of cheating in imbibing "sugared" water during the fight.
Salavarria would attempt to regain that WBC title but lose to Thailand's Venice Borkhorsor, who had earlier lifted the crown from Gonzales, by unanimous decision in Bangkok in 1973.
Salavarria remained in the rankings and contention despite the setback as he continued to fight on and win his succeeding bouts. He was being considered for a title crack at Ohba's WBA title before the Japanese champion was killed in a car crash. As it turned out, Erbito would meet old familiar foe Hanagata for that title.
Erbito was not the first Pinoy two time world champion as Ben Villaflor had earlier regained his WBC junior lightweight title by knockout over former conqueror Kuniaki Shibata of Japan in 1973. But he was the first to win the same division title as recognized by the rivals WBC and WBA in succession.
In his first defense, Salavarria, then already aging, would lose the WBA title to old nemesis Alfonso Lopez of Panama via late round TKO in 1976.
He would retire following a comeback loss to Nertnoi Vorasingh of Thailand in 1978, winding up with a 40(15)-11(3)-3 record in 54 total bouts since turning pro in 1963.
The author Teodoro Medina Reynoso is a veteran boxing radio talk show host living in the Philippines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone 09215309477.
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Teodoro Medina Reynoso.
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