An Olympic Silver for the Philippines

By Pablo Jocsoni
Green and Gold ’65 Sports Editor

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One cool day of October, 1964, at the Korakuen Ice Palace, Tokyo, Japan, – site of the 18th World Olympic Games, a young FEU boxer was audaciously and heatedly battling his Russian Opponent in the ring. It was the Olympiad’s final featherweight amateur boxing match. The fight would mean a gold or silver medal for him. His mitts were swinging hard and straight; his lefts were vicious and smashing; and his rights were connecting with rage. His legs were working fast-and he was like a ballet dancer on the ring.

This boy, named Anthony Villanueva ~ a full-blooded Tamaraw, barely 19 years old, springy, speedy and stylish – was fighting like a wildcat. His opponent, the Russian, was a husky and scraggy fistieuffer named Stanislav Stepashkin – the last hindrance on his way to pocketing the featherweight title. At that moment, only one thing was in Anthony Villanueva’s’ mind: to subdue the Russian and win the precious gold, a medal his country had been campaigning for since the Olympics got its start.

Anthony, in gaining a final featherweight bout with Stepashkin, had earlier outclassed four other tough simonpures in a row, including the American champion and the European number two featherweight fighter. In his initial bout, Anthony, underrated and unheralded before the start of the competitions, sprang a surprise by besting Italian Giovanni Girgenti, who was then Europe’s No. 2 and a potential medal winner. 3

He won by a split decision. Next, he toppled Tunisian Tahar Ben Hassem,.also by points, and then cashed in a strong bid for the championship when he knocked out Piotr Gutman of Poland in the quarterfinals and insured for himself a bronze medal. Gutman was kayoed in 2:41 of the first round. Against Charles Brown of the USA, Anthony  outpunched the American, 4-1, after which he was pitted against Stepashkin for the crown.

Anthony was staggering the Russian. He was well on the way to victory. The fans were creaming, yelling and cheering the Filipino gilist. Anthony was practically outboxing Stepashkin. The Russian’s face, unscathed in his first four fights, was profusely bleeding as a result of Anthony’s booming punching. Anthony was also bleeding – a nasty cut on his right eyebrow which he suffered against Hassen, was reopened. The bout was bloody with both boxers making no signs of flinch. They engaged in a toe-to-toe battle end their mitts were swapping furiously. Then the bell sounded. Afterwards, the decision.

The crowd was expecting a Villanueva triumph. With the boxing experts who witnessed the fight.

According to the ringside authorities clearly outslugged and outpointed the Russian but three of the five judqes saw it the other way and gave the victory to Stepashkin. The crowd booed the decision lustily,shouted for the name of Villanueva. But decision was decision. And the gold medal slipped thru Anthony’s mitts via a “bum decision”, He got only the silver medal.
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It was no mean feat for Anthony, however. His silver medal was the first ever won by a Filipino athlete and thus he was acclaimed the “Greatest Filipino Olympian”. He was the greatest because only four other Filipinos had won medals (all bronze) in the Olympiad since the Philippines started participating in the sports’ classic in 1924. The four other Olympic medalists included Anthony’s father-Jose “Cely” Villanueva, who bagged the bronze medal in the 1932  olympics. Cely also won his medal in boxing. He was bantamweight fighter.

And so with Anthony Villanueva’s silver medal winning feat, he gained athletic immortality in the Philippine Sports’ “Hall of fame.”

Other FEU athletes who competed in the 1964 Olympic Games were, Rodolfo Arpon (Boxing). Lightweight Arpon crashed into the quarterfinals of the eliminations, a victory short of winning at least a bronze medal, by whipping his first two rivals- Borge Krogh of Denmark and Britain’s James Dunne. He was eliminated· in the competitions when he lost to Ronald Allen Har;ris of USA.

Anthony Villanueva receives the Tamaraw Gold Medallion from former FEU Vice-President Alfredo M. Reyes. The boxer received a hero's welcome after returning from the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. (Source: FEU Green and Gold 1965)

Anthony Villanueva receives the Tamaraw Gold Medallion from former FEU Vice-President Alfredo M. Reyes. The boxer received a hero’s welcome after returning from the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. (Source: FEU Green and Gold 1965)

Bantamweight Arnulfo Torrevillas, then the reigning Asian bantam champion and a bright prospect for a medal, made an auspicious debut by knocking out Finland’s Borje Karl Karvonen in the second round. But the scrappy ringster got eliminated in the tourney when he lost to Cuba’s Fermin Espinosa in his second bout, mainly on point deductions. Torrevillas clearly had beat Espinosa.

Manfredo Alipala, skipper of .the national amateur boxing team and 1962 Jakarta Asian Games champion, also won his initial assignment. over AI Karkhi Khalid of Iraq. But Iike Torrevillas, Alipala lost his next scuffle on points against his archrival, Kichijiro Hamada of Japan.

Evelyn covered herself with, glory when she garnered a total of 7.666 points on .the beam,”. beetinq Austria’s Barbara Ann Cage and Iran’s Djameleh Sorouri. In the floor exercises, the graceful FEU gymnast scored 8.266 points, topping the score of her Iranian rival. Evelyn, though disqualified in the finals, was roundly applauded for her performance which was hailed as creditable for an Olympic newcomer.

Maria Luisa Floro, Evelyn’s teammate, did not participate in the competitions. She was operated on apendectomy,

Lolita Lagrosas (Track and Field). High jump bet lagrosas failed to qualify in the women’s long jump and high jump. Her performances were way off the qualifying standards and her own Philippine records.

FEU officials who were with the Philippine contingent were: Celestino “Aling” Enriquez (Boxing coach); Inezita Quevedo’ (Gymnastics coach); Elpidio Dorotheo (Weightlifting coach); Cecilio Alberto (Masseur); Dolores Aiforte (Swimming coach); Ricky Llanos (Footbail coach).