Dubai: It was on this day, 19 years ago, when a little, unknown boxer from the Philippines shocked the world to begin a journey that would take him to the very summit of the sport.
A 22-year-old Manny Pacquiao, who was born in the backward municipality of Kibawe, who had been taken under the wing by trainer Freddy Roach, was scheduled to fight IBF super-bantamweight champ Lehlo Ledwaba of South Africa.
Ledwaba, 29, who had not lost a fight in eight years and was making the sixth defense of his title, was the huge favourite to whip the southpaw with a difficult surname to pronounce.
What the boxing world did not know was that Pacquiao, who had been inspired by fighters like Bruce Lee and Muhammad Ali to take up boxing, had a big heart and an even bigger power in his notorious left hand.
But the question that was being asked was, how would a small-town kid handle the glare of the Last Vegas spotlights and the attention of curious onlookers who had no idea what he was capable of?
Former heavyweight boxing champion George Formeman, who was the commentator for the bout, was having fun attempting to pronounce Pacquiao’s name. He had to find a quick way to getting around it as Pacquiao exploded from the opening bell to land heavy punches on the unsuspecting Ledwaba.
As the South African champion sat down in his corner at the end of the first round, he looked like he had been involved in some sort of car accident – his nose blodied and there was a look of disbelief writ all over his face.
Across the ring, Roach, who would go on to form a career-defining partnership with Pacquiao, was encouraging the young Filipino to stick to the plan and keep up the blistering attack.
Pacquiao did just that.
He floored Ledwaba for the first time in the first fight in second round with his trademark left-cross and had the crowd in attendance on their feet.
The soon-to-champion had arrived. And how.
It was reported that the whole of the Philippines was glued to television sets watching their man make a name for himself in America and on the world’s greatest boxing stage.
Despite taking the fight on short notice Pacquiao was bristling with confidence, energy and power.
Ledwaba did his best to stay in the fight but was no match for the super-fast Filipino who was utterly relentless - landing combinations and punctuating them with power shots that had this South African opponent seeing more lights than those that lit up the Las Vegas arena.
Pacquiaio continued to dominate the fight in a big way and had the crowed crying out for more. By the end of the fifth round, it was clear that Ledwaba was fighting for time, of not mercy.
Then, a straight left in the sixth round dropped Ledwaba and brought more blood for his shattered nose. Although the South African stood up at the count of eight, he met another thunderous left hand from Pacquiao and hit the canvas the final time, with referee Joe Cortez calling an end to the one-sided contest.
In the middle of the ring stood Pacquiao, heroically brandishing his gloves fists to the skies, an act that he would perform 61 more times in a glittering career that saw him become a boxing icon and the world’s only eight-division champion.
Now 41, Pacquiao is a Senator of the Philippines and is reported worth over $1.35 billion.