Manny Pacquiao: Are Champions Born or Made?

Manny Pacquiao is arguably the greatest boxer in history. Today, he is one of the most recognizable sportsmen on the entire planet. It might feel like the Filipino has been the pound-for-pound king forever, but he actually comes from much more humble boxing beginnings.

Everyone knows that Pacquiao fought his way off the streets of Manila as a young child, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that he was nothing special early in his career. In fact, he was quite ordinary. Seven of his first 11 fight went to a decision and he also suffered a knock out loss at the hands of Filipino journeyman Rustico Torrecampo. You can see that fight here;

After this fight, Pacquiao went on a run of 16 straight wins, but it all came to a sudden end in Thailand with a third round TKO loss to Medgoen Singsurat.

At this point in his career, Pacquiao was considered to be very good for the region, but nothing spectacular. After the loss, he went on to win his next six fights, although not without the odd setback such as being knocked down in the fourth round by Australian Nedal Hussein.

Pacquiao was now the holder of a WBC ‘International’ title, but the only genuine world title he had ever held was the WBC Flyweight belt (which he lost in Thailand).

The inflection point in Pacquiao's career came when he went to the US to visit promoters and trainers with his manager. After an unsuccessful and slightly frustrating trip, they happened to stop by the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles to meet with Freddie Roach, the owner and head coach.

Roach was the first person in the US to recognize the potential in Pacquiao. Equally important, as a trainer, he truly helped Pacquiao to unleash his potential. Opportunity came knocking soon after they started working together when Lehlohonolo Ledwaba’s opponent withdrew from their IBF Super Bantamweight World Title fight at just two week’s notice. The South African was highly rated at the time and expected to make short work of Pacquiao. However, with Roach in his corner, he tore through Ledwaba, breaking his nose early in the fight and then knocking him out in the sixth round.

Pacquiao’s reward for winning this fight was the second world title of his career. He fought a couple more times in the Philippines before the momentous fight which first made him really famous, the 11th round stoppage win over Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera.

Pacquiao’s career from this point onwards has been well documented. Funnily enough, Pacquiao almost ended up fighting Evolve MMA boxing instructor Yodsanan Sityodtong at one point in his career. Yodsanan was the WBA Super Featherweight champion. He and Pacquiao were widely regarded as the top 2 boxers in Asia. A fight between the two was widely discussed. However, as is so often the case in the world of combat sports, politics prevented the fight from being made.

Pacquiao’s story is so special because he was not destined for greatness from the moment he first started boxing. And he would arguably have never gone on to become the pound-for-pound champ had he not teamed up with Roach. It is no surprise that Roach has been his primary boxing coach now for the last 10 years.

Look at some footage of Pacquiao and Roach working together at the Wild Card Gym:

Pacquiao may be the best boxer in the world, but he is still a willing student. Watch how Roach takes time out to talk him through certain combinations and invite him to practise them in slow motion. There is no doubt that Pacquiao was born with a prodigious talent. However, were it not for the intervention of Roach, he might never have properly discovered it. The most important move the Filipino ever made was deciding to put his trust in the right trainer.

Pacquiao is living proof that a slow start does not necessarily prevent you from becoming a world champion. However, the real secret of his success was his work ethic, his determination, his discipline, and his teachers. His real turning point came by first finding the best available teacher (Freddie Roach) and remaining with him for the rest of his career. Even the best boxer in the world knows that if you are being taught by the right person, you will never ever stop learning.

Evolve Mixed Martial Arts® is Asia's premier brand of MMA academies. With World Champions in Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Mixed Martial Arts, Boxing, and No Gi Grappling, Evolve MMA is the top martial arts training organization in Asia. It ranks among the best martial arts academies in the world.