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Why Rodtang Jitmuangnon can be the next Manny Pacquiao

ONE flyweight Muay Thai world champion Rodtang (left) bears strong resemblance with the career, life, and fighting style of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao. (Image courtesy of ONE)
ONE flyweight Muay Thai world champion Rodtang (left) bears strong resemblance with the career, life, and fighting style of boxing icon Manny Pacquiao. (Image courtesy of ONE)
Duane Lucas Pascua

ONE flyweight Muay Thai world champion Rodtang Jitmuangnon has broken through the mainstream sports media seemingly overnight. He did so when the spotlight was put on him as he faced MMA great Demetrious 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson in a mixed-rules bout at ONE X.

Being attached to a household name like DJ can truly put you in front of a global audience; not that Rodtang ever really needed a push. The DJ fight, despite him losing it, only allowed a wider audience to see Rodtang in his full glory.

It gave a mainstream audience a taste of what high-level Muay Thai looks like; what a man with more than 300 kickboxing bouts can do against one of the best MMA fighters ever. Needless to say, the bout thrust Rodtang Jitmuangnon into the spotlight along with the entire sport of Muay Thai with him.

Coming from his humble beginnings as a poor kid in Thailand to literally fighting to make a better living for him and his family, it took one fight for Rodtang to get the global recognition he deserves. Now that he's fighting at ONE 161, an event that will be broadcast live to a US-based audience, Rodtang will get more exposure in the west.

Another Asian fighter of similar greatness who came from poverty and was thrust into the global spotlight with just one fight: Manny Pacquiao.

Back in 2001, Pacquiao was already the WBC international super bantamweight champion and yet, he was only known to die-hard boxing circles. It wasn't until he fought then-IBF super bantamweight world champion, the late Lehlo Ledwaba, that the world got introduced to the legend of 'Pacman'.

Today, we look at the similarities in careers, lives, and fighting styles between Rodtang Jitmuangnon and Manny Pacquiao. We will examine if the ONE world champion will follow in the the Filipino's legendary footsteps to become the next big Asian fighting superstar.


Like Pacquiao, Rodtang Jitmuangnon rose from poverty

What makes Manny Pacquiao so endearing to his fans is the fact that he is an everyman. In a developing country like the Philippines, the majority of the people are living below the poverty line. Pacquiao grew up in extreme poverty, much like the majority of his people.

What the Filipino boxing icon symbolized was hope. He was that one guy who fought his way out of poverty and achieved a better life. His people saw themselves in him. More accurately, they saw in him what they aspired to be.

Rodtang Jitmuangnon is quite the same. He is also from a third-world country and managed to fight his way out of poverty. From his career earnings, Rodtang was able to pay for his father's cancer treatment and buy a house for his family.

Rodtang is the epitome of what a classic Thai fighter's life can be: from starving and training inside gyms to becoming a world champion and making a better life. This is why a similar career trajectory might happen for Rodtang, as his life and how he literally fought for it is the stuff of legend, just like Manny Pacquiao's

Rodtang Jitmuangnon is a jovial champion with a heart of gold, just like Pacquiao

If you look at Rodtang's entrance walk to the circle, you wouldn't think he's going to have a fight. The man is dancing, smiling at the crowd, and generally having a feel-good moment with his fans. He doesn't have an inch of fear in his heart because his heart is pure.

Manny Pacquiao's entrance is like that as well. The Filipino legend walks into the ring like God himself is behind him and nothing can go wrong. The smile on his face is like that of a child seeing a toy store for the first time - absolutely wholesome.

It's not just their jovial side but also their mentality towards fighting itself that makes Rodtang and Pacquiao such endearing athletes. In a time of trash-talk and bad blood hyping up fights, Manny and Rodtang refused to show any sort of disrespect towards their opponents.

These men are true martial artists and great human beings. Aside from their exploits in the ring, both Manny and Rodtang Jitmuangnon also made sure to give back not just to those who helped them but also to their supporters.


Both Rodtang jitmuangnon and Manny Pacquiao put on exciting fights

This, above all else, will be the reason why Rodtang can become the next great Asian combat athlete after Manny Pacquiao. Just the the Fighting Senator, the Jitmuangnon fighter doesn't seem to know how to fight a boring fight. It's a kill-or-be-killed mentality for both fighters.

Like Pacquiao, the ferocity with which Rodtang Jitmuangnon pushes forward, eats shots and then throws his own power combinations is frightening to watch. There's not a single timid bone in Rodtang's body as he uses all of his weaponized limbs to put away his opponents.

Manny Pacquiao, from his early career to his prime right down to his final years, maintained his exciting fighting style. You'll never see him dance around his opponents, throwing jabs and playing it safe. He's always walking into the fire and puts it out with his punches. Much like Rodtang Jitmuangnon.

Edited by Harvey Leonard

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