When boxer Patricio Manuel hit his opponent Hugo Aguilar at a Saturday night match in Indio, California, he also was punching his way through societal barriers.
The 33-year-old Manuel’s win over Aguilar marked the culmination of a six-year journey to become the first transgender male boxer in U.S. history.
“I wouldn’t trade any of it. It was worth everything I went through to get to this point,” Manuel told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m a professional boxer now.”
When he identified as a woman, Manuel was a five-time national amateur champion and competed in the 2012 Olympic Trials before being forced to withdraw because of a shoulder injury.
Manuel told the Desert Sun newspaper that the injury was a blessing in disguise.
“I needed all that to happen,” he said. “I don’t know if I would be able to perform. I think it needed to happen this way. I’m just really glad with the way everything played out.”
Manuel remembered being nervous about telling his mother, Loretta Butler, he was going to transition, only to be surprised by her reaction.
“Pat has always been a male,” his mother told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s just Pat was not assigned properly at birth.”
After starting hormone therapy, Manuel added 15 pounds and some facial hair, and his voice got deeper.
In 2015, Manuel flew to Salt Lake City to have his breasts removed, and his grandmother paid for the nearly $6,000 procedure.
The three judges scoring Saturday’s fight gave it to Manuel 39-37. He told the Los Angeles Times he will definitely continue boxing in 2019.
“I’m going to take some time off, enjoy the holidays and then fight at the end of February. That’s the goal,” he said. “I definitely want to keep going. It’s been so long since I fought. The rust has been shaken off. Now it’s time to keep moving.”