It’s 1990 in the province of General Santos in the Philippines. Manny Pacquiao is 12 years old.
Pacquiao often speaks of his debt to his maternal uncle, Sardo Mejia, who introduced him to boxing after he dropped out of school. It was this moment that would spark an unforeseen passion and drive in Pacquiao to be one of the best boxers in the entire world. According to his autobiography, he describes watching Mike Tyson’s shocking defeat to James “Buster” Douglas in 1990 on television with his uncle as an experience that “changed [his] life forever.”
In his hometown, he set up an open-for-all boxing match and beat every opponent who came. He was well on the road of transforming himself from a lanky school dropout to a junior boxing champion.Despite his success, his family was still living in extreme poverty and hunger. They became so desperate to the point that his father had to kill his pet dog for dinner. Pacquiao couldn’t forgive his father for what he did so he left home, slept on cardboard boxes, and sold bread on the streets just to make a meager living. At that point, he also used boxing and won matches for $2 each, as a means of escaping poverty.
He soon moved to Manila and continued winning several boxing matches, but given the increased standards of living, he wasn’t making enough to survive. He soon got a job at a local gym doing gardening, cleaning and construction while boxing on the side. He trained crazily all day and all night when possible, waking up the earliest and leaving the gym at the latest possible time. Early on, his perseverance and determination to be a part of the boxing world swayed him to cheat and add on some weights to meet the featherweight class requirements.As the fights got more serious, Pacquiao started getting more famous as well. He would beat fighters from South Korea, Japan and Thailand and at the very young age of 19, he won his first World Champion title by beating Chatchai Sasakul, the reigning World Boxing Council (WBC) World Flyweight Champion at that time.
The turning point for Pacquiao came when he won against world-class featherweight boxer Marco Antonio Barrera at the Alamodome in Texas with a TKO. After that fight, he was recognized internationally as a force to be reckoned with.
Today, at 37, he is one of the most respected boxers. Despite his loss during the Mayweather match, he still has won the hearts of many boxing fans both in the Philippines and worldwide. His one-of-a-kind story will continue to inspire and it will always portray the journey of what millions of Filipinos continue to aspire for.