Millions danced in the streets and a national holiday was announced by Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to mark the latest victory of the island nation's great 21st century hero: boxing great Manny Pacquiao. The fighter also known as "Pac-Man" won in a knockout, beating British boxer Ricky "the Hitman" Hatton on May 2 and becoming the International Boxing Organization and Ring Magazine World Light Welterweight champion. It was a world record-tying sixth division title and fourth consecutive win in a different weight class. All that plus a 49-3-2 record are why some may think of him as the best fighter of a generation.
The man who used to sell donuts and ice water on the streets transformed his humble beginnings into world stardom, and near legendary status in his home country. While carrying the weight of the Philippines on his shoulders in the boxing ring, Pacquiao has also made his marks in politics, business and acting. He can even carry a tune: check out his singing on YouTube. You may even come across one of his three hit singles. Indeed, Pacquiao's worst defeat came outside of the ring, when he lost his bid for a Philippines congressional seat in 2007. Regardless, his popularity has continued to soar. Pacquiao plans to retire from boxing this year and intends to make a congressional run again in 2010. (See TIME's 100 most influential people.)
30 years old, he was born Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao on December 17, 1978 in Kibawe, a municipality in the Northern Mindanao region of the Philippines. Currently resides in General Santos City with his wife, Jinkee, in a regal mansion protected 24/7 by armed security guards. They have four children, including a daughter, Queenie, who has dual nationality after being born in the United States. Under Philippines law, the army will come to Pacquiao's aid if his family is in danger.
Nicknames include Pac-Man, The Mexi-cutioner, The People's Champion and National Fist.
Is the former World Boxing Foundation lightweight world champion, super featherweight champion and flyweight world champion, as well as the International Boxing Federation super bantamweight world champion. Has held the Ring Magazine titles for featherweight, super featherweight and light welterweight divisions. Also rated #1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world by Ring Magazine.
Started his boxing career at age 16, weighing just 106 lb. His early fights took place in small, local venues of the Philippines. He was inspired to pursue his boxing career following the death of close friend Mark Penaflorida in 1994. His big break came June 23, 2001, when he stepped into the ring as a late replacement, won by a technical knockout and became the IBF Super Batamweight Champion.
The House of Representatives of the Philippines issued a resolution on Aug. 7, 2008 recognizing Pacquiao for his achievements and inspiration to the Filipino people.
While he didn't fight in the 2008 Summer Olympics, Pacquiao was the flag-bearer for the Philippines national team at the opening ceremonies in Beijing the first Filipino non-Olympian to do so.
In his failed 2007 bid to win a Philippines Congressional seat, he lost to incumbent Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio by nearly 37,000 votes. His decision to run had turned off many Filipinos, with analysts predicting politics could destroy his boxing career. His fans celebrated the loss, calling it a victory for boxing. Pacquiao says he will retire from boxing in 2009 and run in the Philippine general election of 2010 with his eye on a different congressional seat.
A Filipino film based on his life, Pacquiao: The Movie, was released in 2006, and did very poorly at the box office. Pacquiao himself is a popular presence on Philippines television and recently signed up with the GMA broadcast network to appear in the boxing-themed drama series Totoy Bato. Pacquiao is also rumored to be appearing alongside Sylvester Stallone on the big screen in a debut U.S. movie sometime in the future; the two met last January in Los Angeles.
Pacquiao can be found endorsing detergents, medicines, food, clothes and telecommunications across the Philippines. He also is featured in the Fight Night series of boxing video games.
He's the first athlete to appear on a Philippines postage stamp.
"I know everyone in the Philippines is happy."
Following his victory over Mexican boxer Erik Morales in the super featherweight division (BBC, Jan. 22, 2006)
"If that happens, I would be happy; It would be like a victory for me."
Urging Rep. Custodio and other congressional candidates to make good their promise to help the poor following his 2007 election defeat (ESPN.com, May 20, 2007)
"I was just doing my job in the ring and doing my best to make people happy. Nothing personal I am just doing my job."
Following his recent win against Hatton (Miami Herald, May 4, 2009)
"This loss may be devastating for Manny, but the whole boxing world is rejoicing. This ensures that there will be a true boxing superstar to look up to in the next three years at least. To the electorate of the 1st district of South Cotabato... thank you!"
Anonymous fan commenting on Pacquiao's Website, following his election loss (Philippines Daily Inquirer, May 17, 2007)
"Mann is a monster. He is the best fighter ever. There is no surprise here."
Pacqquiao's chief trainer Freddie Roach, following the win over Hatton (Philippines Daily Inquirer, May 4, 2009)
"I have something special in history here, an athlete who is improving every fight. He's like a grand painting."
Pacquaio promoter Bob Arum following the fight with Hatton (Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2009)
"I think he's really now a serious contender. The dedication he has given to boxing, he should show the same dedication to politics. He should make sure he plays a clean game. There are dirty tricks in boxing, but there are a lot more in politics. If he does his homework, I think he can be a very effective politician."
Bayan Muna, Philippines Rep. Teodoro Casino on Pacquiao's 2010 run for Congress (cbnNews.com May 4, 2009)
"The people have rallied behind him and feel like they're a part of him, because they can see his talent, his dedication, his grace and his class. The grip he holds over the Philippines is similar to Nelson Mandela's influence in South Africa. I can surely see Manny becoming the Philippine President one day."
Lennox Lewis, former world heavyweight champion and HBO sports commentator in the 2009 TIME 100.