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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Boxing icon’s damaged statue to get makeover

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Two Filipino artists, with the help of friends from the boxing and arts communities, teamed up to clean the grave of legendary boxer Francisco Guilledo, better known as Pancho Villa, at the Manila North Cemetery.

Rudy Aquino, a former personal portrait artist for boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, was moved by a Philippine News Agency post about the neglected state of Villa’s resting place.

The post showed photos of the damaged bust of the boxing hero and the area cluttered with trash, including dirty kitchen utensils, a wash basin, and an old helmet.

“I saw the post about the state of Villa’s graveyard and decided to visit to see if it was true. I discovered that informal settlers had occupied part of the area. I politely asked them to remove the extension kitchen and other trash,” Aquino explained.

Fortunately, the occupants assisted Aquino in cleaning up the area. It’s not stopping there as Aquino plans to make a complete makeover of Villa’s grave.

Villa, known as the Brown Bomber, became the first Filipino world boxing champion when he knocked out Wales’ Jimmy Wilde in the seventh round of their flyweight duel in New York on June 18, 1923. He defended his title in Brooklyn in May 1924 and in Manila in May 1925.

He lost his final match in California on July 4, 1925, already suffering from a tooth problem that led to infections causing his death 10 days later at the age of 23. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994.

Aquino noted that Villa’s grave is easily recognizable due to its features—his bust, with “Pancho Villa” clearly etched below it, and behind it an angel figure holding a belt proclaiming him as the world flyweight champion, with his gloves on the left side.

Aquino plans to seek permission from Villa’s family in the U.S., the Manila City government, the National Center for the Arts, the National Historical Commission, and the North Cemetery management to restore and renovate the grave.

Villa’s bust, with its broken jaw, missing left ear, and thick, poorly applied paint, requires proper conservation and restoration. To address this, Aquino is collaborating with national artist for sculpture Frederic Caedo.

“There are cleaning techniques to remove surface dirt, old paints, grime, and stone corrosion to reveal the original surface. However, we can only do simple retouching. We need to upgrade the bust to metal pouring or a mix of metal and granite, possibly if there would be sponsors,” added Aquino.

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