A story of grit: Boxer-turned-politician knocks on the gates of Malacañang.
BIRTHPLACE: Manny Pacquiao was born to a poor family in the town of Kibawe, Bukidnon province, on the island of Mindanao, Philippines, on December 17, 1978.
FAMILY CAN’T AFFORD TO FEED HIM RICE: As a young boy, he grew up in a small house in the agricultural town of Kibawe. His family were so poor they couldn’t even afford to feed him rice.
EARLY YEARS: In 1990, Pacquiao began training with his uncle in a makeshift home gym. Six months later, he started boxing in a park in General Santos, a city in his home island of Mindanao. He later faced higher-ranked fighters in other cities, including Davao. By age 15, he had become the southern Philippines’ best junior boxer. Then he stowed away to Manila, armed with nothing but his dream to make it big in boxing.
YOUNG FIGHTER: Here’s how the young many Manny Pacquiao looked like when he started in local competitions in his home town on the island. He posted on May 12, 2021: “Tila akala ko’y panaginip lang, ngunit nagkatotoo.” (Translation: “I thought it was just a dream, but it came true).” The photo was undated. It’s one of the earliest shots showing Pac-Man in the ring.
THEN AND NOW: Pacquiao with his wife Jinkee.
STOWAWAY: As a teen, Pacquiao stowed away on a boat to Manila and slept rough before going to the gym every day. He had an unbending desire to fight professionally.
TEENAGE FIGHTER: Pacquaio had an unwavering dream to train and launch a career in boxing, making a professional debut as a junior flyweight at the age of 16. Blow by Blow, a Philippine TV programme, aired his early bouts. He won over boxing fans with his all-action style and boyish smile.
PROFESSIONAL DEBUT: He made his professional debut as a junior flyweight on January 22, 1995, at the age of 16. Since then he has won major world titles in four of the original eight weight classes of boxing, also known as the “glamour divisions” (flyweight, featherweight, lightweight and welterweight). Pacquiao is also the first boxer in history to win to become a champion over four-decades.
FIRST MAJOR TITLE: He won his first major title on December 5, 1998, knocking out Thailand’s Chatchai Sasakul to capture the World Boxing Council (WBC) flyweight title. That day, Pacquiao became a world champ for the first time. He stopped Sasakul in 8 rounds.
MOVING UP: After failing to make weight, however, he lost the title to Medgoen Singsurat of Thailand in September 1999. Pacquiao moved up in weight class. On June 23, 2001, in his first fight in the US, he scored a 6th-round knockout of Lehlo Ledwaba at the MGM Grand to win the International Boxing Federation (IBF) junior featherweight title.
BOXING TITAN: Following four successful title defence fights, Pac-Man knocked out Mexico’s Marco Antonio Barrera on November 15, 2003, to become The Ring magazine featherweight champion. Pacquiao then signed up for a series of high-profile fights. He won the World Boxing Association (WBA) and IBF featherweight titles, the WBC and The Ring’s junior lightweight titles, and the WBC lightweight title.
WITH MOTHER: “The most important lesson that my mom taught me is how to pray from a young age and to thank the Lord for everything,” he tweeted in May 2021. Pacquaio has amassed a boxing fortune estimated at $220 million, though Forbes claims Pacquaio’s net worth is $26 million.
BOXING FORTUNE: Over the years, Pac-Man gave a huge chunk of his boxing fortune toward hundreds of student scholarships, thousands of housing units for the poor, farming equipment, churches, hospitals, disaster relief, environmental causes, and numerous international charities. He has established numerous businesses — trucking and agriculture — employing thousands. Pacquiao taking a groupie with his mother Dionisia and visitors.
WILLINGNESS TO BE COACHED: American trainer Freddie Roach is instrumental in Pacquaio’s rise. Roach helped gradually transform a left-handed slugger into a multi-faceted king of the ring, while keeping his punching power and natural talent. Pac-Man was hailed Boxing Writers Association of America and The Ring’s Fighter of the Year in 2006 and 2008.
FAMILY MAN: Pacquio has been often quoted to say his faith is what keeps him going. He also attributes these values to his success: dedication, perseverance, courage and extreme self-discipline. As someone from very humble beginnings, Pacquiao sees sports as a way to inspire millions of people in his country, and the world. As a Senator, he has authored several laws promoting sports in his country of 110 million inhabitants.
ROOTING FOR ONE MAN: When Pac-Man has a fight, the entire island nation of of 110 million goes into a standstill, rooting for their best pound-for-pound fighter. In a country where most people are poor, Pacquaio has become a symbol of hope. He is unifying force in the Philippines. The country is said to be at peace — rebels, separatists, government soldiers stop fighting — until Pacquiao’s fight is over.
NOTHING TO PROVE: Pacquiao has won so many titles. His phenomenal success story moves and inspires many of his countrymen. He epitomises how someone chasing a dream can succeed against great odds. In the world of boxing, though he lost in 2015 to the Floyd Mayweather in the so-called “Fight of the Century” (two judges scored the fight at 116–112 and the other 118–110), Mayweather lost in the eyes of the public, who viewed it as a lopsided fight.
SENATOR: Today, Pacquio is a leading senator in the Philippines. His detractors say Pac-Man has not passed a single law.
25 LAWS AUTHORED, CO-AUTHORED: A fact check shows that from 2010 until the present, Pacquio was the author or co-author of a total of 25 laws. These include the Free Internet Access Program in Public Places (RA 10929, August 2, 2017); the Philippine ID System Act (R.A. 11056, August 6, 2018); Universal Healthcare Act (February 29, 2019); Expanded Maternity Leave Act (February 21, 2019); the Road Board Abolition Act (waiting for president’s signature); Handbook for Overseas Filipino Workers Act (waiting for president’s signature), National Bible Day Act (RA 11163), among others.
DECLARATION: On September 19, 2021, Pacquiao declared he will run for president in 2022, ending months of speculation about whether the legendary fighter would seek the country’s top job. File photo taken on March 6, 2017 shows the boxing icon during a senate hearing in Manila.
HEART OF A LION: Pac-Man is dubbed as having the heart of a lion. His biggest fight yet is to be president of his people and country, majority of whose 110 million people are unable to escape their way out of cycle of poverty and corruption. If Pacquiao aces the May 2021 polls — and his supporters believe he could — an even bigger fight looms ahead. It involves picking the right advisers and Cabinet men with great caution, avoiding wolves in sheep’s clothing.
MAN OF DESTINY?: As Pacquiao knocks on Philippine presidency’s gates, he declared on Sunday: “I boldly accept the challenge of running as president of the Philippines. We need progress. We need to win against poverty. We need government to serve our people with integrity, compassion and transparency. The time is now. I am ready to rise to the challenge of leadership.” The next Philippine general election takes place on May 9, 2022, for executive and legislative branches of the government.