He is known as one of the greatest boxers in the world. Standing at 4”11, Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao is hailed as a hero, the only boxer to have clinched 10 world titles and celebrated for his tenacity, speed and humility.
Manny Pacquiao’s most recent fight is known as the “Battle of Greatness”, and the richest fight in history. It earned this inimitable athlete $120 million dollars. No small change for most of us, but especially awe-inspiring when you know how this humble man started his tale.
This is the story of Pac-Man.
Born in 1978, in General Santos City in the Philippines, Manny was one of six siblings. His mother, unable to scrape together a living to support them all, left Manny with no choice but to drop out of school at 14 years old to move to the capital city of Manila. Years later, his mentor and long-term trainer, Freddie Roach, would say that Manny left home because his father had cooked the family dog for a meal.
Life only got harder for this scrawny adolescent on his own, on the streets in one of the densest cities in Asia. Manila.
“He bought doughnuts and sold each one for a nickel more to survive,” Roach would later reveal. “He slept in a cardboard box. He fought his way through all this, and look at the man he is today."
At age 16, he began boxing for the Philippine National Amateur Boxing Team and just months afterwards, endured the hellish day that shaped the rest of his life.
He was moments away from starting his own fight on a weekly sports television boxing program (a show focused on up and coming boxers) ‘Blow by Blow’, when his close friend Eugene Barutag was knocked out in the ring.
Pacquiao was only at the tender age of 16, when he had to hold dying Eugene, who had been so badly beaten, in his arms. With no standby paramedics and only a film crew vehicle to bring the pair of boys to the hospital belatedly, Eugene was pronounced dead on arrival.
Pacquiao would confess years later that he knew he had a choice to make in that moment: “I wanted to keep fighting. Even though Eugene had died, I thought I will continue our dream, our battle’.
That day was the beginning. The young Manny Pacquiao fought on to become one of boxing’s greatest of all time. He started his career in professional boxing as a flyweight, weighing just 98 pounds - which was 7 pounds under the minimum weight division. He later admitted that he placed weights in his pockets to make the minimum weight limit of 105 pounds - fighting other professionals at a disadvantage.
From these humble beginnings, Manny ‘Pac Man’ Pacquiao is now an inspiration to millions. Despite being called shy, he has appeared in several movies in the Philippines, portraying ‘Pacman’ the crime-fighting superhero and as a rebel commander. At just 32 years old, he was elected into the Philippine House of Representatives and is currently a congressman of the Sarangani district of the Philippines - many people believe the boxer has the potential to become a future president. In addition to being a celebrated boxer, congressman and proud father to five children, Pacquiao is also a Lieutenant Colonel in the Reserve Force of the Philippine Army and according to Forbes, he was in the list of top 15 highest-paid athletes in the world.
Pacquiao hopes to inspire not just through his boxing, but rather through his truly remarkable rags-to-riches story. If he could overcome all the obstacles thrown at him, he believes there is hope for anyone.
“I want to inspire them not to surrender whatever the circumstances. I want to encourage them that there’s always hope,” Pacquiao said.
Yesterday, Manny Pacquiao was living on the hard streets of Manila uncertain what the next day would bring, but today he is the most loved boxer in the world.
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