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Filipinos And a Sport They Call "Boxingball"

Updated on September 26, 2015
Rudy Distrito and Gerry Esplana,  Philippine Basketball Association 1990s
Rudy Distrito and Gerry Esplana, Philippine Basketball Association 1990s


'Boxingball' comes from the two most adored sports of the Filipinos.

Obviously the first one is for the sport of 'boxing'.

Now to the uninitiated, the 'ball' part may not be so apparent. People who really do not know much about the Filipino people would be surprised to know that it is in fact, for the game of 'basketball'.

Yes, even though the average height of Filipino males is among the shortest in the world -- somewhere between five feet three and five feet seven inches.


Filipinos have enjoyed both boxing and the sport of basketball for over 100 years.

And most people don't know that.

Some might think that this laid back, vertically challenged ethnic group is a bunch of "Johnny-come-latelies" or that Filipinos are just a group of trying hard hard-court and square-ring tacticians.

But no, the sports of boxing and basketball have always been very close to their hearts.

And to prove this, there have been many world class Filipino boxers, Filipino basketball players and teams since the 1920s.

Pancho Villa

In fact back in 1923, 5'1" 112 pound Pancho Villa became the first Asian (and the first Filipino) world boxing champion after he knocked out Jimmy Wilde.

Watch for yourself below. (Boxing 100 hundred years ago is to get hit and take it, as you can see)

New York, 1923: Pancho Villa vs Jimmy Wilde


Regarding basketball, in 1936, when the sport was first played as an official Olympic sport, a men's basketball team from the Philippines beat all of their opponents and only lost once, of course to Team U.S.A.

But due to bad luck or whatever you may want to call it, they only wound up in 5th place -- still the highest place any nation anywhere from Asia have achieved to this day.

In fact, the Philippines is the only Asian country to have gotten a medal in World Basketball play, having a men's basketball team who captured the bronze medal in the 1954 FIBA World Championships, losing only twice -- of course to the U.S. Team and to the host country, Brazil.

PBA, the NBA of the Philippines
PBA, the NBA of the Philippines


In fact the Philippines used to dominate their part of the world for decades, until they put up the first professional league in Asia in the 1970's (the world's second oldest existing league behind the NBA), the Philippine Basketball Association.

Prior to that, the Philippines had a sports association started back in 1938 called the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) -- much like the NBL in the U.S.

Detroit Bad Boy

Bill Laimbeer and Larry Bird, NBA
Bill Laimbeer and Larry Bird, NBA

Boxing in Basketball

Basketball in the Philippines, particularly back in the 70s and 80s, can be pretty much described as like that of the NBA of the late 80s and early 90s, when the players weren't overpaid and the referees let them play instead of blowing the whistle on every ticky-tack foul.

There were enforcers in almost every team, and you know when the coach taps one of those tough guys to come into the game, you can be sure that someone on the other team is going to get it and that something "exciting" is bound to happen.

And when it does, the fans eat that up. The wait is almost as great as the act itself.

FIBA Basketball World Cup 2013

Now since the 1970s all the way to the year 2013, the Philippine national basketball team fell out of their normally lofty positions in Asia, winning only one Asian Games Cup in 1986.

The result was the the Philippine basketball team have not been back to the Olympics since 1972, after seven previous appearances.

And you can just imagine that the long wait is just too much to bear for their 'boxingball' crazy fans.

But back in 2013, the Philippine team placed second to the FIBA Asia Cup to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Spain.

And even though they have the shortest player and the shortest team, you can be sure they fought, and they fought hard, capturing the hearts of new fans worldwide.

The next goal should be, of course to be back in the Olympics.

FIBA Basketball Word Cup 2014


FIBA Asia Champsionships 2015

Ongoing right now in China, is the first qualifying phase for the 2016 Rio Olympics. And on the last game of the preliminary round, a Kuwaiti player (and probably their entire coaching staff) didn't know that much about Filipino basketball players.

This one Kuwaiti player in particular hit a Filipino player in the groin, yes pretty much a low and illegal blow in boxing, on the final minutes of the game with the Philippines leading by 40+ points.

And what do you think the victimized Filipino player do in return?

You should be able to guess that by now, or better yet watch it below.

FIBA Asia 2015 Kuwaiti Hits Filipino Who Hits Back

Below is a video of various examples of 'boxingball' in the Philippines.

Warning: viewer discretion is advised.

Boxingball in the Philippines

Anyway, Philippine basketball is not all about that. It is also about team work, heart, camaraderie, pride, passion, individual talent and the never say die attitude.

They have the battle wounds, the heart aches, the medals and the experience to show for it. And after decades of being out of the world basketball stage, they are back.

FIBA Medals -- Philippines

FIBA Asia Cup
FIBA Asia Championship
Asian Championship
Asian Championship
Asian Championship
Asian Championship
Asian Championship
Asian Championship
Asian Championship
Asian Championship
WORLD Championship

FIBA Asia Basketball Championship 2015

Men's Basketball Philippine Team, FIBA Asia Championship 2015
Men's Basketball Philippine Team, FIBA Asia Championship 2015


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    • J@ps profile image

      J@ps 2 years ago from Southern California

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment chateaudumer!

    • chateaudumer profile image

      David B Katague 2 years ago from Northern California and the Philippines

      I enjoy reading this hub. As a Fil-Am Pinoy, I could identify with Pinoys love for boxing and basketball.