How did Manny Pacquiao get his start?

Lynn Farah, South China Morning Post

Posted at Dec 08 2020 09:08 PM

Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao’s life story is the stuff of movies. Starting life in extreme poverty in the southern Philippines, the multiple-weight boxing world champion now sits on a US$220 million fortune. So how did he do it?

He lived in a shack

As a child, Pacquiao lived in a small shack surrounded by jungle and coconut groves, in General Santos province on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The family’s single-room home housed his mum, dad, an older sister and two younger brothers

His dad picked coconuts to make money

The fighter’s father spent his days climbing trees to collect coconuts to sell. Pacquiao has said his father climbed around 70 trees a day to make enough money to feed the family. His mum sold peanuts to make a little extra here and there.

Eating bananas

Pacquiao’s father barely made enough money to feed the family and having rice was a luxury. The family ate what they could scavenge, which was mostly bananas and root crops.

Teased as a child

As a young boy, PacMan was teased because his family was so poor. When one of his younger brothers was bullied one day, Pacquiao stepped in to defend him. He has said he knew at a young age that he would have to be a fighter to get by in life.

He didn’t finish school

At just 12-years-old, Manny dropped out of school and took up boxing. He moved into a one-storey home in General Santos city to follow his dream.

A stowaway

When he was 15 years old and already a well-known boxer in the southern Philippines, Pacquiao stowed away on a boat to the capital, Manila, to get more experience. He has also said that he wanted to lessen the burden on his mother, who by this time had five other children to feed.


As a teenager, Pacquiao experimented with drugs. He later opened up about his drug abuse, admitting he had taken “all kinds of drugs”. Subsequently, he has supported anti-drug drives in the Philippines and talked often of the need to address the scourge of drug abuse around the world.

The present and future

Now a world-famous boxer, PacMan has said that he will never stop fighting and sees himself being an ambassador for the sport well into 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 in a tweet in 2017.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Pacquiao has teamed up with Alibaba Group co-founder Jack Ma to bring aid to needy people in the Philippines. There is also continuing speculation about a boxing match with multiple former UFC champion Conor McGregor to raise further funds for the relief effort – and even rumours about a possible presidential run in 2022.