But luck was on our side. Either that or his wife Jinkee, who was going to be part of our shoot, proved to be so irresistible that Manny could not help but approach her and kiss her on the cheek.
“Ang ganda ng asawa ko,” the eight-division world champion beamed as he took Jinkee in his arms, oblivious of our camera setup. “O mag-pose ka na, may photo shoot tayo,” Jinkee replied, smiling back at her husband of 12 years. And just like that, the speedster slowed down, posing gamely with his wife, the lion of the boxing ring mellowing into a loving cat.
Jinkee is the wind beneath his wings; at the same time she provides the calm before the maelstrom of activity that accompanies his training. She admits that, during the toughest moments of his career, there had been times when she had pondered “Sana hindi na lang ganito.” But Manny’s wife is also a warrior at heart, his comrade-in-arms in the greater battle of his life. In retrospect, she realizes that they could not have taken any other path: “Kailangan mo mapagdaanan ang pagsubok.”
The long road to the ring
Manny’s accomplishments certainly make every drop of blood, sweat, and tears worth it. According to the latest reports, the man has an estimated net worth of about P2 billion, including properties in the Philippines and the U.S., cars, and his own businesses. He is a sought-after product endorser, records his own CDs, and performs in shows and concerts here and abroad.
His back story as a promdi and high-school dropout, coupled with his spunk and ever-smiling demeanor caught the imagination of a public starved of heroes and bereft of big names in boxing. In 2001, Manny defeated South African fighter Lehlohonolo Ledwaba in the IBF junior-featherweight championship.
He was soon obliterating every opponent who dared to face him in the ring: David Diaz for the lightweight belt, Oscar De La Hoya for the welterweight championship, Ricky Hatton for the junior-welterweight crown. He continued to defend his welterweight title against Miguel Cotto, Joshua Clottey, and Antonio Margarito—boxers brawnier than Manny’s 5’6” frame, but who couldn’t outclass his strength and speed.
Today, Manny is the world’s pound-for-pound king, winning a historic 10 word titles in eight weight divisions. In May, he is set to defend his welterweight belt against Shane Mosley in Las Vegas, Nevada.
But Manny the Man didn’t come into his own alone. While the keys to his success are his evolution and desire to learn and master new moves, he needed people to help him harness his power. Enter international boxing coach Freddie Roach in 2002. In 2006, conditioning coach Alex Ariza came on board. Roach and Ariza were instrumental in developing the strength of Manny’s right punch. Manny is southpaw or an unorthodox boxer whose power is on the left fist.
Manny used to have a very strict diet composed of protein shakes and other supplements. But as he moved up in weight, he can now eat pretty much anything he likes.
Jinkee believes Manny will eventually become a senator, but leaves it to destiny: “Kung gusto ng Diyos na nandiyan ka, diyan ka.”
At 32, Manny is on top of his game. His rise was swift, but borne of solid work. If he applies the same discipline he gave the sport that gave so much to him—and the world—in return, he may yet prove that in the next phase of his life, he is in for the longer haul.
Read more in our Health Today March issue and find out:
- • The ‘secret weapon’ that makes the Pacman win
- • The support that Jinkee gives that sustains him in every single fight.
• Manny’s plans after he hangs up his gloves.