8 Pinoy Athletes Who Changed the Game

1. Francisco Guilledo

Standing at 5 foot 1 inch and 114 pounds, Francisco “Pancho Villa’’ Guilledo was a Filipino boxer who lived to be the first Filipino and Asian world champion and is considered to be one of the greatest boxers of all time. Born poor in 1901 in Ilog, Negros Occidental, Philippines, Villa launched his career in Manila and by 1920, he was the Philippine flyweight champion. He got the attention of American boxing promoter Frank Churchill who began booking fights for him in the United States. He took the title of American flyweight champion in 1923, solidifying his place as a great in the American boxing community. Villa became so popular that he was making $20,000 per fight (~$310,000 today), catapulting him from rags to riches in a very short time. He died in 1925 at the peak of his career at 23 years old as a result of complications from a tooth infection. Over the course of his career, Villa fought 104 professional bouts, winning 92 of them for a win percentage of almost 90%, and was never knocked out.

Pancho Villa. Photo credit: Google Images.

2. Ceferino Garcia

Ceferino Garcia. Photo credit: Google Images.
Ceferino Garcia on the cover of Ring Magazine. Photo credit: Google Images.

3. Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao. Photo credit: Google Images.

4. Dave Bautista

Dave “Batista” Bautista. Photo credit: Google Images.

5. Adriano Directo Emperado

Adriano Directo Emperado, a famous pioneer in the martial arts community, was born in 1926 to Filipino-Hawaiian parents. Growing up in poverty in the Kalihi-Palama area of Honolulu, Hawaii, Emperado specialized in self-defense and hand-to-hand martial arts combat. Along with four other men, Emperado created the martial arts form, Kajukenbo in 1947. Each of the five founding members were trained in various forms of martial arts: Peter Choo was a boxer and expert in Korean Tang soo do, Frank Ordonez specialized in Sekeino jujitsu, Joe Holke was an eighth dan stylist of Kodokan judo, Clarence Chang taught Chinese boxing and Sil Lum Pai kung fu, and Emperado was trained in judo, Chinese Kempo, and Escrima. The five men formed the Black Belt Society and coined Kajukeno by exploring the weaknesses and developing the strengths of each of their individual martial arts to create a fighting style that would help the everyday American citizen in their fight against the common criminal. The name, Kajukenbo, comprises the various art forms it was created from: “Ka” for karate, “Ju” for Judo and Jujitsu, “Ken” from Kenpo and “Bo” from boxing.

6. Roman Gabriel

Roman Gabriel. Photo credit: Google Images.

7. Tim Tebow

Tim Tebow. Photo credit: Google Images.

8. Vicki Draves

Vicki Draves. Photo credit: Google Images.
Vicki Draves at the 1948 London Olympics. Photo credit: Google Images.


Alvero, Raissa. “Victoria Manalo Draves Is First Asian-American U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist.” Filipina Women’s Network. January 05, 2017. Accessed April 27, 2021. https://filipinawomensnetwork.org/epahayagan/victoria-manalo-draves-overshadowed-as-first-asian-american-olympic-gold-medalist.



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Comparative American Studies at Oberlin

Comparative American Studies at Oberlin


Musings by students and faculty affiliated with the Comparative American Studies department at Oberlin College.