Pat Manuel, a 34-year old Southern California native, will make history on Saturday when he becomes the first professional transgender boxer.
The fight will be held at Fantasy Springs Casino near Palm Springs and marks the start of a new chapter for the long-time boxer.
“As a child, I always, in my head, identified myself as a boy,” Manuel said. “And it wasn't until later in life, when I suddenly realized I was being forced onto a different line.”
At 16, he turned to boxing as an escape mechanism.
“I was going through a lot of anxiety, a lot of dissociation,” he said. “When I walked into the gym, I just fell in love and never turned back.”
Competing as a woman, Manuel went on to the first-ever female Olympic Trials in 2012. However, a shoulder injury sidelined him from the event and changed his course forever.
“I had used boxing for so long to distract me and when I no longer had the sport to distract me, I really had to sit and ask myself, like what is really going to make you happy?” he said.
In the end that meant undergoing medical and legal transitions to become a man. And with his transition complete, Manuel is moving towards his ultimate goal of acceptance in the male boxing field.
“The fight that's really worth fighting for is being myself and being happy, despite what anyone else tells me,” Manuel said.