Championship Boxer Manny Pacquiao Out to Fight Philippine Poverty

Mikey Williams / TopRank Boxing
Mikey Williams / TopRank Boxing
Why the prize fighter is entering politics in his home country.

A political candidate was recently elected who is a bigger celebrity than Donald Trump, talks more about his personal relationship with God than Ted Cruz, and understands poverty more intimately than Bernie Sanders. As the winner of world titles in eight different weight classes, the candidate is also considered by many fans and fighting experts alike to be the most dynamic boxer to lace up the gloves since Muhammad Ali.

Manny Pacquiao, who has been a congressman in the Congress of the Philippines since 2010, won a seat in the Filipino Senate on May 9. He retired from boxing this spring shortly after defeating welterweight Timothy Bradley in a 12-round decision in Las Vegas. From street kid to world boxing champion to national hero and global icon, Pacquiao, 37, will continue his unlikely career trajectory by pursuing a new vocation: that of evangelical politician.

From ‘Nothing’ to $400 Million

A week before his fight with Bradley, I sat and talked to Pacquiao in the basement of Hollywood’s famous Wild Card Boxing Gym as he prepared for a training session with his longtime coach, Freddie Roach.

We talked a bit about his upcoming match, but mostly about his 2012 conversion to Christianity and the way his relatively new faith might shape his career post-boxing. “Now I understand everything,” Pacquiao said about his boxing career and unlikely rise to stardom. “The Lord raised me from nothing into something for a purpose, not for my purpose but for his purpose.”

Pacquiao said he came from “nothing,” but describing his life story as “rags to riches” captures neither the hopelessness of his youth nor the wealth and fame he found through boxing. Pacquiao was born in a village in the southern Philippines and remembers drinking water in the evening to try to fool his stomach on days his family couldn’t afford rice. But it was more than hunger pangs that pushed him out of his family’s house and onto the streets of General Santos City as a teenager. A difficult relationship with his father came to a painful head when the elder Pacquiao arrived home drunk and angry and proceeded to kill, cook, and eat the family dog. Pacquiao’s father soon abandoned the family. That act left an emotional wound in his son that would not heal for 20 years.

By the time he turned 16, Pacquiao had made the 500-mile boat trip from General Santos City to Manila and was fighting for money. If Pacquiao’s life started with less than rags, through boxing he achieved more than riches. As a teenager, he spent his days punishing heavy bags and his nights sleeping on the gym floor. According to Forbes, since his first fight in 1995 (in which he earned less than $5), Pacquiao has fought 66 times, earning more than $400 million. He raked in more than $160 million in 2015 alone. But financial figures only represent part of the “riches” in Pacquiao’s story.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Andrew Johnson