By CARLO ANOLIN
Boxing legend Manny Pacquiao played a huge role in the success and glory that was built by the famed Benguet-stable Team Lakay.
The most striking part for Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao would be Pacquiao’s rags-to-riches story, which up to now served as an inspiration for up-and-coming mixed martial arts fighters from the Cordillera region.
Sangiao and Team Lakay, just like Pacquiao, started everything from scratch, as in training with recycled boxing gloves, improvised safety gear, and outdoor training.
“In the early days of our international fights, Pacquiao was one of the few figures that drove us to also bring honor back to our country,” said Sangiao. “Don’t get me wrong, when we fight abroad we are more driven to give our best to serve as an inspiration to our young athletes and people to dream as well and achieve. “But having Manny as our inspiration is really big for us because we want to emulate the glory he brings to our country,” said the Team Lakay patriarch, who molded world champions in Singapore-based promotion ONE Championship.
Sangiao hopes to replicate Team Lakay’s success in 2018, where they produced four ONE world champions in Joshua Pacio (strawweight), Geje Eustaquio (flyweight), Kevin Belingon (bantamweight), and Eduard Folayang (lightweight).
It is safe to say that Team Lakay already established its name as arguably the best MMA stable in the Philippines.
And Pacquiao, the only-eight-division world boxing champion, greatly contributed to Team Lakay’s dominance in spirit.
“Manny bears the Philippines’ colors proudly in all of his fights, and his achievement is every Filipinos’ achievement,” said Sangiao. “So for us, we emulated that, that every fight of Pacquiao and of our Team Lakay athletes in the ring and in the cage further cements the fact that we Filipinos should be taken seriously in the arena of combat sports.”
Pacio, meanwhile, remained as the lone Filipino and Team Lakay champion to represent the Philippines after defending his strawweight belt against Japanese rival Yosuke Saruta last month.