Nightmare in Nakhon

Boxing old-timer Lito Mondejar, even suggested that Pacquiao’s hair and even pubes be cut and shaved, respectively.

Manny Pacquiao and his handlers, Rod Nazario (right) and Lito Mondejar (left) wait for their flight to Manila at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok three days after losing the world title.

Hardcore fight fans swear they know by heart the details behind Manny Pacquiao’s greatest hits and even his painful losses.

But there is one chapter — a dark one — in Pacquiao’s Hall of Fame career that his passionate followers and even members of his current inner circle won’t dare say they have utmost knowledge of.

It has come down as a turning point in Pacquiao’s exemplary career and it happened around this time 23 years ago in a dusty, makeshift venue in the far-flung and obscure Thai city of Nakhon Si Thammarat.

Pacquiao was making the second defense of his nine-month old World Boxing Council flyweight strap against Medgoen 3K Battery.

On paper, it was a fight Pacquiao was expected to win handily.

Manny Pacquiao (left) and his trainer Baby Tinagsa pose before climbing the ring in Thailand.

But it turned out to be a nightmarish experience for the Filipino southpaw who would go on to become an eight-division world champion whose ring shelf life only expired in 2021.

On the eve of the fight that took place on 17 September 1999, Pacquiao, then 20 years old and already experiencing weight problems, was stripped of the WBC crown for failing to make 112 lbs.

There were details that had been kept under wraps that will now see print and a few photographs that this writer will publish in this paper.

These pictures had been kept in storage for over two decades and these accidentally surfaced during a random search one Sunday morning hidden underneath mountains of books, magazines and other printed documents.

This writer was on site when Pacquiao lost the title on the scales and he was at ringside when 3K Battery turned into a punching maniac who looked as if a malevolent Thai spirit had taken control of his body.

3K Battery was in full control of the fight that lasted three rounds with Pacquiao being counted out on his feet by Mexican referee Guadalupe Garcia.

A right to the body had sent Pacquiao crashing to the floor grimacing in pain.

Under normal circumstances, it was a punch that even ordinary fighters would have taken without batting an eyelash.

But not by somebody who had been drained of energy for trying to cut down excess baggage less than 24 hours earlier.

Manny Pacquiao gets undressed in a desperate attempt to make the flyweight limit in Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand, in September 1999. | Photographs by Nick Giongco for the daily tribune

Not by somebody who could no longer recover the vigor that was lost during the exhausting process of drastically cutting weight.

In a desperate attempt to make 112 lbs, one of Pacquiao’s cornermen, boxing old-timer Lito Mondejar, even suggested that Pacquiao hair and even pubes be cut and shaved, respectively.

Pacquiao, his mind messed up with all the chaos taking place around during the weighin, even had to take off his underwear in another bid to make weight.

But Edward Thangarajah, a WBC’-affiliated official based in Thailand, still rued that Pacquiao was still over the limit, forcing the Mexico-based boxing body to strip him of the championship.

The fight still proceeded as scheduled with the title being declared vacant even if Pacquiao ends up winning and 3K Battery becoming champion if he scores a victory.

The late Rod Nazario, who was Pacquiao’s manager then, was already begging the corner to stop the fight as early as the second round when 3K Battery started landing vicious blows to the head and body.

The misfortune in Nakhon Si Thammarat sent Team Pacquiao on a downward spiral.

But the bad juju won’t endure.

Three months after the debacle, Pacquiao would make a rousing return that launched him into superstardom.

POSTSCRIPT: Manny Pacquiao jumped straight to super-bantamweight — bypassing super-fly and bantam — when he made his comeback following the heartbreaking loss in Thailand, knocking out Reynante Jamili in less than two rounds during a Philippine Sportswriters Association-promoted show at Sucat, Parañaque, in December 2019… Medgoen 3K Battery would lose the WBC crown on a sixth-round knockout to Filipino Malcolm Tunacao in May 2000 in Udon Thani, Thailand… Pacquiao would make his US debut in June 2001 and would go on to fight almost exclusively on American soil the rest of the way.

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