This Transgender Boxer Has Fought His Way Into The History Books Following A Bout In The Ring

Image: Instagram/team_patricio_manuel/Instagram/team_patricio_manuel

For many people across the world, sport plays a very important role in their lives. Whether it be American football, tennis, basketball or soccer, these different disciplines have amassed a huge number of supporters throughout the decades. However, for Patricio Manuel, his interest lies in another incredibly popular sporting event.

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Boxing has produced some of the biggest names in sport for many years, from Muhammad Ali to Mike Tyson. In recent times, competitors such as Manny Pacquiao, Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder have taken on that superstar status, leading the way in their respective divisions. But in December 2018, another fighter made history.

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Back in 2012, Manuel looked to earn a place at that year’s Olympics in London. Those hopes saw him competing in a trial event. Unfortunately for the aspiring fighter, an injury halted his progress at that point, which cost him a place on the American team. Following that major disappointment, he then embarked on a quite incredible journey.

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Indeed, Patricio Manuel was actually Patricia Manuel during that period, a female boxer who wanted to become a man. By 2014, his transition was complete after undergoing an operation. Some two years on from that, Manuel returned to the ring as a male fighter, before a significant event at the back-end of 2018.

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Throughout the decades, all forms of sport have evolved, keeping up with the changing times. As a result of that, those disciplines are arguably more popular now than they’ve ever been, with increased television coverage playing a big role too. Of all the different sports, though, boxing has one of the most interesting histories.

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For thousands of years, humanity has used physical violence as a way to solve disputes. However, from the third millennia B.C., some of those fighters were offered the chance to compete in a controlled environment. It was during this period that the first form of boxing was recorded in Iraq.

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After that, citizens of Mesopotamia continued to compete in bouts throughout the second millennia B.C., ahead of a big moment in the sport’s history. In the year 688 B.C., boxing was introduced at the Olympics in Ancient Greece. From there, more people started to take an interest in the discipline.

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Later, those living in Ancient Rome also developed a real passion for boxing, but the rules were somewhat different. While the fights in Ancient Greece came to an end when a competitor was incapacitated, that wasn’t the case with the Romans. Instead, their bouts usually concluded with the death of one of the fighters.

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In the year 393 A.D., though, everything changed. At that point, the sport was permanently scrapped in Ancient Rome as a result of the violence on display. That decision appeared to be held up for hundreds of years, with all records of boxing disappearing. Incredibly, though, that didn’t signal the end of the discipline.

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In the 12th century, though, it’s believed that a form of boxing started up again in Italy. However, the sport’s most significant moment occurred a few hundred years later in England. In 1681, “bare-knuckle boxing” was introduced, leading to the creation of a championship title. On that note, a man named James Figg became the inaugural champion.

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Around the time of Figg’s win in 1719, the sport finally earned its name. Since then, boxing has continued to evolve, with the rules changing over time, not least with the addition of gloves. These days, it’s one of the most popular sporting disciplines in the world, birthing a number of iconic figures over the last few decades.

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During that time, a lot of history has been made in the sport of boxing. And in December 2018, another chapter was written by one particular fighter who took to the ring in Indio, California. But to reach that stage, the pugilist had embarked on a journey that changed their life forever.

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A former resident of Gardena, C.A., Patricia Manuel grew up alongside her mom, Loretta Butler, and her grandma. As a youngster, Manuel was very much a tomboy, which became apparent in her appearance. Indeed, she didn’t like wearing girls’ clothes and opted for a shorter haircut. The hints didn’t end there, though.

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In terms of toys, Manuel wasn’t a fan of dolls either, instead taking an interest in boys’ figurines. With that in mind, Butler noticed something while out shopping during the holiday season. “Every Christmas I would be buying toys at Toys ‘R’ Us and everybody would say, ‘Boys at home, huh?’” she told the Los Angeles Times in December 2018.

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Due to Manuel’s interests, her grandma then made a decision that eventually proved pivotal one year. In an attempt to change things up, she opted against giving toys as presents. In their place, she enrolled her granddaughter in a boxing club. And before long, the youngster started to thrive in that environment.

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Manuel developed a real passion for the sport over that period, which led her to join another club. From there, the aspiring fighter began to work with a trainer named Roberto Luna. He had quite the reputation in boxing, having worked with three athletes who went on to compete at the Olympics.

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Ahead of the 2012 games in London, England, Manuel and Luna looked to earn a place on the American Olympics team. To do that, the boxer needed to compete at a trial event, where she took on an opponent named Tiara Brown. The California resident, however, suffered a devastating blow during that fight.

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Unfortunately for Manuel, she was carrying an injured shoulder going into the contest. As a result, Brown won the fight rather comfortably, prompting her opponent to leave the event. But while her Olympic aspirations were over for that year, the boxer had an additional dream that she wanted to realize.

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Prior to the Olympic qualification event, Manuel had contemplated the idea of becoming a man. Following the defeat against Brown, she then decided to share her thoughts with her mom, who didn’t seem too shocked. “Pat has always been a male,” Butler told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s just Pat was not assigned properly at birth.”

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Around a year-and-a-half on from that conversation, Manuel began her transition with some hormone treatment. At that point, her voice started to get deeper and she gained a bit of weight ahead of the next step. From there, the boxer was scheduled to undergo an operation in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Following the surgery in 2014, Manuel’s transition was complete, and he took on the new name Patricio. Sadly for him, though, that life-altering decision came at a significant cost, both personally and professionally. Indeed, two job opportunities went up in smoke after his transition, while a few of his acquaintances cut ties with him.

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Manuel’s boxing career also took a big hit during that period, with Luna quitting his role as coach. And to make matters worse, his gym even kicked the the California resident out. Eventually he found a new base at the Duarte Boxing Club, but that didn’t signal an end to his problems.

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Indeed, Manuel found it incredibly difficult to earn a new boxing license after the transition, as California’s boxing commission didn’t know how to handle his case. Due to that indecision, the super-featherweight couldn’t compete in any official bouts. The situation, however, took another turn in 2016 ahead of the Olympics in Brazil.

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At that stage, the International Olympic Committee made a significant alteration to one of its rules. Off the back of that change, transgender competitors were given the green-light to appear at any Olympic event from then on. So with that in mind, USA Boxing enforced the policy to help Manuel get his new license.

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With everything in place, Manuel competed in his first amateur fight as a man later that year. The boxer, in fact, picked up a victory on that occasion, but regardless of the result he made history along the way. Indeed, he became the first-ever American transgender fighter to compete in the ring.

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After winning that fight, Manuel earned a second amateur bout in 2016. Unfortunately for him, though, he lost that particular contest, kicking off another tricky period in his boxing career. Following that defeat, the California resident struggled badly with injuries, while other fighters didn’t want to compete against him.

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Such was Manuel’s bad luck, he also suffered more injury heartache just before he was scheduled to turn professional. From there, the fighter then faced some additional issues regarding his boxing license, adding to his woes. But during that difficult time, a man named Eric Gomez looked to turn the super-featherweight’s fortunes around.

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Gomez is the president of a boxing business named Golden Boy, and felt he could assist Manuel through his struggles. “[Manuel’s story] really inspired me,” he told the Los Angeles Times in December 2018. “This is a story that is bigger than boxing. It’s a very tough sport. You compound that with what Pat went through.”

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“The inner struggles, the process of transition and to keep wanting to fight?” Gomez added. “Just that drive is impressive. It’s very different than any athlete I’ve met. And I’ve been doing this for 20 years.” On that note, Manuel finally received his professional license, thanks to the Golden Boy head and several American politicians.

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Gomez’s hard work didn’t end there, though, as he helped put together Manuel’s first professional fight at the back-end of 2018. As a result of that, he was set to take on the Mexican fighter Hugo Aguilar in Indio, C.A. And just like the amateur match in 2016, that bout would make history.

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By featuring in that bout, Manuel would become boxing’s first professional transgender fighter to compete in America. Unsurprisingly, he was delighted that his efforts finally paid off in the end. “It feels like a long time coming,” the former Olympics hopeful told the Los Angeles Times before the big fight.

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“But I’m still like, ‘Wow, we’re finally here. Finally at this point,’” Manuel continued. “I just feel incredibly fortunate to be in this position. To be able to enjoy all the sacrifice, all the work, all the doubt that came through over the years, to really be here in this moment.”

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As for the fight itself, Manuel wanted to make something very clear. “I’m not the type of person that’s just going in there for a participation trophy,” he told the newspaper. “My goal is to win. My mindset isn’t really thinking about the history of this. It’s more thinking about just going out there and performing as an athlete.”

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However, while Manuel wasn’t focusing on his place in the history books, the same couldn’t be said for Gomez. Indeed, the Golden Boy president looked at the impact this fight could have on the sport as a whole. “It’s good for boxing, but it’s good for humanity as well,” he explained.

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Gomez added, “This is a human story. If you’re good enough, you should be allowed to compete. Can you imagine how many people turned [Manuel] down, how many people put him down? He’s already succeeded in life. Just to do what he’s doing, to be up there, to not be afraid to be in the spotlight. He’s a champion in my eyes.”

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Following all that build-up, Manuel and Aguilar squared off in December 2018 at the Indio’s Fantasy Springs Casino. Surrounded by a number of family and friends, the California resident secured his first professional win, adding to the history he’d already made. At the end of the bout, the victor shared his thoughts with the crowd.

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“I think if people knew what it took to get to this moment, it’s been almost two years since I’ve been in a ring,” Manuel reflected. “I just have to say my opponent, hats off to him. He came to fight [and] was fighting me the whole time. He fought me as a man, and I have so much respect for him.”

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Manuel then addressed a number of people in the audience who started to jeer him, brushing off the reaction with a promise. “I hear some fans aren’t happy,” the boxer added. “It’s okay, I’ll be back. I’ll make them happy then.” A few months later, he was ready to live up to his word.

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Manuel was all set to compete in his second professional fight in June 2019, as he looked to build on his previous victory. But in an unfortunate twist, the super-featherweight had to pull out of the match a few days before due to an eye infection. He subsequently broke the news on his Instagram page.

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“I’ve been dealing with a respiratory infection for the past two weeks, and I ended up getting an eye infection that is going to take two weeks to fully heal,” Manuel wrote. “Thank you to everyone who was coming out to this match and everyone for the continued support. This is just a minor delay, I’ll be back in the ring soon.”

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