Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao and his gambling background

Manny Pacquiao is the only boxer who has managed to become world champion in eight weight categories. He has excelled in boxing, become a prominent politician in the Philippines, and devotes a lot of time to charitable causes. But his past also contains some regrettable incidents. For example, he was an avid fan of gambling. A look back at the biography of the famous fighter.

In a poker game, Manny might have lost $100,000

Pacquiao relocated to the US in 2001 in search of a coach who could develop his skills. He had previously held the titles of WBC champion at 50.8 kg (which he later forfeited), and WBC International World Champion at 55.3 kg. But it took some time to find the right specialist. The Filipino was rejected by several trainers. But then Manny met the person, who would later have a great influence on his career — Freddie Roach. Pacquiao is still loyal to Roach and prepares for fights exclusively under his guidance (only in 2018 he tried to train without Freddie, but returned to him afterwards). They have become practically family, going through a lot together.

Along with Manny, his close friend Buboy Fernandez, who later became Roach’s assistant, flew to America. Pacquiao’s first fight in the United States was a title fight — he defeated by TKO Lehlohonolo Ledwaba and became IBF light-middleweight champion. Then came the victories over Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar de La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley… But besides world fame Pacquiao acquired (or maybe developed) a bad habit in the USA – gambling addiction. Pacquiao’s gambling addiction was first reported by Sports Illustrated magazine in June 2012.

Bobby, the boxer’s younger brother, once related how the fighter frequently visited casinos in Southern California, where he could stake $100,000 at the poker table. Pacquiao once played with a professional — Justin Smith. Smith recounted that encounter in an interview with Assopoker.

He opened his own rooster farm and spent in casinos

$100,000 is a huge amount. But Buboy Fernandez told a wilder story – how Pacquiao bet 16 million Philippine pesos ($350,000) on cockfighting, which is very popular in his home country and legalised. Manny’s passion for cockfighting was also spoken of by Freddie Roach, who once witnessed the champion making a $50,000 bet. Pacquiao’s love turned out to be so great that he even opened a farm to raise fighting roosters. The farm had a total of about a thousand roosters with a total value of about $700,000.

Pacquiao was making huge money in the 2000s — his fees were as high as $30 million per fight. However, promoter Bob Arum reportedly requested from him a $2 million advance payment to settle his gambling debts, according to a 2012 Sports Illustrated story. Arum further acknowledged that he had previously paid Manny’s bills by sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to casinos more than five times. “Manny had one of the worst habits of any athlete I’ve ever known. He was addicted to it,” said Arum.

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His wife threatened him with a divorce, after which Pacquiao hit religion and sold his nightclub

The Sports Illustrated article about Pacquiao’s gambling addiction came out shortly before his fight with Timothy Bradley. By that time the Filipino had already changed his life drastically, becoming a religious man. After the tough victory over Juan Manuel Marquez in November 2011, Pacquiao’s wife gave him the divorce papers. In the Philippines, besides a cockfighting farm, Manny owned a nightclub and a casino, where he loved to party, including in the company of girls of easy virtue. The boxer found salvation in Christianity, which he revealed in February 2012.

Not everyone in the Philippines has embraced Pacquiao’s religiosity, but he tried to become president of the country

Pacquiao lost to Bradley by split decision (a very controversial decision). And in December, 2012, he lost by heavy knockout to Juan Manuel Marquez (it was their fourth fight, the score in the tetralogy was 2-1 in favour of Manny, the other fight ended in a draw). Manny lying face down, his wife hysterical — it looked scary. Pacquiao did not return until a year later, beating Brandon Rios. And in April 2014, the Filipino took his rematch with Bradley (victory by unanimous decision of the judges). Pacquiao’s enthusiasm for religion has not diminished in the slightest – on the contrary, it has increased.

The Philippines is a Christian country, but Pacquiao’s religiosity was perceived negatively by many there. The fact is that 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic, and Manny became a follower of the New Testament Evangelical Church.

Pacquiao fought Floyd Mayweather in 2015. Pacman lost by unanimous decision but received a hefty fee of over $100 million. This money did not only benefit him: Manny built more than 1,000 houses for poor families in his hometown of Kibawe, giving them to the needy for free.

In 2016, he became a senator in the lower house of the Philippine parliament, and at the end of 2020, he headed the ruling FDP Laban party. Incidentally, incumbent President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has named him as his successor. So in 2022 Pacquiao ran for the Philippine presidency.

He lost but could run again in the future. Yet, at 42, he remains an active boxer of the highest calibre.

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