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“Now I can eat three times a day”: Manny Pacquiao and his illegal professional debut at 16

At 15 years old, Manny pacquiao He knew that to make his professional boxing debut he had to leave the city of General Santos, and move to Manila, the capital of the Philippines. And he would have to do it without money and without permission from his family.

In 1994, in General Santos, Pacquiao He lived in a rural area, in a state of poverty and with a mother who had to support six children. Manny He had started boxing precariously, and had his first amateur fights.

Polding Strap, a businessman from the city of Malabon, in the metropolitan area of ​​Manila, called his talent scout in General Santos. He asked him to send him several guys with potential to do something in boxing.

“One day a promoter from Manila contacted me,” he recalls Manny in his autobiography Pacman: My Story of Hope, Resilience, and Never Say Never Determination. “He told me that he wanted me to move to Manila, where I could have better training and fight the best fighters. He told me that I was good enough to fight all over the Philippines and maybe other countries. “

Manny Pacquiao’s journey from General Santos to Manila

Now I can eat three times a day": Manny Pacquiao and his illegal  professional debut at 16 - La Pelotita

Beside Manny, there were other boxer friends who dreamed the same as him. Abner Cordero, Eugene barutag and his own PacquiaoThey were the main prospects, but they needed to get out of there. They had dreams and they were hungry. They too would have to move to Manila.

The plane ticket cost $ 80, and it was priceless for Manny. The promoter who wanted to take him to Manila told him that he would have to pay for his transfer. The young aspiring boxer, who would become one of the sport’s greatest legends, didn’t even have the $ 50 to travel by boat.

It was his friends, as impoverished as Manny, who decided not to leave it behind. Robert Barron, Eugene barutag and six more friends decided to collect, together, the money so that Manny he could buy his ticket and travel to Manila.

The decision of that Manny pacquiao teenager would change his life. Nothing would ever be the same again, and one’s own Manny I knew it.

“Even though I longed for everything familiar, I knew it was time to go,” he recalls. Manny. “I knew what I needed to do, but my heart ached. I was going to leave my city, my family, including my loving mother and my friends to have a better, better life. I swore to myself that one day I would return to them, and give them the world with me. I told them that when I was a world famous boxer, I would never leave my house again, just to fight. “

Y Manny He decided to leave General Santos without informing anyone, not even his mother.

“While I was on the boat I felt a sense of guilt, because I had escaped from my town without telling anyone, not even the members of my family,” he says. Manny in his book. “Goodbye was not a word that I could say to them. It was just easier for me to leave.

Manny He acknowledges that traveling from General Santos to Manila was like going to the other side of the world, despite the fact that the two cities separated them almost 1,000 kilometers.

“When I first arrived in Manila I was surprised by what I saw,” he acknowledges. Pacquiao. “The city was vigorous and dynamic for someone who came from the jungles of Tango and the dirty streets of General Santos. Manila was loud, confusing, and chaotic. My eyes almost popped out of my head when I saw the first intersection of streets. There were more people and cars at that intersection than anything I had ever seen in my life. I was really a country boy in the big city. “

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In his early days in Manila, Manny he had to look on the street for a place to spend the night.

“After trying different parts of the city, I eventually found a few safe places to sleep at night, including a park,” he recalls. Manny. “I made my bed on the hard floor. I guess sleeping on the dirty floor every night when I was a child helped me adjust. “

Manny He was starting to train boxing, without having made his professional debut, and he had to earn his money in other ways.

“My job options in the city of Manila were broader than in General Santos,” he says. Manny. “I was a gardener, I was a bricklayer, I worked in a restaurant. I was even a tailor. I remember my first job in Manila was removing rust in a metal business. I used that income to pay for my food every day ”.

The support of his mother

Therefore, to Manny pacquiao It was difficult for him to send money from Manila to his family in General Santos because he could barely survive. And, in addition, it took the courage to be able to tell them where he was.

“It took me 30 days to finally write to my mom to tell her where I was, what I was doing, and explain why I left,” she recalls. Pacquiao. “Part of the reason I never had a formal goodbye is because I knew my mother was never going to let me go. I wrote in the letter that I was very hurt that I had left, and that I was also very hurt that I did not have money to send to the family. At that time he was earning 160 pesos a day and he needed that to survive ”.

His mother’s response from General Santos was loving and understanding.

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“A week later I received a letter from my mother in the gym where I trained,” he says. Manny. “She was very happy to hear from me, although she was very sad that I had left. He understood what he was doing and why. My mother told me not to worry about her or the family. He told me to take care of myself and focus on surviving. He wrote: ‘Son, the way to survive is to remember everything you have learned in life.’ And surviving is what I did ”.

After taking the weight off his shoulders and having his mother’s blessing, Manny pacquiao he concentrated on working and surviving. But always, with dignity.

“My first days in Manila were of little work,” he recalls Manny. “There were weeks when work didn’t exist. And on those nights, I slept in the streets and had nothing to eat. It was just like going back to my childhood days, except now my stomach was bigger to fill it up. In those days I would go to restaurants and wait outside, and although I was sometimes tempted to beg, I never did. I would patiently hide outside the kitchen door in the shadows until the waiters and restaurant managers came to give me food. “

But nevertheless, Manny and his gym friends, they had promised each other to help each other, and never beg. If any of them had money, they would buy food for all of them. The mother of Pacquiao, remember that in some of the letters that Manny He wrote to him from Manila telling him that he had only made one meal that day, and it had only been rice.

“I never accepted food without working for it,” he says. Manny. “I always washed dishes or cleaned the interior of the restaurant to earn my food. Because I never accepted her generosity without working for her, many of the restaurant workers treated me fairly and with respect. I wish I could remember their names so I can thank you again for supporting me during those days. Finally, my hard work paid off and I was able to send some extra money to my family, and that filled my spirit in a way that was satisfying. During three months full of work, I wrote to my mother every week, including 300 pesos with each letter ”.

Manny Pacquiao’s professional debut at age 16

In Manila, Manny pacquiao He came to train at the L&M gym, in the Sampaloc area, a gym with a certain reputation in Philippine boxing. Right there he began his first formal training in boxing, a fighter who threw punches as if he were swimming, and with a physique devastated by hunger and poor nutrition. The same journalists who covered boxing took turns buying the 15-year-old some food.

A few months later the opportunity to debut in professionalism would arrive, a few after Manny Pacquiao He had turned 16 in December 1994. He was under the statutory age of 18 to fight professionally in the Philippines.

So Manny he simply lied, so that he could appear on a televised card that would air on January 22, 1995. A friend helped him obtain a fake boxing license so he could fight professionally.

And so, that January 22, Manny pacquiao He made his professional boxing debut at age 16 and illegally. He beat points in a four-round fight against Edmund Enting Ignacio.

“Now, I can eat three times a day,” he wrote. Manny to his mother.

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