STORY OF PHILIPPINE BOXING PART V: CEFERINO GARCIA, THE FIRST ASIAN WORLD MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION
By Maloney L. Samaco
Sat, 04 Apr 2020
Ceferino Garcia was from Naval, Biliran and is a record holder for the most victories garnered by a Filipino boxer. According to Boxrec, he had 120 wins, 76 by way of knockouts. He also lost 30 and drew 14 times.
He also owns the distinction as the only boxer from the Philippines to become world middleweight champion, a rare feat for an Asian boxer. Only Gennady Golovkin of Kazakhstan was the other Asian full pledged world middleweight champion. Kazakhstan was a part of Soviet Union which belonged to Europe until its independence in 1997.
He became popular because of the bolo punch, which was also the favorite style of Cuban fighter Kid Gavilán.
According to Linda Espana-Maram, the bolo punch was a “…deadly combination of right uppercuts and half hooks… To harvest sugarcane, the laborer holds up a handful of stalks, bends down, and with quick strokes of the sharp bolo knife, cuts the canes swiftly and as close to the ground as possible.” Because of his innovative fighting style, he was dubbed as the "Bolo Puncher."
Ceferino Garcia was the son of Fortunato Garcia and Pascuala Montano and was the oldest among six siblings. He was not able to complete first grade and was hooked up in gambling. At age 17, because of his size and strength, he was utterly feared in street fights. He also worked as a skilled blacksmith.
While working at a bakery in Cebu City, Garcia met a boxing promoter who started his career in boxing.
In 1930 and at the age of 19, he ventured to the United States under the direction of his manager, Jess Cortes. In 1932, he terminated his relationship with Cortes and hired George Parnassus. Under Parnassus, Garcia found successes in knocking out Andy DiVodi in the first round and Joe Glick in the second round.
On September 23, 1937, Garcia had his first attempt for a world title in the welterweight division. He was defeated however by Barney Ross via unanimous decision.
Ceferino Garcia (L) connects with a left against Fred Apostoli.
On October 2, 1939, Garcia fought American fighter Fred Apostoli for the world middleweight title at the Madison Square Garden, New York City and won it by stoppage in the 7th round. Garcia knocked Apostoli down three times in the seventh round before knocking him out at 2:07, becoming the first and only Filipino middleweight champion. He defended that title three times until he lost to Ken Overlin by unanimous decision.
In 1940, Garcia denied Henry Armstrong of winning an unprecedented fourth world title as the bout was judged a draw at the old Gilmore Stadium in Los Angeles, California. Armstrong should have been featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, and middleweight champion at the same time had he won.
When his boxing career was over, he made some appearances in Hollywood films notably the movie "Joe Palooka, Champ" in which he plays himself. He was also hired by actress Mae West as her chauffeur and bodyguard.
During the 1930s and 1940s, Garcia lived on 1042 S. Rowan St., in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles.
Garcia died on January 1, 1981 at the age of 74 while in San Diego, California. He was buried at the Valhalla Memorial Park Cemetery in North Hollywood, California.
Garcia was inducted into the Ring Magazine Hall of Fame in 1977 and the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1989.
Click here to view a list of other articles written by Maloney L. Samaco.
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