Saturday, February 24, 2024  |



A Ring championship belt, 87 years in the making, reaches its rightful owner in Spain

Sangchili's original belt (created by popular subscription, top) and the new Ring belt being delivered on Oct. 15, 2022 (bottom)
Fighters Network

It was an epic battle, in an epic setting.

The great Panama Al Brown, the first boxing world champion born in Latin America, was risking his Ring bantamweight championship in hostile territory, and with a bad precedent. Less than four months earlier, Brown had already lost by decision against the same man and in the same venue in a non-title bout, and the rematch had an air of déjà vu already scripted in, with the addition that Brown would be facing a man who aspired to inscribe his own “first” in his country’s history.

That man was Baltasar Sangchili, the venue was the bullring in his native Valencia, and he would be attempting to put Spain on the boxing map with a win over Brown, the first-ever champion of a land once conquered by Spain through centuries of violent armed confrontations.

The 15-round bout ended with a victory for Sangchili, an amazing feat by a man who had started his career with an inglorious 2-2-2 record in his first six outings to then become Ring champion some 71 bouts later, but not before embarking on a 27-0 streak after his initial bad start and then moving on to cement his name among the best fighters in Europe.

The only remaining challenge was lifting his belt in front of his proud countrymen, perhaps in the same bullring in which he had won it. It would surely take a while to get there, since the logistics and communication of the year 1935 were not as efficient as they are today.

Alas, the belt never arrived.

A public notice was posted asking the public to subscribe to pay for Sangchili’s championship belt in 1935

With frustration growing among the local community, a unique solution was found. A public fundraiser would be started among the local federations, and soon enough Sangchili would have his belt.

The process, however, was a challenging one.

First, all the boxing federations of Spain were approached, and when some of them failed to contribute, some soccer clubs and other institutions were also contacted.

Finally, the rest of the money was provided by common citizens, and the result was not only a thing of beauty, but one of the most unique boxing trophies ever created, and one of Valencia’s most priced sports-related artifacts of all time.

Finally, the belt was presented to Sangchili on March 31, 1936 during the Fallas, a local celebration.

The belt is embroidered with local motifs such as the coat of arms of the region, a bat (an animal considered as a good omen by the locals), boxing gloves and a bantam, symbolizing Sangchili’s weight class.

His real name is also embroidered on the belt: Baltasar Belenguer, a moniker developed by the boxer to keep his father from learning that he had, as a teenager, devoted himself to the sport that would make him immortal.

“The belt is kept in a bank in Valencia,” said Manuel Valero, co-author along with Julio Gonzalez of the book “Cien años de boxeo” in celebration of the centennial of the local Federació de Boxeig Comunitat Valenciana. “There have been innumerable offers to buy it, but its considered a sacred treasure.”

On Saturday, Oct. 15, The Ring will finally deliver a belt to Sangchili’s estate represented by Manuel Gomez Belenguer, the fighter’s nephew who became a son-like figure to him when Sangchili’s brother was killed in action during Spain’s civil war some 20 days after young Manuel was born.

It will be a long-awaited and long-overdue act of justice, but the joy of the moment will surely reverberate through the walls of the 163-year-old bullring just as it did when Sangchili’s brethren first saw him lift his fists in the sky in victory.

Baltasar Sangchili’s belt, created in 1935 by popular subscription

Time has passed, emotions have cooled, and new achievements have accumulated in Spanish boxing since then, but the memory of Sangchili’s epic win against Panama Al Brown will finally receive the last remaining piece of acknowledgement that his people have wished for so long.

“In spite of all this, Sangchili will have his belt,” said the article that called for a public subscription for the new belt, published back in 1936. “It will not be too long before we can offer it to him.”

The 87-year wait was long enough.

It took a while, but just as a beltholder came from America to surrender it to him, the belt is also on its way from America to Valencia to be finally delivered to its rightful owner in the very same place in which he shed blood, sweat and tears to get it.

Sangchili wouldn’t have had it any other way.