BORN in the Philippines in 1901, Pancho Villa had a relentless attacking style, throwing punches from all angles, which endeared him to fans and promoters. He fought exclusively in his home country from 1919-22, losing only two fights and winning the Orient flyweight and bantam championships. When he tried his luck in the United States, his style made him an instant success. Within three months he knocked out Johnny Buff to win the American flyweight title. His big chance came when he was chosen by promoter Tex Rickard to challenge the great Jimmy Wilde for the world flyweight title. Wilde was 31 and in semi-retirement when they met in New York’s Polo Grounds. He was no match for the hard-punching Villa, who attacked relentlessly and knocked out the Welshman in the seventh round, making him the first Filipino to win a world title.

For the next two years the colourful Villa fought hard and partied hard. He was unbeaten in 25 contests, successfully defending his title four times. He often fought non-title bouts, defeating among others future bantamweight champion Bud Taylor in 1924.

On July 4, 1925, Villa was matched with up-and-coming Jimmy McLarnin, the future world welterweight champion who was then a promising bantamweight. The day before the bout Villa, suffering from toothache, had a wisdom tooth removed. Troubled by his teeth, he took a battering from McLarnin and lost the 10-round decision.

The next day he had more teeth removed and failed to follow his dentist’s advice and rest. Instead he went out partying. On July 14 he was rushed to hospital where he died from a glandular infection caused by his infected teeth. He was a month away from his 24th birthday.



  • Born Francisco Guilledo, it is alleged he took his name from the famous Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, who was shot dead in an ambush just two years before the Filipino met his untimely death.
  • Villa once worked as a shoeshine boy in Manila.
  • He fought future world super-featherweight champion Mike Ballerino 10 times, drawing twice and beating him on six occasions.
  • He was 0-3 against future world flyweight champion and 1920 Olympic gold medallist Frankie Genaro.
  • New Yorker Genaro got the verdict twice in 1922 then again in 1923.


Born August 1, 1901 in Iloilo, Philippines Died July 14, 1925 Wins 73 Knockouts 22 Losses 5 Draws 4 No Decisions 23 Best win Jimmy Wilde w ko 7 Worst loss Jimmy McLarnin l pts 10 Pros Tireless, knockout punch in both hands Cons Could be outmanoeuvred