Pursuing boxing at an early age, Manny Pacquiao overcomes poverty as he becomes the sport’s only eight-division world champion
Manny Pacquiao, one of the most decorated fighters in world boxing, announced his retirement from the sport on Wednesday, September 29, to concentrate on a run for the presidency in the Philippines.
Pacquiao was born in 1978 in Kibawe in the southern province of Bukidnon. He is one of six siblings raised in a single-parent family and lived in a shack. He quit school at 10. His full name is Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao and he is known in boxing by the nickname “Pacman,” and in the Philippines, “Pambansang Kamao” (The National Fist).
He was introduced by a relative to boxing in General Santos City at age 12 and took part in street fights where the winner received P100 ($1.97) and the loser, P50. “I heard that when you fight, even when you lose, you have money,” he said in 2015, recalling why he took up boxing.
When he was 14, he was a stowaway on a boat bound for the capital Manila, where he lived on the streets and did construction jobs to earn money to send home.
His talent as a boxer was recognized early on, and at age 16, he became a junior professional. Filipinos became familiar with him from bouts carried live on television.
Career takes off
He won his first major title in 1998, age 19, with his World Boxing Council (WBC) flyweight title knockout of Thai Chatchai Sasakul, in Thailand, a title he retained five months later against Mexican Gabriel Mira.
On his 21st birthday, Pacquiao added the vacant WBC international super bantamweight title, which he defended five times in the 17 months that followed.
In June 2001, he added the International Boxing Federation (IBF) super bantamweight title on his United States debut at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Paradise, Nevada, the venue for most of his fights in the following two decades. In the past 20 years, Pacquiao has fought in the Philippines only four times.
Pacquiao is known for his fast footwork and blistering speed of punches, and is widely regarded as one of the top offensive fighters in the sport’s history.
As the only fighter to win world titles in eight different weight divisions, many consider Pacquiao the best pound-for-pound boxer of all time. The late boxing historian Bert Sugar rated Pacquiao the best southpaw – a left-hander who leads with the right – that ever lived. Veteran promoter Bob Arum in 2010 said he was unmatched, and rated him better than Muhammad Ali. “His left and right hand hit with equal power and that is what destroys his opponents,” Arum told Reuters.
Politics and money
Pacquiao had a net worth of P3.2 billion ($63 million) at the end of 2020, according to his statement of assets and liabilities. His 2015 encounter with Floyd Mayweather remains the best-selling pay-per-view (PPV) fight in boxing history, grossing $410 million, and his 24 PPV bouts have generated 20 million buys.
Pacquiao has juggled his boxing career with one in domestic politics, albeit with frequent absences while preparing for fights. In 2010, he won a seat in the Congress at the second attempt and was reelected three years later, despite having one of the worst attendance records in the house
In 2016, Pacquiao won a seat in the higher profile Senate, where he co-authored a bill to repeal the death penalty and steadfastly backed President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs, a campaign condemned by the international community for killing thousands of mostly urban poor Filipinos.
In a 2016 interview with Reuters , Pacquiao admitted to having as a youth experimented for years with “all kinds of drugs.”
He landed himself in hot water during campaigning for the senate, when he said gay couples were “worse than animals,” resulting in sports giant Nike terminating its contract with him, despite Pacquiao apologizing for the remark, which saw his opinion poll rating drop.