Last night, 33-year-old Patricio Manuel became the first openly transgender boxer to compete at the professional level in his fight against Mexican super-featherweight Hugo Aguilar at Fantasy Springs Casino near Palm Springs, California.
And what’s more: Manuel won.
He won by a unanimous decision after a 12-minute bout. Though he failed to knock out his opponent, the judges all scored the match in Manuel’s favor.
"It's a funny thing when just living your truth becomes historic."
— Golden Boy Boxing (@GoldenBoyBoxing) December 9, 2018
Manuel’s backstory is inspiring. Raised as a tomboy, he began boxing in high school as a way to lose weight. In 2012, he boxed in the Olympic trials as a woman, but had to quit due to a shoulder injury. Three months later, he began his transition.
When he informed his mother of his transition, she supported him. “I told him I would support him 100% in whatever he chose to do,” Manuel’s mother told The Los Angeles Times. “The bottom line is it doesn’t matter to me. I just want him to be happy. It was a natural transition.”
Manuel soon began hormone replacement therapy and underwent a chest surgery. But after he began transitioning, his original coach and training facility refused to work with him any longer. Three opponents refused to fight him after learning of his trans identity.
Eventually, Manuel turned to the company of professional Olympic boxer Oscar De La Hoya, to get licensed as a professional fighter and find an opponent willing to face him.
Interestingly, a rule change by the International Olympic Committee allowing female-to-male trans athletes to compete helped persuade USA Boxing, the national governing body for amateur competition, to license Manuel as a professional fighter.
When informed about Manuel’s trans identity, Aguilar said, “For me it’s very respectable. It doesn’t change anything for me. In the ring, he wants to win and I want to win too.”
Manuel isn’t the only openly trans pro-fighter. Mixed martial arts fighter Fallon Fox came out as trans in 2013, and won five of six professional bouts during her career.
Here’s a 2017 HBO interview with Manuel.