Lito Adiwang has made the best possible start to his ONE Championship career. The 26 year old has won two fights out of two to establish himself as one of the top contenders in the strawweight division.

Prior to his promotional debut Adiwang had embarked on a three fight winning streak with ONE Warrior Series. The Filipino is flying but he might never have embarked upon a career as a fighter if it hadn’t been for a legendary boxer.

At the start of the century Manny Pacquiao was in the process of establishing himself as the most famous Filipino on the planet. The whole country came to a stand still when the boxer from General Santos City fought and beat the likes of Oscar de la Hoya, Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton.

As a young man Adiwang was inspired by the rise of the fighter who would go on to become a congressman,

“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,” he said.

Early adversity

Although Adiwang would make his name as a mixed martial artist he initially wanted to be a boxer just like 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.”

There are certain similarities between Adiwang and Pacquiao. Both grew up in poverty and the mixed martial artist recalls going hungry as his parents struggled to feed the family,

“I was born the youngest in a family of seven children. Life was tough and we had to get through a lot of trials. My parents used to plant crops in an open lot so we would have food to eat, but it wasn’t enough,” he said.

Tough times

It was a tough time but Adiwang thinks it gave him the strength to overcome the sort of setbacks life throws at a professional fighter,

“It really taught me a lot about overcoming adversity in life. I wanted to help my family, but I felt powerless. Then I lost my fourth sibling in a mining accident. My parents separated when I was a teenager. I just felt hopeless.”

He would eventually put his boxing dreams on the backburner to focus on MMA. This career move has paid dividends and last year the 26 year old really broke out onto the international scene.

At ONE: ‘Century’ Adiwang was matched with veteran Senzo Ikeda. It was an intimidating promotional debut, being thrown in with an experienced Japanese fighter in Tokyo.

The Filipino was fortunate that day. Ikeda suffered an arm injury and was forced to withdraw from the fight while the first round feeling out process was still underway.

There was nothing fortuitous about his victory over Pongsiri Mitsatit at ONE: ‘Fire & Fury’ earlier this year. At one stage the Thai had been considered a top contender in the strawweight division but Adiwang needed just over three minutes to finish him.

Explosive style

The Team Lakay prospect’s wins have almost all come inside the distance. It is a style that will appeal to matchmakers and fans alike.

The only obstacle currently in Adiwang’s path is the status of his teammate Joshua Pacio as strawweight champion. The two will never fight so any title talk has to go on hold for the time being.

Perhaps Adiwang will eventually move up in weight just like his hero did? Pacquiao won his first world title at 112lbs but would go on to become a world champion at 154lbs.

It is unlikely Pacquiao’s achievements will ever be emulated. But Adiwang can still take inspiration from the eight division world champion,

“If I can accomplish even a fraction of what he has in his career, I can consider my career a success. 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.”