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William Eli Miller: The Bard who Illuminated Philippine Boxing in Print

By Emmanuel Rivera, RRT
Mon, 15 Apr 2024

If you’ve ever come across the colorful monikers of past Filipino boxing legends like Little Pancho, Small Montana, Speedy Dado, Young Tommy, or Star Frisco, chances are you've been enthralled by the work of a master publicist.

Born on December 15, 1891, Bill Miller, a writer, reporter, once dubbed the Boswell of Boxing, played a crucial role in promoting the first wave of Filipino boxers. While the Brothers Tait—Stewart and the elder Edwin—alongside Frank Churchill brought excitement to the Philippine boxing scene in the early 1900s, it was the young US Army Sergeant Major William Eli Miller who crafted the written narratives that illuminated Philippine boxing.

Throughout his illustrious career, and storied life (pun reverently intended), Miller served as the leading reporter, agent, and feature writer for prestigious publications like The Ring by Nat Fleischer, Los Angeles Times, and The Philippine Republic. He also held the position of sports editor for the Manila Daily Bulletin and had a syndicated column called “To you I tell it.” Over the years, he showcased renowned Filipino fighting greats such as Pancho Villa (Francisco Guilledo), Small Montana (Benjamin Gan), and Speedy Dado (Diosdado Posadas). He served as the publicist for the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles from 1942 to 1956, demonstrating his extensive reach in the media by promoting blockbuster bouts featuring Rocky Marciano and another one between then 36-year-old Muhammad Ali and a 24-year-old Leon Spinks. Beyond boxing, Miller wrote passionately about various sports, once dedicating his ink to the basketball team, the Harlem Globetrotters.

Miller was deeply cherished by his wife Adelle, his son Peter, a UCLA alumnus and Los Angeles lawyer, and his other son who served in the United States Air Force and preceded him in death. He lived a long life filled with friends and , oh, so many stories until his passing on June 4, 1975.

As a proud family man, he used to greet people over the phone, “My son is engaged” or “My son Pete is an attorney.” In an open letter to a fellow columnist, he once wrote humorously, “You may remember me as the tall, handsome feller with roguish eyes who always looks the other way when the check is delivered to the waiter.”

Here are his Top Ten Greatest Filipino Boxers he witnessed in action:

1. Dencio Cabanela
2. Pancho Villa
3. Pete Sarmiento
4. Clever Sencio
5. Speedy Dado
6. Francisco Flores
7. Ceferino Garcia
8. Johnny Hill
9. Ignacio Fernandez
10. Young Tommy

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Emmanuel Rivera, RRT.

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