Luisito Espinosa Deserved Better

By Ted Sares on March 28, 2014
Luisito Espinosa Deserved Better
Luisito now works doing menial tasks at the Lucky Chances Casino. (Chronicle/Kurt Rogers)

Luisito Espinosa was and is a proud and beloved warrior who, like most Pinoys, will never beg for anything…

“I’m happy because I experienced lots of things… If I only had a good manager, I may still be in boxing today.”— Luisito Espinosa

“His story is sad. One time, I read in the papers that Luisito, who personified the Sweet Science in the ring, was reduced to washing dishes in the US, and was becoming fodder for rising stars who wanted an ex-champion on their record.”—Writer Mike T. Limpag

“…guess what? we were doing our groceries with my fam today at Costco south San Francisco and who do we see at the baggage counter?.... my heart sank when he placed the groceries in the cart when i learned he was working there.”—Poster named Honheart

Many Luisito Espinosa stories are titled, “The Forgotten Legend.” In fact, there are so many, it doesn’t appear Espinosa will ever be forgotten as his story is a compelling, if sad one. Happy ending to boxing stories are as rare as diamonds in the sand. This one is no exception except that it includes just about everything necessary for movie scrip. Corruption (surprise), infidelity, poverty, rags to riches, and riches to rags.

Luisito Espinosa

Luisito “Lindol” Espinosa came onto the scene after just three amateur fights, turning pro at age sixteen and supporting himself. He quickly began gaining attention during 1987 when he was just 20, going 4-0, including an eyebrow-raising win over popular and teak tough fellow-Filipino Dadoy Andujar.

Style

Always fit and trim and somewhat reminiscent of Alexis Arguello in appearance, he was a brutal body puncher with both hands and had a jab around which he could do many slick things including launching his sneaky and debilitating right hand. He also possessed ring smarts. The following says it all:

There was a time when Luisito Espinosa was magic in the ring, firing bombs from a fighting physique he sculpted from Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson. He danced and shuffled, shifted and slithered and hitting him was like hitting greased lightning… He had natural gifts, tall for his weight which was a big advantage. His lanky body was a whippet he could use to bob and weave, and legs that belonged to a ballroom. He could jab, his left hook was one of the best, and his hands were fast, like twigs suddenly torn by a gale off a tree so they could whip the hell out of you.”—Teodoro Benigno, PhilStar OPINION (April 17, 2000)

The Galaxy Knockout (1989)

On March 14, 1988, Espinosa (15-3 at the time) was stopped by Juan Jose Estrada in a bid for the Mexican’s WBC International bantamweight title. The bout was held in Tijuana, Mexico and signaled a fearless willingness on the part of Luisito to go to war in his opponent’s home country. After losing to Yung-Chun Min in South Korea, Espinosa reeled off four straight wins (including three in Hawaii) and then took on twice world champion Kaoker Galaxy (24-1), twin brother of the great Thai Khaosai Galaxy in Bangkok. At stake was the WBA World bantamweight title. Galaxy was coming off a convincing win over Sung-Kil Moon in which he put the tough Moon down twice in the 11th round. Few gave the Manila native (then 21-5) much of a chance against the cocky and skilled Thai.

In the first round, after some feeling out and a lackluster exchange, Galaxy was hit by body shot via a left hook and then a sharp hook upstairs but he kept composed and kept boxing and then, about 20 seconds later, he collapsed totally senseless and totally out. The KO gave new meaning to the term “delayed reaction,” and was one of the most bizarre fight endings ever.

Thus, at the 2:13 mark of round one, Luisito stunned the boxing world by knocking out the heavily favored Thai champion and becoming the first Filipino world boxing champion in the division. As for the Galaxy twin, he never fought again. The fight happened the same day that an earthquake struck San Francisco Bay area earning him Luisito the nickname “Lindol” for earthquake

Said George Diaz Smith from Ringside Report.com:

“You would have thought the world was going to be in Luisito’s hip pocket with a championship. On October 16th 1989, Bangkok, stopping Khaokor Galaxy with the identical perfect ‘Anchor Punch’ that Muhammad Ali called leveling Sonny Liston, only Galaxy had a few more seconds delaying in that fall, and just that abruptly the WBA Bantamweight Title changed hands in Espinosa’s shiny moment.”

Espinosa successfully defend his title as he destroyed Hurley Snead (39-2-1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Et1sYGVifHw and Thanomsak Sithbaobay (31-1) before dropping it to Venezuelan Israel Contreras (35-2-1) in 1991.

Lindol then started his climb back to the top, this time fighting under the auspices of Joe Koizumi’s stable. After winning fights in the Philippines, Mexico, and Japan and going 10-1 between 1992 and 1995, the somewhat unpredictable Espinosa beat Tijuana native Manuel “Mantecas” Medina (51-6) at Korakuen Hall in Tokyo in December 1995 to snag the WBC featherweight crown. It would be the first of two wins over the exceptionally tough and fight-all-comers Medina.

The Streak

Luisito then reeled off seven straight successful defenses of his title by beating Alejandro Gonzales (37-3) in Mexico, Cesar Soto (43-6-2) in Manila, Nobutoshi Hiranaka (16-1) in Japan, Manuel Medina (53-8) in Manila, Argentinean Carlos Alberto Ramon Rios (39-0-1) in Koronadal City, Philippines, Juan Carlos Ramirez (14-0) in Texas, and Kennedy McKinney (33-3-1) in California. The bout with McKinney was a significant one as it was Espinosa’s first fight in front of a national audience (on HBO to be exact). McKinney was coming off of his career best dethroning of super bantamweight kingpin Junior Jones by a stunning fourth round KO. Espinosa was determined to make a statement and did just that as he shockingly dismantled McKinney in two rounds. The bout with Rios would have serious and subsequently tragic consequences for Espinosa.

The End

A possible and much talked about fight with “Prince” Naseem Hamed never panned out, and in 1999 Luisito lost a controversial decision along with his coveted title in Texas to Cesar Soto (53-7-2) after which he began to fall apart. He lost a TD to Guty Espadas Jr. in Mexico in 2000, though he still showed flashes of his skills and warrior heart; he beat limited Ramon Aragon in Michigan; was stopped by Augie “Kid Vegas” Sanchez in 2002; somehow KOd tough Ever Belano; was KOd by Zahir Raheem; and then was savaged by Carlos Navarro and Cristobal Cruz in his last two fights.. Four of his losses, all by knockouts, came in his last six fights.

The adored Espinosa kept on fighting to make ends meet, but many of his admirers called for him to retire for his own well-being. Reinforcing this, the California Commission refused to grant him a license until he agreed to a brain test as his skills simply seemed to evaporate in plain sight.

Rags to riches and back to rags

“Espinosa, dubbed King Louie, was the man that set the Philippine sports world on fire, once drawing over 300,000 fans for a defense. Today, Espinosa has become a rags to riches, back to rags story of a Filipino icon, broken, aged, and penniless.”—Jason Aniel

Espinosa was a shadow of his former self when he retired in 2005 with a final record of 47-13 after having been used as a human punching bag by Cristobal Cruz in Stockton (aka Fat City), California on February 18, 2005.

Contributing to his downfall were serious managerial problems, a number of issues with wife Marie Cherie, including reports of infidelity and financial chicanery that broke his heart and hastened his downfall. But clearly the most egregious issue involved a $150,000 purse (plus growing interest) from a world featherweight championship bout won over 15 years ago against Carlos Rios in 1997 and still owed him by absconding promoters. The case is still pending before a Manila court.

According to some published accounts, the former business manager of Manny Pacquiao, Rod Nazario, along with Hilario de Pedro and matchmaker Lito Mondejar, are the three men supposedly involved as reported in court documents but I could not corroborate this 100%. At the time, Espinosa was the biggest name in Philippine sports, knocking out the previously undefeated Rios. Once stung, he never fought in the Philippines again, but his story has not been forgotten. See: http://ringtalk.com/philippines-last-ditch-effort-to-save-face

Also see: http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2479&dat=20010827&id=EFU1AAAAIBAJ&sjid=bSUMAAAAIBAJ&pg=2468,39433311

In the scheme of things, Luisito is another example of a sad ending in the career of a former boxing icon, but at least he has the memory of having faced ten former world champions and of being one himself on two different occasions. The fact is, prior to Manny Pacquiao’s prominence, King Louie was the most famous Pinoy boxer in the late ‘80s to mid ‘90s, bringing accolades to the Philippines and appearing on the cover of Ring Magazine.

Luisito Espinosa was and is a proud and beloved warrior who, like most Pinoys, will never beg for anything. He is only asking for that to which he is rightfully entitled. He now lives in California and works doing menial tasks at the ironically named Lucky Chances Casino in godforsaken “Cemetery City” Colma, California. where the dead outnumber the living. He deserves better.

“…this case will only serve as a reminder for many Filipinos of why they are disenchanted in their government, which only seems to protect those with money and connections.”—Oliver Dailo Suarez (2011)

Ted Sares is a private investor who enjoys writing about boxing. A member of the Elite Powerlifting Federation, Ted is one of the oldest active competitors in the world and recently failed in an attempt to break the world’s record for his age class in the Strict Curl.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Luisito "Lindol" Espinosa vs. Eduardo Rojas



Luisito Espinosa vs Alejandro Gonzalez II



Luisito Espinosa - Kennedy McKinney



Luisito Espinosa vs. Manuel Medina I



Cesar Soto - Luisito Espinosa II



Luisito Espinosa vs. Carlos Rios



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  1. Ted 07:23am, 04/05/2014

    Ven, that’s a question that should be posed to the Pac family all of which is in politics.

  2. Ven Pederiche 10:18pm, 04/04/2014

    there is also another sad story of a boxer’s fate, who was also able to give honor to the Philppines during 1980’s. He is Rolando Navarette. Perhaps his story is more sad than Luisito Espinosa because he had a disability and no money. I am just wondering why our government or even the Sports Commission is not helping him.

  3. dollarbond 10:06am, 04/01/2014

    I saw your superb results on facebook.  Congratulations.  You are fast becoming a weight lifting celebrity.

  4. Ted 12:13pm, 03/31/2014

    And by the way, a close friend of mine and an ex-world champion is going to send Lindol some money.

  5. Ted 12:12pm, 03/31/2014

    I sent it to the Lucky Chances Casino. Who knows what will happen to it.

  6. kid vegas 12:05pm, 03/31/2014

    Did you send this to Espinosa?

  7. Tex Hassler 09:12am, 03/31/2014

    This is a sad but true story. Louisito went from Glory to Gloom. It looks like his home contry could create some position for him as he is a hero there. Great article Mr. Sares.

  8. Your Name 08:43am, 03/31/2014

    Dollarbond, not very close. The meet ended at around 10:00 PM and while I made my first two curls, by the time I got to the third which would have positioned me for the record, I could barely get the weight off the rack. I had absolutely nothing left by then, No excuses.

  9. Your Name 08:40am, 03/31/2014

    But he still is a man of dignity and respect. He will never beg. That is the Pinoy way.

  10. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:04am, 03/31/2014

    Many in Third World countries live their lives mired in poverty and desperation….not surprisingly they focus their adoration on the rare big winners among them and fighters like Luisito and Manny are very rare indeed…they are their beacons of hope…..when they are on top and winning…..not so much when they’re bagging groceries at Costco.

  11. dollarbond 08:00am, 03/31/2014

    Off the subject but how close did you come to breaking the world curl record?

  12. Ted 11:06am, 03/30/2014

    when it comes to drama, The Philippines is target-rich.

  13. Big Walter 10:28am, 03/30/2014

    Ted, you are becoming the expert on Pinoy Boxing. What gives with this?

  14. Ted 10:14am, 03/30/2014

    Respect indeed!

  15. KenM 09:43am, 03/30/2014

    It was one of the great era’s for the featherweights when Luisito was fighting & he was right in the centre of many of the great fights happening.
    Real shame to hear where he is now, but is obviously a man who has never lost his pride.
    Respect.

  16. Ted 07:51am, 03/30/2014

    An example Kid?

  17. bikermike 06:25am, 03/30/2014

    A very well written ....and too often told story about a fighter who lost his money.

    Pro Boxing has few success stories ...when it comes to life after their ring career is over.

    Max Schmeling was very successful after the ring years were behind him….while Joe Louis died a sick and penniless man.  It was Max who paid for the funeral.
    Max was one of few and far between.  Today..leonard is very wealthy…Hearns is far from financially free.
    I’d like to see some advancement on a Commission..which would be able to see that fighters got paid…..and some financial advice or vehicles to assure some continued support.
    More so..some programs be worked out to assure some training or education to put the fighter in ‘better shape’ to go forward for the next thirty years.

    I know Cooney and Ramos are actively doing work along this line…

  18. kid vegas 10:21pm, 03/29/2014

    Great writing Bull. I love the way you put things is sequential order under sub headings. Makes it very easy to follow and read. Great technique. Also noticed that you were a bit more “flowery” than usual with your narrative in this one.

  19. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:28pm, 03/29/2014

    Ted Sares-The Galaxy KO appeared to be a delayed reaction to a hard concussive blow to the temple resulting in an after effect of Galaxy literally fainting from the shock….the only other explanation is that Galaxy was KOed at the moment the blow landed and it just took him that long to fall.

  20. Ted 06:29pm, 03/29/2014

    Galaxy knockout. Has to be seen to be believed


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWouoMZ0auY

  21. Ted 05:26pm, 03/29/2014

    nicolas, it was the Rios fight that he was bobbed in. Also, it is correct that 300,000 fans watched him fight once.

  22. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 12:58pm, 03/29/2014

    Did you hear this one about the Friday night fights….ref calls fighters together and being PC chastises both for excessive “hugging” when actually Rudd was the one doing the hugging because he couldn’t handle Petrov inside…long story short…. Rudd foolishly takes the warning to heart and stops hugging and Petrov proceeds to dismantle him in very short order…..thanks a lot ref!

  23. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 11:53am, 03/29/2014

    Ted Sares-WOW! Another knockout of an article! For the life of me I can’t fathom why this decent, hardworking man, who you just know has a wealth of knowledge and experience, couldn’t find a place inside boxing as a trainer, conditioning coach, mentor….just about anything…. for young Pilipino fighters new to the USA….or any young fighters for that matter, who could benefit from what he has to offer.

  24. Peter Silkov 11:00am, 03/29/2014

    Another fine article Ted.  I always enjoyed watching Luisito fight in his prime, he was another one of those boxers who never really got the full recognition that he should of got during his career.  Stories like this always underline why boxers need and deserve some kind of pension plan for when they are retired.  We see these big numbers that they are supposed to be earning for their fights, but how much of these purses do they really get at the end of the day, after their manager, promoter, trainer, and everyone else get their cuts.  Its not hard to see how so many fighters waltz through their careers trusting other people, only to discover when they hang up their gloves that they have a huge tax bill and nothing to pay it with.  I hope Mannys situation isn’t as bad as I have heard.

  25. Frank 10:47am, 03/29/2014

    I grew up in the Philippines during the 80’s and 90’s and Luisito was one of my childhood heroes growing up.  I was into boxing even back then and it was nice to have a dominant world champ to call our own.  I now live in the Bay Area and frequent that Costco and Lucky Chances I haven’t seen him there, which may be a good thing actually- it’s probably best that I don’t… He’s a man and I’m sure he’s doing ok with those decent jobs but he does deserve so much better. He represented us well. Even right now he is,

  26. Eric 08:11am, 03/29/2014

    Have no idea what kind of purses Espinosa received during his career but his story is a familiar one for athletes in other sports as well as boxing. Athletes, entertainers, and lottery winners often go broke because the money comes “relatively” easy. Joe Frazier made enough in his first fight with Ali to live the rest of his life on, but essentially died broke. Sure, Frazier didn’t receive the total 2.5 million dollar purse, there was his manager, trainer, taxman, etc., but he was an instant millionaire for one evening of fighting. Frazier could’ve worked in the slaughterhouse for 100 years and never earned 2.5 million back then. In addition these guys are young, and think the money and their youth will last forever. I respect all these fighters but I can’t have much sympathy for anyone who goes through millions and ends up broke, whether they are a boxer, singer, football player, or lottery winner. Holyfield & Tyson’s earnings squash Frazier’s total career earnings and both of these guys are near broke. Easy come, easy go. Look for the same scenario with Floyd “Money” Mayweather, and probably Pacquiao too.

  27. Meinhard Schmidt 05:58am, 03/29/2014

    Keep the articles about pinoy boxers coming ted!

  28. Dranreb Datsboygym 04:13am, 03/29/2014

    @ TED SARES your article is so great today…it makes a lot lot sense day by day…mentioning the true warrior who doesn’t scared to travel OUTSIDE OF HIS OWN BACKYARD and become a succesful is a clear testament how good or great he is inside the square ring…everybody can have those 4 title INSIDE OF THEIR OWN BACKYARD…but not @ ALL can have those world title belt OUTSIDE OF YOUR OWN BACKYARD!!!!  winning outside of your roaring pro fans are more far great…rather that stick winning….and defended it the way like the THAIs, JAPs, Mexicans and FLOYDIOTs gayweather who 100% only fight in his very own shiiiit backyard….we FILIPINO are hate that way…you challenge us…anywhere… anytime…we will fight you no matter what happened…thats the great motto of every lion heart FILIPINO who brutalized many legends of this sport.

  29. Dranreb Datsboygym 03:53am, 03/29/2014

    Espinosa brutally KOED the proud COBRITA GONSALEZ and put him on the STRETCHER where at first the entire mexicans roaring crowd seems like there was on going WW3…and then suddenly LINDOL put the venom on that mexican…and also world war 3 inside that guadalajara coliseum become an instant CEMETERY with all mexicans become a zombies for disbelieving on what they are witnessing brutalizing their very own hero…INSIDE OF THEIR OWN SHIIIIT DRUG CARTEL BACKYARD….that until this very moment…no lousy mexican have the balls to duplicate what great ESPINOSA did inside of their own backyard…present WBO lightflyweight great DONNIE AHAS NIETES 3 times fought here in MEXICO and won it all…Teddy Atlas knew Donnie very well as one of the greatest in the smaller divisions….99% of world title was hardly won by those great FILIPINOs OUTSIDE OF THEIR OWN shiiiiit corrupted backyard….THAI, JAPS, MEXICANs won their title INSIDE OF THEIR OWN BACKYARD….but not the likes of the great warrior FILIPINOs….we are naturally born a fighter who beheaded the famous conquistador FERDINAND MAGELLAN in MACTAN, CEBU way back March 15, 1521.

  30. nicolas 07:58pm, 03/28/2014

    I always thought that it was his fight with Cesar Soto in the Philippines where he did not get paid. I watched the fight on Spanish TV here in the USA, and remember how crowded it was. It was fought as I understand it on an airfield, and there were some 300,000, mostly not paying who were around the entire field, 60,000 paid I think. I thought he was robbed in that second fight, though the pro Mexican supporters who I disagreed with on the internet did not see it that way.

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