(Second of three parts)
The asphalted jungle of Manila
While amateur boxing was thriving in General Santos, there was a dearth of professional boxing cards in General Santos, a city that produced Rolando Navarette, former world featherweight champion.
Manny opted to try his luck in Manila where a handful of his fellow amateurs had already gone before him. Using money pooled by his friends, Manny boarded a ship from the port of General Santos City.
He linked up with his fellow former amateur standouts while in Manila but soon found that starting out as a professional fighter means surviving first the asphalted jungles of Metro Manila.
Before he could debut as a pro boxer, Manny had the callous in his hands thickened in construction sites earning dirt pay wages while sleeping in cardboard-matted concrete floors in a nondescript sweat-soaked Mandaluyong gym along with his province-mates.
Manny turned pro at the age of 15 in 1995 but hid his real age from the promoters. A boxer can only legally turn professional at the age of 18 in the Philippines. He nevertheless knocked out Edmund Ignacio in two rounds.
He racked up 10 more straight victories until he ran into Rustico Torrecampo and suffered his first loss as a professional fighter.
Even then, Manny was not yet off the poverty hook. He would relate how he went four days without eating because their construction employer did not pay them their salaries.
But even with his meager winnings as a struggling professional trying to find his niche, Manny already displayed his generous ways. He would share his winnings with his fellow boxers while sending money to his mother back in General Santos.
In 1998 and in his 25th professional fight, Manny shocked Asian boxing when he knocked out Thai local hero Chatchai Sasakul in the eighth round after being dominated for the first seven rounds to win his first world boxing crown, the World Boxing Council flyweight title.
Manny would go home a triumphant hero and became a toast of Philippine boxing, but he was hardly noticed by the American media.
With success, however, also came excesses. Manny was a big drinker and developed his love for gambling which is very much a part of professional boxing.
By then, Manny was already a rapidly growing 5’6” flyweight and on his second defense of his title, he failed to meet the weight limit and lost his title on the scales. To add insult to injury, a drained Pacquiao lost by a third -round knockout to Thai boxer Medgoen Singsurat in 1999.
Taking the world by storm
Like his loss to Torrecampo, Manny bounced back to take the world by storm. In 2001, he shellacked Lehlohonolo Ledwaba over six rounds as a late replacement to capture his second world boxing title, the super bantamweight diadem.
He took the first step toward boxing stardom by humiliating then top featherweight Marco Antonio Barrera over 11 rounds to capture the lineal title after moving up in weight in two years later.
After another glitch in his magnificent rise to the top of boxing world when he lost to Erik Morales in 2004, Manny was back to his winning ways. He spiked his record with 13 straight victories improving his record to 52 wins while losing only three and drawing twice.
In the process, he captured five more boxing titles in as many weight classes becoming the only boxer in the history of the sport to achieve that feat, a record that may never be equaled or surpassed.
He replaced Oscar de la Hoya as boxing’s biggest box office draw and is now widely recognized as the top boxer in the world.
(To be continued)
Read the Final Part of this article here