It would prove to be the first of many.
On this day, December 4, in 1998, a young, unheard of Manny Pacquiao challenged Chatchai Sasakul for the lineal and WBC flyweight titles. Pacquiao, then aged just 19 years of age, was sporting a pro record of 23-1 – the loss coming via KO at the hands of Rustico Torrecampo, this back in February of 1996. The defending champion who was making the third defence of the crown, was 34-1. Sasakul was eight years older than Pacquiao.
This version of Manny Pacquiao was many lightyears away from the superb and unstoppable fighting force he would become when hooking up with Freddie Roach. And Sasakul proceeded to outbox the young and raw Filipino southpaw. Pacquiao was fast, he threw a lot of punches and he was pressing the action, but Sasakul was the far more polished fighter and he was making Pacquiao miss.
But even way back then, 22 years ago, there was something about Pacquiao; his refusal to give in or grow discouraged showing what he was made of. And against Sasakul, Pacquiao kept coming and coming. And eventually, the teenager got to the champion, landing the kind of power shots the entire world would one day become accustomed to seeing. Pacquiao scored an eighth round KO and he was, after just over three years in the pro ring, a world champion.
As we know, Pacquiao would move onwards and upwards – eventually ruling the world as a light-middleweight champion. In total, Pacquiao has ruled the world in eight different weight divisions. Turning pro at just 106 pounds, Manny would go on to rule the world at flyweight, junior-featherweight, featherweight, junior-lightweight, lightweight, junior-welterweight, welterweight and light-middleweight.
A truly amazing achievement. And it all began way back in December of 1998. No-one outside of the Philippines had heard of Manny Pacquiao back then. They would do in due course. And to think, the incredible 41 year old (42 on December 17th) is still fighting. What kind of a year in the ring will Pacquiao have in 2021?