It's fair to say that the Philippines has had some true boxing legends, who will always be remembered for what they've done in the sport. Fighters like Pancho Villa, Flash Elorde and Manny Pacquiao are true all time greats whose names will always live on in the sport. Sadly it also has a host of forgotten fighters, who burned out too soon, or failed to build on their big wins. Fighters who greatness at the tips of their fingers but failed to deliver on their potential, with perhaps the most well known of those being Marvin Sonsona. Another fighter who failed to deliver on their promise was the now often forgotten Morris East (20-4-0-1, 12), who fought between 1989 and 1995. He had a short, but explosive career and a controversial one.
East debuted when he was just 15 years old, he became a world champion at the age of 19, he scored the Ring Magazine KO of the year, but less than 3 years later his career was over. His final bout came when he was just 21 years old, ended with him being suspended for a year and never fighting again. He would later become a trainer, but his career in the ring certainly felt like it could, and should, have been so much more.
Although East's career wasn't the longest, and was underwhelming if we're being honest, we still thought we'd take the opportunity to look at his career and share the 5 most significant wins for...Morris East
Boy Masuay II (December 29th 1989)
As previously mentioned Morris East made his debut at the age of 15, doing so on May 3rd 1989 when he beat Jessie Miranda. He would go on to win his first 3 bouts before suffering a 10 round majority decision loss to domestic journeyman Boy Masuay in September 1989, when East was still just 16 years old. It was Masuay who took East's "0" but just 3 months later East got revenge, stopping Masuay in 6 rounds.
Sadly there isn't too much known about these, but knowing that East avenged his first loss is something rather significant, and to have done it by KO just months after, is something fairly notable and a significant achievement for the youngster. Sadly it would be the only loss that East actually avenged, which is a shame as it would have been good to see him face the other 3 men who beat him.
Pyung Sub Kim (February 29th 1992)
It's well known that top Filipino fighters often need to travel to secure the big fights that they need to make a name for themselves. East was no exception and fought on the road 4 times during his career. The first of his international bouts came in early 1992 when he travelled over to South Korea to take on OPBF Light Welterweight champion Pyung Sub Kim. This was not only East's international debut but also his first bout for a notable title. It was also a hell of a fight!
East was dropped early on by Kim, though battled back, gritted it out and went on to drop Kim multiple times en route to a 10th round KO win for the OPBF title. This was a genuine gut check for the then 18 year old Filipino who showed resilience and hunger as well as proving that he wasn't going to be intimidated on the road. Something that would prove vital just a few months later.
Akinobu Hiranaka (September 9th 1992)
Less than 7 months after his OPBF title win East travelled again, this time to face WBA Light Welterweight champion Akinobu Hiranaka over in Japan. The hard hitting Hiranaka had won the world title in April 1992 and was looking for an easy first defense at home, which he expected to get against the 19 year old East. After all East was young, he had been dropped by Kim and had lost 2 bouts by this point. He wasn't a world class fighter, and he wasn't like Edwin Rosario, who Hiranaka had beaten for the title over in Mexico.
The idea of East being an easy opponent for Hiranaka turned out to be wrong. Very wrong. Through 10 rounds this was a really, really competitive bout, with East giving as good as he got against the hard hitting local favourite. It was an exciting bout and it saw East rise to the occasion before landing the punch of his career in round 11, knocking Hiranaka down hard with a thunderbolt left hand. Hiranaka got to his feet but was stumbling as the referee waved off the bout. With the win East became the youngest ever Filipino world champion, at the age of 19, and it seemed, for a moment, that the Philippines was going to have a massive star on their hands. A new sensation. A man for the future. He also won the Ring Magazine KO of the year for the finish here.
As for Hiranaka he would never fight again after this loss, though he currently runs a boxing school in Okinawa.
Outside of boxing this win was massive for East, who got the chance to meet his father after this win, a man he had never seen. He met his father around a month after this victory when he travelled from his homeland to the US, thanks in part to CNN who tracked down his father and helped get them together.
Jeff Malcolm (November 26th 1994)
Sadly the hopes of East being the new star of the Philippines was short lived. Just 4 months after winning the belt he lost it to Juan Martin Coggi in Argentina, where he was stopped in 8 rounds. That would be his last world title bout, and his last bout with major international attention. He did however face a couple of notable fighters, the most notable of whom was Australian veteran Jeff Malcolm in 1994.
Malcolm had begun his career back in 1971, and by the time he fought East in 1994 he had amassed a record of 82-23-10 (25). He had more losses than East had total fights, with East being 17-3-0-1 (11), despite that Malcolm was still regarded as a very solid fighter and he was only a few fights removed from a WBO World title fight at Welterweight. Malcolm travelled over to the Philippines to take on East, who was having his second bout following his world title loss, and the Filipino would go on to take a decision over the Aussie veteran.
Despite being 38 when had this bout Malcolm wouldn't retire until the early 00's, following a loss to Fernando Sagrado, by which point he was a rare centurion with a record of 100-27-11 (36).
Robert Azumah (May 27th 1995)
Having once looked like a hero of Filipino boxing, East's career came to an end when he was in his early 20's and in many ways under a cloud of controversy.
East's final bout saw him defeat Indonesian based Ghanaian born fighter Robert Azumah, by unanimous decision, on a show promoted by Elorde promotions. It was a win that saw East retain the GAB Super Welterweight title, in fact it was the only time he successfully defended a title of any type. After the bout he was suspended by the GAB for a year and decided that he had had enough of the sport, it's politics and those around him.
Following his retirement, whilst still in his early 20's, he moved to the US, and later became a boxing trainer, training the likes of Zab Judah and Nonito Donaire among others.
This is just an opinion, maaaan! It's easy to share our opinions, and that's what you'll find here, some random opinion pieces