On today’s Digression, we say goodbye to a literary giant, spend some time talking about the anime series Mushi-Shi and The Legend of Korra‘s debut on Canadian TV, and we list the ten best Filipino boxers in anticipation of this weekend’s Manny Pacquiao-Tim Bradley welterweight championship bout.
One of my most treasured books growing up was my father’s copy of The Small Assassin, a paperback collection of early Ray Bradbury short stories published in 1976 by Panther Books (I still have the book, by the way, and re-read my favourite portions of it at least once a year). Although often described by the media as a science-fiction writer, Bradbury always resisted the term, preferring to refer to himself as a fantasy writer. The highly-esteemed and influential author passed away yesterday at the age of 91.
Bradbury’s association with science-fiction is no doubt due largely to the popularity of his 1953 dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451, the one work in his oeuvre that he conceded was proper science-fiction. His written work spanned all manner of forms, media, and genres: His bibliography includes 11 novels, over 400 novelettes and short stories, 21 plays, 89 screenplays and teleplays (including 65 episodes of HBO’s The Ray Bradbury Theater), 12 children’s books, 12 non-fiction books, and scores of essays, magazine articles, poems, and other published material. His novels and short stories have been adapted numerous times for comics, film, and television and his unmistakable influence can be seen in the works of many of the most successful fiction writers of the 20th century including Stephen King who, upon learning of the writer’s death, posted the following message on his website
The sound I hear today is the thunder of a giant’s footsteps fading away. But the novels and stories remain, in all their resonance and strange beauty.
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of my time online watching Mushi-Shi on FUNimation Entertainment’s official Youtube channel. Mushi-Shi follows the adventures of Ginko, the eponymous mushi-shi (think of the mushi-shi as an itinerant ghostbuster) as he travels across the Japanese countryside helping various individuals deal with mushi (supernatural creatures not unlike the various nature spirits in folklore). The show mixes elements of horror and fantasy and the writers do a great job of making the mushi‘s victims sympathetic, making for absolutely riveting viewing despite Mushi-Shi‘s somewhat leisurely pacing and relatively low action quotient. The show reminds me somewhat of Mike Mignola’s early Hellboy short stories in terms of tone and atmosphere. I highly recommend the first three episodes of the series.
Canadian fans of Avatar: The Last Airbender who have been waiting for its follow-up The Legend of Korra to appear on local TV, your wait is over: The Legend of Korra will be premiering on YTV on Saturday, 09 June, 11 AM E/P.
This coming Saturday will also see the much-awaited pay-per-view welterweight title bout between Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao and Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley. The undefeated Bradley is an absolute physical specimen whose conditioning is legendary and he fights with an awkward, smothering style but to read the predictions of experts, you’d think that he was a no-hoper going into the ring against the Filipino pound-for-pound king. I’m not so sure. Pacquiao has looked slow and vulnerable in his last two fights, and I thought that he should have lost his most recent match against nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez (I scored it eight rounds to four). There have also been rumours of Pacquiao dealing with chronic pain in his lower legs, although it could all just be part of the usual pre-fight smokescreen camps throw up to derail their opponents.
It’s no accident that Top Rank promoter Bob Arum scheduled this fight on June 9. Pacquiao is pretty much a national sports hero in the Philippines and to people of Filipino descent living abroad (his official nickname, “Pambansang Kamao,” translates into English as “National Fist”) and June 9–10 is the weekend before Philippine Independence Day (June 12). Although Pacquaio’s rise to sports superstardom—the pugilist was tied with Yankees third sacker Alex Rodriguez as the highest paid athlete of 2010 pulling in a total of $32 million for two fights—is a fairly recent phenomenon, the Philippines actually has a long history of producing world-champion boxers.
I’ve compiled a list (in chronological order) of ten fighters whom I consider to be the best to come from the small Southeast Asian archipelago (note that I only included retired, inactive, and deceased fighters to limit the selection pool)
Career record: 92 wins (23 by KO; includes 12 “newspaper decision” wins), 9 losses (includes 4 “newspaper decision” losses), 4 draws (includes 1 “newspaper decision” draw), 3 no-contests
Major world titles held: Universally-recognized/New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) World Flyweight Champion (June 18, 1923–July 4, 1925)
Notes: Considered by many to be the greatest Asian fighter in boxing history. Born in 1901 on the island of Panay, turned pro at the age of 18. Held a record of 52W-2L-3D-3NC when he was brought to the United States in the summer of 1922 by American fight promoter Frank Churchill. Won the American flyweight title a mere six months after his arrival on US soil by knocking out Johnny Buff in 11 rounds. Won the NYSAC World Flyweight title in 1923 by beating the legendary Jimmy “The Mighty Atom” Wilde and sending the British fighter into retirement. Died at the age of 23 from complications of Ludwig’s angina that developed from a mouth infection. Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.
Major world titles held: NYSAC World Flyweight Champion (September 16, 1935–December 16, 1935)
Notes: Born in 1913 on the island of Negros to Chinese-Filipino parents. Turned pro at the age of 17. Fought fellow Filipino Little Dado (see below) twice, earning a draw in their first encounter and losing by decision in their second.
Major world titles held: National Boxing Association (NBA) World Flyweight Champion (December 14, 1939–1942; stripped of title due to inability to meet the flyweight weight limit).
Notes: Born in 1916 on the island of Negros and shared his hometown with Small Montana. Besides the NBA World Flyweight title, also won the American Flyweight title and the California/Mexico-recognized versions of the World Flyweight and World Bantamweight titles.
Major world titles held: Universally-recognized/NYSAC World Middleweight Champion (October 2, 1939–May 23, 1940)
Notes: Credited as the inventor of the “bolo punch” technique. Turned pro a few weeks shy of his 17th birthday. Fought the legendary Henry Armstrong to a draw. First and only Asian fighter to hold the universally-recognized world middleweight championship.
Major world titles held: Universally-recognized World Super Featherweight Champion (March 16, 1960–June 15, 1967), WBA/WBC Super Featherweight Champion (February 16, 1963–June 15, 1967)
Notes: Holds the super featherweight/junior lightweight division record for longest world title reign (7 years and 3 months). Fought the legendary Sandy Saddler twice, beating him by decision in their first meeting and losing on cuts in the second (a bout that many ringside felt that Saddler should have lost via disqualification due to numerous illegal blows). Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1993 (the first Asian fighter to be inducted).
Major world titles held: Universally-recognized World Super Featherweight Champion (October 17, 1973–October 16, 1976), WBA Super Featherweight Champion (October 17, 1973–October 16, 1976), WBC Super Featherweight Champion (April 25, 1972–March 12, 1973)
Notes: Allegedly turned pro at the age of 13. Hall of Fame-worthy career unfortunately overshadowed by the accomplishments of his contemporary Gabriel “Flash” Elorde.
Major world titles held: WBC Super Featherweight Champion (August 29, 1981–May 29, 1982)
Notes: Once challenged Alexis Arguello for a world title. Career derailed by a three-year prison stint for a sexual assault conviction.
Career record: 31 wins (13 by KO), 7 losses (2 by KO), 2 draws
Major world titles held: IBF Light Flyweight Champion (December 10, 1983–1986; vacated the title to move up in weight), IBF Flyweight Champion (February 22, 1987–September 5, 1987)
Notes: Won major world championships in two weight divisions despite having one leg weakened and partially atrophied due to a childhood bout of polio. Older brother of Gerry Peñalosa (see below). Son, Diosdado Peñalosa, Jr., is a promising super bantamweight prospect with a 9-0 record. Previously worked in the corner of former flyweight, super flyweight, and bantamweight champion and current super bantamweight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire.
Major world titles held: WBA Bantamweight Champion (October 18, 1989–October 19, 1991), WBC Featherweight Champion (December 11, 1995–May 15, 1999)
Notes: Commonly regarded as the finest Filipino boxer in the post-Elorde era prior to Manny Pacquiao’s rise to prominence. Recorded seven successful defenses of his featherweight title over a span of four years. After his retirement in 2005, helped train mixed-martial arts fighters Nick and Nate Diaz as well as the University of San Francisco’s boxing team.
Major world titles held: WBC Super Flyweight Champion (February 20, 1997–August 29, 1998), WBO Bantamweight Champion (August 11, 2007–April 25, 2009)
Notes: Younger brother of Diosdado “Dodie Boy” Peñalosa. Initially retired in 2001 but came out of retirement in 2004, eventually winning the WBO Bantamweight title in 2007 by knocking out the highly-favoured Jhonny Gonzalez of Mexico in seven rounds. Previously worked in the corner of former flyweight, super flyweight, and bantamweight champion and current super bantamweight champion Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire.
This week’s Mixtape (song titles link to corresponding audio/video, if available):
- Gdaddie – Chill, Please
- The Cinematic Orchestra (feat. Roots Manuva) – All Things to All Men
- Rae & Christian – Flashlight
- Deltron 3030 – Love Story
- Blue Scholars – Evening Chai
- Esthero – Country Livin’ (The World I Know)
- Black Uhuru – No Loafing (Sit & Wonder)
- Sanodg with Michihiro Nakamura, A-BOW & Munenori Takada – Ling Xiaoyu Theme from Tekken 3 (Battle Trax Remix)
- Faithless – Fatty Boo
- Sino Sikat? – Turning My Safety Off