As Patricio once said, “Living your truth is going to hurt, but it’s worth it.” Sure enough, the pro boxer has had more blows outside the ring than imaginable. But if you ask him? “I wouldn’t trade any of it.” Here’s his story.
In The Footsteps of Giants
“My name is Patricio Manuel, I’m from Los Angeles, California, and I’m the first professional male boxer who is transgender,” Patricio revealed to Everlast. “I may be the first, but I’m not the last.”
You see, our story starts and ends with Patricio Manuel, the boxing champion who's gone on to follow in the footsteps of Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, as he cements a spot in the history books. But where does his story even begin?
What Life Was Like Growing Up
Let's go back to the very beginning, the moment young Patricia Manuel's life began to mold her into the future superstar she'd soon come to be - she just didn't know it yet. Growing up alongside her mother, Loretta Butler, and her grandmother, there was never a dull moment in the Manuel household.
As an African-American child, raised in a white household, Patricia will be the first to tell you she was always one to defy the odds. In fact, that's exactly what'd lead her to become the inspirational champion that graces international headlines today. But what about before all of the medals and media appearances?
A Tomboy At Heart
"My athleticism and confidence mask my awkward nerdiness," Manuel joked on Instagram. You see, growing up, young Patricia's childhood days saw her either glued to the television screen, as she played the latest video game, or tangled up in another colorful comic book.
From role-playing games to anime - to everything in between - the young tomboy also had her sights set on being a giant robot pilot. But while the child and her imagination clearly knew no bounds, there was one feeling Patricia couldn't seem to shake.
Patricia Always Felt Different
"When I was a little kid, I always thought of myself as a boy," Manuel revealed to Everlast. Unfortunately for her, she'd soon come to learn that not everybody would understand how she felt. "Every Christmas I'd be buying toys at Toys 'R' Us, and everybody would say, 'Boys at home, huh?'" the former 'misfit' revealed to the L.A. Times.
But it wasn't only Patricia's choices when December 25th came rolling around each year, that'd leave her struggling to fit in with her surroundings. Dressed down in baggy sweats and oversized hoodies, the young child opted for a wardrobe her female classmates couldn't quite see eye to eye on.
She Felt Forced to Hide Her Emotions
What would you do if you were in Patricia's shoes? For her, the choice was clear: She'd keep quiet on her conflicting thoughts. How did she see it? "I didn't grow up in a home where I felt safe to express raw emotions," as she later explained on Instagram.
In fact, "I didn't [even] have the language to know I was experiencing gender dysphoria," she explained; And so, while the confused child continued to stay quiet, she also "Learned to stifle that part of me - but the thing is, with anything that you push down long enough, it will have a bad reaction," as she warned to Everlast.
How She Coped With Her Confusion
Unfortunately for Patricia, she'd soon to come to learn that the hard way, as she continued to run from her unwavering thoughts. What happened? "As an analytically minded introvert, my first go-to coping mechanism was to dismiss feelings of deep sadness and anger," she explained.
But, as she herself put it, "Refusing to acknowledge your feelings doesn't really work." Instead? "These feelings would combine and transform into rage," Patricia revealed of the moment her struggling inner thoughts began to consume her. Little did she know, though, everything was about to change.
The Moment She Discovered Boxing
It all started at about 13-years-old - when the young girl first got her hands inside those bulky boxing gloves; But from the moment she hit that first punch, suddenly everything all made sense: "Boxing connected me to my roots," Patricia explained to The Guardian.
As she put it, "It was structure; It was discipline; It was control;" Sure enough, after endless years spent battling inner-demons, "Feeling out of control," Patricia Manuel had finally found her 'safe place,' and it would soon go on to change her life forever.
Finally Going Inside of the Ring
In fact, fast forward to December 25, and a then-16-year-old Patricia would soon be blessed with the greatest gift yet: Self-discovery. "I realized I couldn't tolerate living [the way that I was] anymore," she explained on Instagram. So, what did she do?
"So I asked my Grandma for boxing lessons, and well, the rest is history," Patricia revealed of the moment her life changed forever. "It was my subconscious being like, 'You need to do something because you're mentally falling apart.' It was really self-preservation."
Sights Set on the Olympics
As the story goes, from that point forward, nothing would ever be the same for a newly reinvented Patricia; She had finally found that stability she felt she'd lacked all of those years. "Boxing taught me to be introspective, [to think], 'What do I really want?'" Patricio revealed to Everlast.
Sure enough, in only a matter of time, she knew exactly what that was: a spot in the Olympics. Alongside elite trainer Roberto Luna, Patricia spent endless hours pouring blood, sweat, and tears - everything she had - into making that dream a reality.
Things Fall Apart
Unfortunately for the young dreamer, everything was about to change come 2012: The moment her dreams came crumbling down, as she found herself competing for a slot in the USA Women's Olympics team. What went wrong? As she put it, from the moment she stepped foot inside that ring, she didn't stand a chance.
You see, rewind a couple of days, and Patricia landed herself the worst possible news an aspiring athlete could receive: A shoulder injury; And so, from the minute that match kicked off, the injured fighter knew it was only a matter of time before opponent, Tiara Brown, was crowned the winner.
The Fight Was Far From Over
But while she might have just lost her most important fight yet, Patricia's battle was actually far from over. In fact, as she put it, "Life is full of peaks and valleys," and she was going to push herself over this hill, no matter how steep it may have been.
And so, as the days spent outside of the rings continued to grow, so did the recovering athlete's unwavering thoughts - the ones she'd been pushing aside ever since she was a little girl, as she put it. Only this time, she was finally done running from them: "I realized I needed to go all-in and risk it all," Patricia revealed to CNBC.
Just The Beginning
And that's exactly what she did. On September 6, 2013, after coming out as a transgender man, Patricia, now Patricio Manuel, was finally ready to live the life he was destined to live. As he put it: "This date isn't simply the day I started hormone-replacement therapy, but it was the day I started centering my needs," he revealed.
"Not boxing, not my friends and family, not society, but MY needs." Sure enough, after endless years battling self-conflicting thoughts, everything was suddenly clearer than ever. "I knew that I needed to live my life being seen as a man," he explained to CNBC.
Becoming Patricio Manuel
It was only a matter of time before Patricio began to notice the changes going on around him. His voice had gotten deeper; his chin finally began to grow stubble; and that number on the scale continued to soar, as he happily welcomed his weight gain and the muscles that came with it.
But it wasn't only his appearance in the mirror that continued to change: "Starting my transition wasn't me starting a new life, but rather just another chapter in the book of my life," Patricio revealed on Instagram. Unfortunately for him, his latest chapter would soon be met with its fair share of obstacles.
His Friends & Family's "Hurtful" Reaction
You see, while Patricio was officially happier than ever, finally free to live out his truth, not everybody was as accepting of his new reality. Not only did his coming out result in him losing 2 jobs, several friends and family members, but it also called for one shocking confrontation.
“It hurt a lot… gyms are our safe space,” Manuel revealed to The Guardian of the moment his boxing coach refused to continue training him. “To have someone basically say you can be here, but no one can know you’re here, I don’t live my life like that. I will never compromise who I am to make someone feel comfortable.”
He Had to Start All Over Again
What was Patricio supposed to do? He desperately wanted to be back in the ring, but he'd have to find a new place - to start over, completely from scratch. As the story goes, in only a matter of time, that's exactly what he did, as he made his way to the South El Monte community center's gym, come May of 2015.
Unfortunately, though, his battle was just getting started. In fact, if Patricio ever wanted to get back out there in the boxing world - let alone achieve those Olympic dreams, he'd need an entirely new license, as a male fighter; And with his fate lying in the California Boxing Commission's hands, his hope was slipping by the day.
The Life-Changing Olympic Rule
Little did he know, though, after endless years struggling to get back in the ring, Patricio's fate would finally be sealed come 2016, right before the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games; All thanks to the International Olympic Committee's life-changing decision. What'd they do, exactly?
Thanks to their new rule, transgender boxers were officially allowed to compete professionally - which soon led the USA Boxing Commission to follow suit. What did that mean for Patricio? Finally, after endless years, he had a new license, and he was officially more determined than ever: He was going to make it big.
His Very First Fight
Sure enough, that's exactly what happened, not long after, as Patricio finally found his way back into the rings; this time, as an amateur male boxer, readier than ever for his latest match. It had taken endless years for him to get to where he finally was - and was going to make every minute of it worth it.
Well, as fate would have it, not only did the devoted boxer go on to make history that day, but he also walked home as the winner - a title he'd dreamed about for as long as he could remember. But while he may have tasted his sweetest victory yet, things were about to change... really quickly.
His Painful Boxing Loss
You see, he had just come off from his first - and most exciting - win yet, but Patricio Manuel's fate was about to be met with a bitter reality: A painful blow - one that went beyond the compounds of that boxing ring. Not only did the athlete lose his 2nd match, but he left that match with a whole lot more than he bargained for.
A brutal injury, one that forced him to put his latest chapter on hold, as he focused his attention on recovering and healing from that painful loss. It seemed as if everything he'd finally built was crumbling before his very eyes. But Patricio's troubles were just getting started.
The Judgment He Faced From Spectators
Not only was the passionate boxer now forced to sit and watch from the sidelines, but he was also met with a different obstacle: Judgment. But it wasn't only fellow boxers - refusing to fight him simply because he was transgender - that Patricio Manuel was met with.
He was also met with unaccepting spectators, claiming that he didn't deserve to fight as a male competitor, simply because of his orientation. Little did Patricio know, though, there was somebody special who believed in him, waiting right around the corner.
Meet Eric Gomez
"The inner struggles, the process of transition, and to keep wanting to fight? Just that drive is impressive," Eric Gomez revealed in a recent interview. You see, while Patricio may have been met with endless doubters, there was one guy who believed in him, and he'd go on to change his life forever.
Meet Eric Gomez, folks: The current president of Golden Boy Promotions, who decided to take a leap of faith on the struggling boxer. After endless years training elite clients, nobody impressed him as much as Patricio: "It's very different than any athlete I've met. And I've been doing this for 20 years," as Gomez put it.
His Eyes Became Fixated on Going Pro
And so, with a new mentor to guide him along the way, suddenly things were looking up for Patricio. He was finally ready to get back out there and make a name for himself. Only this time around, he was sure of one thing: He'd be doing things differently.
From sleepless nights spent bulking up at the gym, to pouring every last ounce of sweat he had into training, Patricio wasn't going to let anything, or anyone, get in the way of his unwavering dreams. Little did he know, everything was about to change.
His Life-Changing Offer
In only a matter of time, Patricio would receive news that would change his life forever, as Golden Boy Promotions, founded by celebrity boxer, Oscar De La Hoya, presented him with a life-changing offer: He was finally going to go pro, up against Mexican fighter, Hugo Aguilar.
Patricio may have had his fair share of doubters in the past, but according to Aguilar? “It doesn’t change anything for me,” he explained to a reporter, of the decision to go up against a transgender boxer. Unfortunately for Patricio, though, there was one slight catch.
Preparing For the Big Day
He had only 8 days to prepare for the big day, once the match was officially confirmed. Of course, though, if we've learned anything from Patricio by now, it's that he's not one to back down from a challenge. So, how exactly did he prepare for the life-changing fight?
Sure, the entire world would be watching him once he made his way inside the ring, but Patricio wasn't gonna let the nerves get the best of him; He meditated; Did hypnotherapy; Blasted music - his go-to's, On the Sly by Metric and Kryptonite (I'm on It) by Purple Ribbon All-Stars, and was readier than ever for that which lay ahead.
His First Professional Fight
“Wow, we’re finally here, finally at this point,” Patricio remembers recalling of the thoughts buzzing through his head, as he made his way into the Fantasy Springs Casino on December 9, 2018: The day had finally arrived, he was going to make history as the first transgender boxer to go pro - and the pressure was officially on.
How did he put it? "There was no doubt in my mind I was going to win that fight," as he told The Guardian. You see, as Patricio explained it, losing was simply not an option: "If I lost? Especially in such a public way … it would've validated everyone's belief that I couldn't do it."
His Record-Breaking Win
As the story goes, the events that transpired in that Indio, California arena on that fateful day were nothing that anyone had ever witnessed before: In the span of 12 seemingly endless minutes, spectators were stuck clinging to the edge of their seats, as they watched Manuel and Aguilar go neck and neck as they fought for Gold.
“Making history wasn’t my goal that night - it was simply to do what it is I love,” Patricio soon gushed on Instagram, after making history as the first transgender boxer to ever compete professionally - and walk home a winner, on top of that. "To everyone who has been in my corner, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Becoming the Face of Everlast
"I'm still processing what this event meant," the boxing champion reflected on Instagram of his inspirational win. "6 years of sacrifice, loss, and uncertainty - but also the joy of being able to compete as my real self." After endless years pouring everything he had into the craft, he'd finally gone from amateur to superstar.
But he was just getting started. That very same year, while the world was busy buzzing about Patricio's remarkable win, the boxing champ was met with a different title: The new face of Everlast, the same boxing company to feature legends like Jack Dempsey and Sugar Ray Robinson. "I am honored to be part of this campaign," he gushed.
The Struggles of Fame
But while Patricio Manuel might be living a new reality, one that's propped him front and center, that doesn't mean it's been easy. In fact, it hasn't. "I once had a troll DM me, saying he didn't appreciate me wearing his people's clothing for my ring attire," he revealed of one of the many negative comments he receives on a daily basis.
From online doubters to invasive questions from the media, Patricio Manuel has had one heck of a journey to stardom, but don't think he's going anywhere, anytime soon: "To all the haters, you're gonna have to do a lot more to wipe the smile off my face," he told Instagram. "Hit me with your best shot… I'll always come back swinging."
On Finding Love
So, where is Patricio today? "[I once] heard the saying, 'If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together," he began on Instagram. "Took me until recently to really get it." Fast forward to today, and the 34-year-old's reality calls for a new - yet very special - somebody.
"We met over 5 years ago," the boxer revealed of his partner, Amita Swadhin. "But our paths [eventually] crossed again… We've fought tooth-and-nail for this relationship, and what we make from this relationship can only be described as sacred. I'll keep lifting you higher, boo. And I know you'll do the same."
Sure, his new reality calls for international endorsements, an army of fans, and a loyal partner by his side through it all, but as Patricio will happily remind you, it's been a long battle to get to where he is today. Which leads us to our last question: What regrets does he have, if any?
Well, believe it or not, his ride may have been plagued by road bumps, but if you ask him? "I wouldn't trade any of it," Patricio revealed to CNBC. "I have found my passion and purpose... made mistakes and learned, found laughter in even the most painful moments, and always took a risk if it meant being true to myself."
Well, there you have it, folks. We've walked you through the boxing champion's journey from struggling child to international superstar, and there's one thing for sure at this point in time: He boasts a come-up story like no other. But if there's one thing Patricio wants you to take away from it? It's this.
"Remember, BE YOU. Even if no one else sees it," Manuel revealed on Instagram. "Regardless of what your goals are, whether you are trans, whether you are an athlete or not, our dreams have big costs to it," as he later explained to CNBC; "And it all requires risk for us to find that reward."