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The boxing legend shares what inspires him to reach the pinnacle of the sporting, political, and business worlds
Emanuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao is not one to exceed expectations. He dwarfs them.
Affectionately nicknamed ‘PacMan’ by his fans, Pacquiao is a boxing legend who ranks among the likes of Lebron James, Serena Williams, and Tiger Woods in that he has come to define his sport. Having made boxing history several times over since his 1996 debut–including becoming the first and only eight-division world champion–he transformed the game with his speed, footwork, and unconventional attacks. Many sportswriters, including Todd Kauffman of Bleacher Report, believe that Pacquiao is the best pound-for-pound fighter of all time.
Although his sporting career is still going strong over two decades later, Pacquiao is also a politician in his native Philippines. He was elected into the House of Representatives in 2010 and the Senate in 2016–a position he will serve until 2022. Somehow, over the years, Pacquiao still found time to record an album, dabble in acting, and own and play in a semi-professional basketball team. A man of many interests, it comes as no surprise that he has added ‘investor’ to his many titles inside and outside the ring.
Jumpstart’s CEO, Relena Sei, interviewed Pacquiao at the 2020 StartmeupHK Festival’s Lifestyle Tech Conference on July 9 to learn more about his many professional pursuits, revealing a proud husband and father whose commitment to his faith and the welfare of his constituents motivate him above all else.
A self-made man in every sense of the word, Pacquiao left his hometown of General Santos City for Manila at age 14, working odd jobs and living on the streets before becoming a professional boxer two years later. He says that his humble background and the support he received when “[he] was still a poor, struggling boxer” pushed him to pursue civil service, “despite [his] great dislike for politics.”
“Yes, hard work put me here, but I also know in my country, men who are just like me, who work just as hard as I am, or even harder, but are still wallowing in poverty and hopelessness. They are the people that drive me and inspire me to work even harder,” says Pacquiao.
In many ways, a political career was a natural next step, as he was already a revered figure in the Philippines for his dedication to social causes, independent of his popularity as an athlete. Since stepping into his role as a congressman, Pacquiao has focused his legislative efforts on developing the country’s most impoverished, agrarian regions–rallying funds to build schools, hospitals, and infrastructure. He has also become a figurehead for combating human trafficking, and is an advocate for sustainability and increasing the country’s minimum wage (The Diplomat).
One major initiative is Pacquiao’s partnership with Alibaba Group Founder Jack Ma to build international ecommerce and logistics hubs in the country–which will create tens of thousands of employment opportunities–and the pilot area is none other than his hometown (PhilStar).
The second-highest-paid athlete in the world (Forbes), Pacquiao has long been using his vast personal wealth for philanthropic endeavors, such as providing scholarships, donating fishing boats and farming equipment to underdeveloped areas, and building homes for families living in poverty (The Asia Society). In an interview with Rappler, Pacquiao shared that he has given away around US$200 million–nearly half of his fortune.
“I have been spending my personal funds to help our people, and it’s been really good that many of my investments in the past are making money, which I also use for public service,” adds Pacquiao.
While the majority of these investments are in the property sector, he also invests in hospitality, FMCGs, and tech. In 2018, he led the Seed Round for the Philippines car rental platform, Graventure.
“I really take particular interest in what kind of business I should invest in,” he says. “I think for the future for my family, especially my children.”
Pacquiao’s intent to create a legacy that reflects his dedication to serving underprivileged communities led him to establish the Manny Pacquiao Foundation with his wife, Jinkee. In May last year, the Foundation expanded its capacity and scope, relaunching in Los Angeles as a global organization providing essential resources to at-risk groups around the world.
With a mission to maximize impact through strategic partnerships, the Foundation works with other international non-profit organizations for its projects around healthcare, education, housing, and disaster relief. Together with Rotary International, its first project funded and built hundreds of homes for residents of Mindanao–an island in Southern Philippines that was hit by a series of earthquakes in October last year (Pacquiao Foundation).
In 2020, the Foundation has been focused on aiding the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption, which took place on January 12 in Batangas, Philippines. Pacquiao pledged to double the donations received by the Foundation to help the over 300,000 people who have been displaced by the disaster (OCHA). Other projects in the pipeline include the building of a cutting-edge medical facility in General Santos City and, of course, supporting vulnerable communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pacquiao has been outspoken about ways to combat the health crisis, such as proposing the establishment of a 20,000-bed COVID-19 patient facility, and has urged leaders to be “[front-liners]” and “let people know you are with them” (Manila Bulletin).
Pacquiao personally donated 700,000 masks through the Foundation, which also worked with the Jack Ma Foundation to provide the country with 57,000 COVID-19 testing kits. He says that he’s “really lucky and really fortunate to have a friend like Jack Ma,” who personally donated an additional 500,000 masks to the cause.
Pacquiao is a firm believer in working alongside people who bring out the best in him–a philosophy that applies to every aspect of his career. As someone who “knows [his] limits,” Pacquiao says that his successes in boxing, politics, and business were realized with the help of the dedicated and competent people on his team.
“I always ask experts to share their thoughts and recommendations in certain business decisions,” he adds. “But in the end, I ask God for guidance, and I decide based on what I feel is right. With God as your advisor, I don’t think anything can go wrong.”
While speculations about his political ambitions continue to excite his fans, Pacquiao has remained tight-lipped about what the future will hold in this regard. But knowing that “there will come a time when [he] can no longer fight,” his long-standing passion for bettering Filipinos’ lives is sure to take center stage in the coming years.
“I have come to a point in my life that I want to make money from my business investments so I can use this money to help my people,” he says. “I am not encouraging other people to do the same, but I would really wish that more rich businessmen would help us uplift the lives of my Filipino brothers and sisters.”