Pinoy pugilists have had an impact on Boxing long before Pacman

Influence of Filipino Martial Arts on Western Boxing

Before there was Manny Pacquiao there were many other Pilipinos making a name in western boxing. Pilipinos have been in the sport of boxing since the early 1900’s, and have actually helped to revolutionize what is known as western boxing. Let’s take a brief look at the history of western boxing and the time Filipinos have been exposed to it.

Go back to the early 1900’s. Picture the US military in Hawaii. The US brought with them the sport of boxing to Hawaii. The Pilipino migrant workers brought with them various forms of Filipino Martial Arts like kali, escrima, and arnis, just to name a few. Combine those and you get the beginning of the evolution of present-day western boxing.

Did you know that there were Filipino World Boxing Champions dating back to the 1920’s? Would you recognize the names Pancho Villa” Francisco Guilledo, Ceferina Garcia, Dado Marinom, Gabriel “Flash” Elorde, or Joseph Bernard Docusen? Odds are like most those names are unknown. The Filipino Cajun Docusen lost a decision to the legendary Sugar” Ray Robinson in a welterweight title match in 1948. Guilledo and Elorde were so good in the sport of boxing that they were both inducted into the Hall of Fame. There were many more great Pinoy boxers, but sadly most of them are not very well known.

What is even lesser known was the influence that Pinoy boxers had on western boxing as a whole. The Pinoy fighters brought in aspects of kali, arnis, and escrima, and had to adjust their styles to conform to the rules of the new sport. Basically anything considered illegal or “dirty” boxing was what the Pinoy fighters had to learn to stop doing! This was because the elbowing, head butting, and stepping on the foot are all commonly used tactics in Filipino Martial Arts. Particular zones and angles as well as the use of both feet forward are all characteristics of Pinoy fighters, which the western boxers had to get used to. Those “unorthodox” zones and angles come from weapons training, particularly the bladed weapons.

With more and more practitioners of Filipino Martial Arts showcasing the arts, people are beginning to see the empty hands styles of Filipino Martial Arts. Hopefully, references to the Pinoy boxers of the early 1900’s will be common knowledge one day. Until then demonstrators can only reference Pacquiao. Grandmaster Robert Castro of Eskabo Daan always like to tell the audience, “Filipinos have hands! Just look at Pacquiao!” That is always a crowd pleaser.

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Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

  • Francisco Guilledo (August 1, 1901 - July 14, 1925), more commonly known as Pancho Villa
  • Fight Record: 92-8-4 with 24 wins coming by way of KO
  • Villa was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994


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  • Gabriel "Flash" Elorde(March 25, 1935 – January 2, 1985)
  • Fight Record: 88-27-2 with 33 wins by KO
  • The first Asian inducted into the New York-based International Boxing Hall of Fame
  • Flash was also inducted in to the World Boxing Hall of Fame
  • Considered the greatest super featherweight champion of all time in WBC history


Here is a short clip of what Filipino Boxing, aka Filipino Dirty Boxing or Panantukan, looks like and where it can go. Remember that Filipino Martial Arts is a weapons based system, which is why there are heavy zones. What most do not know is that Filipino Martial Arts includes empty hand defenses as well.


Pictures courtesy of Patricia Ann Docusen MaddoxTopical Press Agency/Getty Images, &

atricia Ann Docusen Maddox