Pacquiao: From Poverty-Stricken School Drop-Out To Eight-Weight World Champion

The legendary Filipino boxer turns 43 today
14:05, 17 Dec 2021

"I knew without a doubt I would become a fighter - I knew that the underdog can, and often does, win."

When James ‘Buster’ Douglas stunned Mike Tyson in Tokyo more than 30 years ago the impact of the infamous heavyweight classic was felt worldwide, and, just under 2,000 miles away from the Japanese capital, the fight’s shocking outcome had just influenced a future boxing great to commit his life to the ring - the story of Manny Pacquiao was just about to begin.

It’s crazy to think that had a 42/1 underdog in Douglas not stopped the seemingly invincible Tyson on that February night, the young man from the Philippines might never have pursued a career in boxing, and we could have been robbed of one of the sweet science's greatest students.

Born into immense poverty, Pacquiao and his family were so poor they’d often be unable to even afford basic provisions such as rice. Living with his parents, two brothers and sister in a tiny single-room shack, the future world champion, who would go on to generate approximately 19.6 million in pay-per-view buys and $1.2 billion in revenue, wouldn’t even lay his eyes on a TV set until he was 10. 


When Pacquiao began to box seriously, he made the decision to drop out of school and move in with his uncle Sardo Mejia in a one-storey home in the southern Philippine city of General Santos. Mejia, a boxing fanatic, would become Manny’s first trainer and his introduction into the world of prizefighting.

Pacquiao later wrote in his autobiography: "Even though he had no formal training, we both took it seriously and knew that we were going to be champions one day."

By 15 he was regarded as one of the best junior boxers in the country and often fought from an open-air park in General Santos, taking on anyone who dared face him and beating all with relative ease. 

Seeking bigger challenges, the young fighter stowed away on a boat to the nation’s capital, Manila, where he would sleep on the streets or inside a gym’s boxing ring as he continued to put all his focus on his training. The hard work and sacrifice would pay off and, a year later, Pacquiao turned professional and the rest, as they say, is history.


From a poverty-stricken school drop-out, Manny Pacquiao has carved out a 26-year career that has seen him become an eight-weight world champion, lineal champion in five different weight classes, and claim wins against such names as Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, Antonio Margarito, Shane Mosley, Brandon Rios, Timothy Bradley, Lucas Matthysse, Adrien Broner and Keith Thurman among many, many others.

Now 43 and with a career in politics in full swing, the Pac-Man announced he had finally hung up his gloves this year following defeat to Yordenis Ugas in August. He retires as the only man to win titles across four decades and a 25-7-2 (11 KOs) against former or current world champions.

"To the greatest fans and the greatest sport in the world, thank you," he wrote in a statement. "Thank you for all the wonderful memories. This is the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but I’m at peace with it. Chase your dreams, work hard, and watch what happens. Good bye boxing."

Pacquiao’s rags-to-riches story continues to inspire millions around the globe, especially in his native Philippines, and his tale will no doubt encourage waves of future fighters for generations to come. Rest assured, there’ll never be another Manny Pacquiao.

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