MANILA, MAY 27, 2010
(STAR) SPORTING CHANCE By Joaquin Henson - It’s not the way former world lightweight boxing champion Andy Ganigan, (photo at left) a Hawaiian of Filipino descent, envisioned to live the rest of his life. Now, he barely talks and walks, a victim of a senseless mugging in his hometown of Waipahu.

Ganigan, 57, was viciously assaulted in a parking lot just before midnight last March. He came from the Last Stop Bar near the Highway Inn restaurant when confronted by a drunk who was later identified as a 21-year-old Hawaiian from Waianae by witnesses. Police arrested the suspect only a few days ago on a charge of second degree assault but he was released pending an investigation.

There was no indication if Ganigan provoked the attack, which has sounded a widespread alarm in Hawaii. Ganigan was inducted into the Hawaii Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 and belongs to an elite group of Hawaiian world boxing titlists with Filipino lineage – others are Dado Marino, Ben Villaflor, Jesus Salud and Brian Viloria. He is highly regarded as a sporting hero in the islands.

Because he never held a regular job, Ganigan isn’t qualified for health insurance – which is why he’s hard pressed to settle his medical bills. Relatives are staging a fund-raiser to cover his expenses at Ige’s Restaurant in Hawaii on June 8 with tickets selling for $25 each. The date coincides with the 38th anniversary of Ganigan’s second pro bout, a fourth round knockout over Fino Cortez in Honolulu in 1972.

Ganigan is undergoing rehabilitation therapy in Las Vegas where his oldest daughter and two of his five sons live. The bills became unmanageable in Hawaii, prompting his move to Las Vegas under his children’s care.

The violent mauling has left Ganigan with permanent brain damage and will be on a round-the-clock watch the rest of his life. No motive was mentioned for the attack.

Now sporting a long, white goatee, Ganigan campaigned as a prizefighter from 1972 to 1983, compiling a record of 34-5, with 30 KOs. He was once named one of the world’s 100 hardest-hitting punchers by The Ring Magazine.

“The southpaw Ganigan’s right hook was a show-stopper but so was the overhand left he liked to run down guys’ throats,” said The Ring. “Between October ‘75 and October ‘77, Ganigan scored 16 straight knockouts. After 25 fights, his record read 25-0 with 23 KOs, a knockout rate of 92 percent. There was no pretense with Ganigan. He rushed in throwing knockout punches. That was it. If you could handle it and tag him back, you stood a good chance; four of his five losses were by kayo.”

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In 1981, Ganigan captured the World Athletic Association (WAA) lightweight title by halting Sean O’Grady in the second round in Little Rock, Arkansas. O’Grady previously won the WBA crown but abdicated to fight for the vacant WAA title. The WAA was a governing body organized by O’Grady’s father Pat. O’Grady had the misfortune of absorbing the full impact of Ganigan’s blows and was floored thrice before capitulating.

A year later, Ganigan challenged WBC lightweight titlist Alexis Arguello whose list of knockout victims included Filipinos Rolando Navarrete (1980) and Rey Tam (1978). Ganigan decked Arguello in the first round but couldn’t dispose of the slick Nicaraguan who bounced back to retain his crown on a stoppage in the fifth in Las Vegas.

In 1983, Ganigan was back in the ring to face Jimmy Paul in a USBA lightweight championship bout in Phoenix. Paul, a proficient technician, scored a sixth round technical knockout and ended Ganigan’s career.

Hawaii Star Bulletin writer Dave Reardon described Ganigan as the B. J. Penn of the ‘80s. Penn, a Hawaiian of Irish-Korean descent, is a former UFC lightweight and welterweight champion. Known as the “Prodigy,” Penn remains a star attraction in mixed martial arts promotions.

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Reardon said Ganigan is “down for the count” after the beating and “may never recover.”

In his prime, Ganigan was called “The Sugarman” because his hometown Waipahu is a sugar resource. “It (the moniker) didn’t really match his fighting style,” wrote Reardon. “He wasn’t a sweet stick-and-move artist. He was a brutal pound-and-stand-over-you artist.”

Reardon recalled Ganigan’s former trainer Al Silva once relating a story about the slugger. “He would go hide in the cane field when he was supposed to be running,” said Silva, quoted by Reardon. “When I caught him, he said, ‘Don’t worry, I won’t get tired, my fights won’t be long.’ And most of the time, the bugga was right.” Ganigan scored 30 knockouts in 34 career wins, an eye-popping rate of 88 percent with 15 coming in the first three rounds.

The tragedy is reminiscent of what happened to former world flyweight champion Jimmy (The Mighty Atom) Wilde of Wales. In 1965, Wilde was 73 when he was savagely mugged in a train station in Cardiff. Wilde never recovered from the beating and died in a hospital four years later. Wilde retired from the ring after losing the flyweight crown to the Philippines’ Pancho Villa on a seventh round knockout in New York in 1923.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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