It’s been years in the making, but Patricio Manuel finally made it back in the ring on Saturday night.
The 34-year-old and former U.S. Olympic boxing hopeful not only made his professional fighting debut and beat Hugo Aguilar by unanimous decision at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, on Saturday, but he made history, becoming the first transgender male to fight professionally in the United States.
“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 said after the fight. “I just have to say my opponent, hats off to him. He came to fight. He was fighting me the whole time. He fought me as a man, and I have so much respect for him.”
“I hear some fans aren’t happy,” Manuel added when hearing boos from the crowd. “It’s OK, I’ll be back. I’ll make them happy then.”
Manuel’s transition, battle back into the ring
Manuel fought for the last time as a female in 2012 at the U.S. Olympic Trials, though had to withdraw after one fight due to a shoulder injury.
From The Los Angeles Times, who followed Manuel through his journey for three years ahead of his fight on Saturday:
Even before the trials, Manuel had thought of transitioning to male, but the hope of representing the U.S. in the first Olympic boxing tournament for women held him back. After the trials, there was no reason to wait. On the trip home, Manuel told (his mother, Loretta) Butler that her daughter would soon become her son — then waited for the response.
It was one not of surprise but relief.
“Pat has always been a male,” his mother says. “It’s just Pat was not assigned properly at birth.”
The transition started with hormone treatment 18 months later, and by early 2014 Manuel had put on 15 pounds, grown facial hair and heard his voice drop a couple of octaves. The following spring, 26 months after his final fight as a woman, Manuel flew to Salt Lake City for surgery, which involved the removal of breasts and the shaping of a male-contoured chest.
Once Manuel made it through his transition and found a new gym, he started training again. But he struggled to find a way to get back in the ring. The California State boxing commission had never seen a situation like Manuel’s before, so it was hesitant to allow him to fight.
However, per the Los Angeles Times, USA Boxing approved Manuel’s amateur license shortly after the International Olympic Committee ruled that female-to-male transgender athletes are allowed to compete “without restriction” ahead of the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Manuel then fought his first male in 2016 at the Cinco de Mayo card in Los Angeles, which he won by decision after three rounds. He only fought once since then — losing in a decision later in 2016 — due to injuries and difficulties finding opponents.
But now that he’s made it back into a ring, and walked out with his first win as a professional boxer, Manuel said he’s thrilled — and he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“I just need to say to everyone that’s been along with this journey for like six years really, thank you so much,” Manuel said. “I couldn’t be here without you. I really needed that support to help push me to this point … There’s so many people that just wanted me to be here, and I’m so happy that I could perform for them.
“I’m not in here just for one show, for one fight. This is something I love. I’m not done with this sport. I’ll be back.”
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