When the clock struck midnight on January 1st, 2020, an interesting and unusual new record was broken.
Fans of Manny Pacquiao were quick to point out that this year marks the fourth decade that Pacquiao has held a major boxing title. Okay, so he didn’t win a new fight right as the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, but the record still points to one of the longest and most decorated careers in the sport. Pacquiao went pro at age 16 in 1995, won his first title (flyweight) in 1998, and won his most recent title (welterweight) this past July — that means he’s been a boxing champion in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and now the 2020s — not bad for a 41-year-old!
We already know that Pacquiao is one of the greatest professional boxers of all time, but how was able, at just 41-years-old, to have a career that spans four decades? Was he boxing when he was one?
The answer is, of course, due to a number of factors. Pacquiao’s story really proves that necessity is the mother of invention. At age 14 he dropped out of high school and was forced to leave his mother’s home due to extreme poverty. For two years he was functionally homeless, one of many street fighters living in Manila. But by the time he was 16, Pacquiao was talented enough to go pro. So, unlike other athletes who have a stronger foundation and who maybe get into boxing through going to the gym, Pacquiao had a hard life that basically made the choice for him. He couldn’t control the circumstances of his birth, but he could rise above them by working hard and becoming the best fighter of them all.
But Pacquiao is famous for more than just his endurance in the ring. Pacquiao is the only boxer ever to win titles across eight major weight divisions of the sport. This is also due in part to the fact that he started so young; it’s easy, after all, to win the flyweight title when you’re only 16 years old and probably don’t need much cutting to get down to weight.
Pacquiao’s success continued over the course of the next twenty years or so, and he went on to win titles in the Super bantamweight, Featherweight, Super Featherweight, Lightweight, Light welterweight, Welterweight, and Light Middleweight divisions. At 5’5″, it’s unlikely he’d be able to safely put on the weight necessary to secure a Heavyweight win, but at the peak of his career he was ranked 2nd on ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings.
Choosing a favorite Pacquiao fight is a losing game. With 62 league wins and only 7 losses, Pacquiao has had almost too many great shows to count. And now that he’s a politician, he can keep making change in the country he fought so hard to represent. So hooray to four decades of the Pac-man — here’s hoping he’s boxing for another forty years!