ONE Championship: Manny Pacquiao's rise was Lito Adiwang's inspiration

Santino Honasan on Mar 26, 2020 01:16 PM
ONE: Manny Pacquiao's rise was Lito Adiwang's inspiration
(Photo: Richard Esguerra)

Eight-division boxing world champion Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao is undoubtedly one of the boxing world’s biggest stars, and is quite possibly the Philippines’ most recognizable sports personality.

That’s why it should come as little surprise that the boxing legend’s rags-to-riches story and rise to stardom has become the source of motivation and inspiration for many Filipino athletes.

Imagine, a kid from Bukidnon growing up to be boxing’s only eight-division titleholder and a sure-fire future hall of famer in the sport? It’s these types of success stories that help fuel a new generation of athletes, including one that’s slowly making his name in the biggest martial arts stage in the world.

“Growing up watching the rise of Manny Pacquiao, I was motivated to become a boxer just like him. I wanted to represent my country and make my people proud too. I wanted to help bring my family out of hardship and poverty,” said Team Lakay strawweight Lito “Thunder Kid” Adiwang via ONE Championship. 

During his early years as a boxer, Adiwang shared that he would visualize himself as Pacquiao.

“There used to be an old church on the streets where I grew up, where I initially started to learn how to box. I was 12 years old at the time. I would shadowbox and imagine I was Manny Pacquiao, fighting against legends like Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera. I loved his relentless style. His opponents couldn’t handle him.” 

This would eventually lead to an extensive martial arts background that would see him compete in boxing, wushu, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

In 2012, Adiwang made his mixed martial arts debut and went 6-2 before being recruited by ONE Championship Vice President Rich Franklin for the widely successful ONE Warrior Series docu-series.

There, Adiwang proved to be a talent to watch out for as he blasted through his first two opponents by TKO, before finally earning a spot on the big stage with his third straight win.

“I knew Lito [Adiwang] was something special the moment I saw him train, and eventually compete,” said Franklin, who is now the CEO of ONE Warrior Series. “He just has that finishing instinct that not everyone has. With some polish, I knew Lito would make a huge impact in ONE Championship.

Make an impact, Adiwang did.

Adiwang made his presence felt on the ONE Championship stage back in October of 2019, scoring a quick submission victory over Japanese veteran Senzo Ikeda.

To begin 2020, Adiwang followed that up with yet another impressive submission win, this time against Thai veteran Pongsiri Mitsatit.

“He’s a phenomenal athlete and I just see him powering through the division. He still has much to learn, but he’s also developing at such a rapid pace. I’m really proud of what he’s accomplished so far, and very excited for what the future holds for him,” Franklin added.

Now, in just two outings under the ONE banner, Adiwang is already being conisdered a top contender in the strawweight division.

For him, being able to represent the country and carving a path in combat sports, just like his hero was able to do, is already an source of pride.

“To be even considered in the same breath as Manny, it’s such an honor,” Adiwang stated. “If I can accomplish even a fraction of what he has in his career, I can consider my career a success.”

Indeed, Adiwang still has ways to go. While he’s already had an impressive start, he has yet to scratch the surface.

“Right now I’m just focused on being the best that I can be. I really want to prove myself against the best opponents, and I feel I am ready.”


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