Manny Pacquiao's amazing life story, from sleeping rough in Manila to becoming king of the ring and thought of as a future Prime Minister of the Philippines
WHEN Manny Pacquiao steps into the ring on Saturday in Las Vegas to fight Keith Thurman, you can expect fans at the MGM Grand Garden Arena to go wild.
The hugely popular welterweight, now 40, has won the admiration of the sporting world with a life story that's the epitome of rags-to-riches.
As a young boy, he grew up in a small shack in a Philippines jungle, where his family were so poor they couldn't even afford to feed him rice.
After declaring a desire to fight professionally, he stowed away on a boat to Manila at the age of 15 and slept rough before going to the gym every day.
Today, he is a leading senator in his own country, lives in a mansion, and is expected to become president by 2022.
LIVING IN POVERTY
Before he made his £200m fortune, Pacquiao lived with his parents, sister and two younger brothers in a single-room shack surrounded by coconut groves and a dense jungle in the area of Tango, some 30-miles from General Santos.
His father Rosalio scaled 70 trees a day collecting coconuts to sell and make money to support his family.
But often it wasn't enough. Manny and his siblings would go days without food, and even a simple bowl of rice was out-of-reach.
"Our life was very tough when Manny was young," Rosalio told Post Magazine in 2015.
"Most of the time we had only bananas and root crops to eat, but when I did make more money, I made sure my family ate rice. Now we eat anything we want to eat."
HE WAS A BORN FIGHTER
Coming from such a tough upbringing was the making of Manny.
But as a 9-year-old, he couldn't escape the taunts he received from other kids in his neighbourhood about his impoverished beginnings.
Once, when his younger brother Bobby was being teased for being "poorer than dirt" Pacquaio stepped in and floored the boy with a single left jab.
Boxing was clearly already in his blood, and he had his epiphany a year later watching Mike Tyson's shock defeat to James "Buster" Douglas in 1990 – an experience he said "changed his life forever."
"I knew without a doubt I would become a fighter," he wrote in his 2010 autobiography.
"I knew that the underdog can, and often does, win."
A NEW HOBBY
Enthused by a new passion, Manny dropped out of school and took up boxing at the age of 12.
He moved into his uncle Sardo Mejia's one-storey home in the dusty southern Philippine city of General Santos.
It was Mejia, a boxing fanatic with armchair experience, who was to become Manny's first trainer.
"For Uncle Sardo, it was the ultimate blessing that his little nephew shared his favourite hobby," Pacquiao wrote.
"Even though he had no formal training, we both took it seriously and knew that we were going to be champions one day."
But Mejia knew he had his work cut out.
"When he started, he had no muscle on him at all and I couldn't see him ever becoming a fighter," he recalled.
"Then, after I trained him for six months, I said to myself: 'This boy is going to be a world champion'.
"He always had great self-discipline. He learned everything so fast. He practised all the time and he would get up at 4am to go jogging.
"I used to go out and rent videotapes of Mike Tyson fights and show them to him. He picked up the tactics so quickly.
"At first his mother didn't want her son to be a boxer. She said, 'I want him to be a priest.'
But Manny told me he wanted to become a boxer because his family was very poor. He had no money to study in school or college."
At the age of 15, Pacquiao had established himself as the best junior boxer in the southern Philippines.
He entered competitions in an open-air park in General Santos, beating all in front of him, then travelled to Davao City to take on more experienced opponents.
But it was never enough for the ambitious boy, who knew he needed better facilities and a trainer to realise his potential.
He stowed away on a boat headed to Manila to lessen the burden on his mother, who by now was juggling five other kids.
Pacquiao training hard, but also worked as a labourer to make ends meet. He turned professional at the age of 16, and embarked on a career that took him to greatness.
'Pacman' is the first boxer to win world titles in eight weight divisions, and has won twelve major world titles.
He's also the only man to win the lineal championship in five different weight classes.
Pacquiao's been a big draw too for TV stations like HBO. Approximately 19.6 million people have bought one of his pay-per-view fights over the years, with around £1 billion in revenue made from those 23 pay-per-view bouts.
And he shows no signs of retiring just yet, even if he's in his twilight years.
"I love this sport and until the passion is gone, I will continue to fight for God, my family, my fans and my country," he said.
RICHES BEYOND BELIEF
Thanks to boxing, Pacquaio has amassed a fortune that's allowed him to splash the cash on some spectacular homes.
His property portfolio includes mansions in his homeland, as well as US abodes in LA (Beverly Hills and Hancock Park) and Laguna.
But Manny's main residence appears to be his three-storey house in Makati City's Forbes Park, which cost him around £9m.
Boasting four bedrooms, roomy walk-in wardrobes and hotel-like bathrooms it's a stunning home fit for a king.
BRAIN DAMAGE FEARS
For the first time in years, bookmakers are calling Pacquiao the underdog in his fight against Thurman.
And his former promoter Bob Arum believes the Filipino shouldn't be stepping in the ring anymore, believing that he's putting himself at risk of brain damage.
"I hope he wins the fight but I am concerned, as I would be for any fighter, that when they get to a certain age that they probably shouldn't be fighting anymore," Arum told Fight Hub TV.
“So a guy who's younger gets hit and the cranium absorbs the blow so that it doesn't affect the brain matter.
“When they get older the cranium is thinner, and when you get hit it affects … that would be the worst thing in the world if Manny Pacquiao suffered brain damage at this point.”
Meanwhile, Manny's wife Jinkee recently revealed she's tired of asking her husband to retire.
THERE'S ALWAYS POLITICS
Manny first ran for office in 2007, but lost his bid for a congressional seat.
However, he has since served two terms in the House of Representatives and was elected senator in May 2016, and is one of 24 senators who help run the Philippines.
But his political career has already been marred by controversies that have tarnished his humble image.
Pacquiao is a public supporter of President Duterte, whose brutal war on drugs and encouragement of extrajudicial killings has seen over 4,000 people killed, as well as condemnation from political figures around the world.
He's also been a vocal critic of the homosexual community, labelling gay people as "worse than animals."
Manny was forced to apologise for his comments, but stood by his belief of opposing gay marriage.
But the next presidential election is in 2022, and some polls are projecting that the legendary sports star could be victorious.
Given all he's achieved in life, even if people are betting against him to beat Thurmam this weekend, you wouldn't put a wager against him ruling the Philippines one day.
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