THE country lost one of its finest boxers of all time following the death of Olympic hero Anthony Villanueva on Tuesday morning.
He was 69.
Villanueva won for the country its first silver medal in the Olympics after he advanced to the gold medal match of the 1964 Tokyo Games. He lost to Stanislav Stepashkin of the Soviet Union in a hotly-contested final in the featherweight division.
“To me, he’s the country’s first Olympic gold medalist,” said Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) spokesman and first vice president Joey Romasanta in a text message from Bangkok.
“We lost a great athlete like we lost the gold in the Olympics,” Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman Richie Garcia said for his part.
The Association of Boxing Alliances of the Philippines (ABAP) also paid tribute to the fallen boxer, whom president Ricky Vargas called as “a genuine Filipino sports icon.”
“Anthony Villanueva continues to be an inspiration to our young boxers who aspire for excellence in the sport,” said Vargas.
Former ABAP chief Manny Lopez said Villanueva’s silver medal “will forever shine and glitter like gold in our minds for generations to come.”
“We will remember his exploits as an athlete and worth emulating especially the youth,” Lopez added.
Villanueva has been bedridden for several years now and is based in Cabuyao, Laguna. Friends of the family said he died in his sleep at around 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
A tribute for Villanueva was supposed to be held on June 12 under the 'Pagpupugay' project of former PBL commissioner Chito Trinidad.
His father, Jose, is also a boxer and Olympic medalist, having won the bronze during the 1932 Games in Los Angeles.