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ITAY Kayong told Francisco he had never seen Pancho Villa himself.

“Father told me po about him having been there,” the boy said.

“Did he see him himself?”

“He did not tell me po.”

His father did not actually see the great boxer, but the boy had repeatedly been assured about Villa, a diminutive legend whose arm muscles were said to be supple to the touch, like those of a young woman. Born Francisco Guilledo in Barrio Ilog, Negros Occidental, Villa caused church bells to be rung and sirens to wail in uncontrolled glee all over Manila with his conquest of the knockout terror Jimmy Wilde, known as “The Atom,” in capturing the world flyweight boxing championship in June 1923.

Did Villa work as a pastol and box at the same time?

“Maybe, because he was very poor,” the old man told the boy.

“But they said Amang Rodriguez also gathered grazing grass from there,” the boy said.

“I also heard about it, but I didn’t see the grand old Amang himself.”

If Amang Rodriguez, a prominent native of Rizal province who became President Eulogio Rodriguez Sr. of the Philippine Senate, had hauled feeding grass from the back of the old man’s shack, he must’ve come as a simple zacatero in his caritela, unlike Villa, who had to go by foot all the way from the old Olympic auditorium in the Sta. Cruz area, where he trained and slept on the floor.

If not from far-off Sta. Cruz, the great boxer would also start from an obscure neighborhood in San Juan, near the Pinaglabanan Church, where Villa was said to have resided for some time.

Anyway, there were amazed folks who suspected Villa’s gifts of unusual strength could’ve been derived from a freshly fallen carabao tooth, a sure-fire talisman, he had chanced upon during one early pasture round, although these people were also left to wonder how and where Villa got his awesome power and quickness.

It was with a sharp system of fighting, close to clinical but truly swift and colorful, that the poor boy from Negros had dazzled the world audience. He was seen as a soundless assassin that could materialize at the back of his opponent in half a wink, after having landed a frontal punch.

The composed, cat-eyed star from the Orient was among the first of the little brown dolls that came to the United States straight from the Philippine Islands or were minted in the plantations of Hawaii, the canneries in California.

(To be continued)

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