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Punching Above His Weight Boxer Manny Pacquiao, in his own proud words.

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Manny Pacquiao characteristically saves his knockout blow for the last sentence of his autobiography: “Maybe one day, [my promoter] will burst through my door and say, ‘Congratulations, Mr. President!’” The reader is left stunned, wondering whether the Filipino boxer-turned-politician’s conclusion is more hyperbole or the beginning of a campaign.

That feeling of confusion is common throughout “Pacman,” a memoir that reads alternately as a Cinderella story, a self-help book and a political manifesto.

Mr. Pacquiao was born to a severely impoverished family in the Philippines. As a 13-year-old, he would buy doughnuts for a nickel and sell them for twice that amount. Even when he hadn’t eaten in days, he fought the temptation to dip into his small supply. “I knew that if I ate the donuts, I wouldn’t have any money to buy more. I needed my profits to stay in business. The discipline and willpower those donuts forced me to develop have served me well all my life.”

As fate would have it, his rough upbringing and the odd jobs he took to survive prepared him to become an internationally acclaimed fighter. The harsh terrain and demanding labor hardened his muscles—”a personal trainer couldn’t have developed a better program.”

Under the supervision of his boxing-aficionado uncle, Mr. Pacquiao learned to fight, “going to war” against other boys his age and making a name for himself in the region. At 15, Mr. Pacquiao ran away, hiding on a boat bound for Manila, where he would begin formal training. The next year, he began fighting professionally, bluffing about his age to get on “Blow by Blow,” a Philippine boxing show.

But it wasn’t until 2001 that Mr. Pacquiao got his big break, in a fight against Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, a fighter “so ferocious that his own managers were sometimes scared to deal with him.” Mr. Pacquiao accepted the challenge with only two weeks’ notice, flying to Los Angeles with little money and speaking no English. He won the IBF World Super Bantamweight Championship, and his career was launched.

“In a fighter’s world, there is never finality, because no matter what you see or what you do, you know that you have another…

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