He was the most feared and avoided Filipino fighter before Manny Pacquiao – and the winningest ever, even today. And he was also the “bolo punch” master that inspired Kid Gavilan.
Ceferino Garcia, born on a day like today 106 years ago, was all that – and then some.
Ceferino Montano Garcia was born in Naval, Biliran, Philippines on August 26, 1906. As the oldest of six children in a low-income family, he frequently ran away from school to indulge in street fighting and gambling, among other things.
He made his pro debut at the age of 16 in 1923, and after nine years of treading water in his native country he moved to the States where he made his debut with a win in 1932 at the fabled Olympic Auditorium. He took on all comers, facing people like Young Corbett III and Freddie Steele and accumulating as many as 22 fights in one year (1933). He had three losses against the great Barney Ross, the last one being in 1937 with the Ring welterweight championship at stake. He had a 10-fight winning streak after that loss, earning another opportunity at the title this time in the hands of all-time great Henry Armstrong, who also defeated Garcia in 15 rounds.
Ten more fights later, he would meet Fred Apostoli for a portion of the middleweight championship back in the day (NYSAC version), winning by stoppage in seven rounds on October 1939 and then defending it twice, including a draw against Armstrong in a fight that could have netted the great “Hammerin’ Hank” an unprecedented fourth simultaneous title in as many divisions.
After losing that belt to Ken Oberlin in 1940, Garcia had ten more fights before retiring for good, holding the distinction of being the only boxer from the Philippines to lay claim to any version of the middleweight championship. He won 120 bouts, the most by a Filipino boxer in history.
Garcia died on January 1, 1981 in San Diego, California.