MANILA, Philippines – ONE Championship strawweight world champion Joshua “The Passion” Pacio was once an overweight kid with low self-esteem.
Pacio’s uncle, Ray Pacio, offered to train “The Passion” in the art of muay thai when he was 10 years old.
What initially was a sport for Pacio to lose weight in, “the art of 8 limbs” quickly became an undying love for the young phenom. (READ: The untold story of Team Lakay)
“He was seeing those other kids taking up muay thai, he was just in the back and playing games. I did not expect that he would fall in love with it,” the uncle said.
“I asked him if he wanted to try it because he’s a bit overweight. I just told him that this will help him get fit. If he wants to fight, he has to follow a strict [plan], and a few months later, I saw that.”
Pacio and his uncle Ray then crossed paths with Rogelio Capan, who happened to be teammates with Team Lakay head coach Mark Sangiao during their amateur kickboxing days.
At first, Capan barely paid attention to the kid who walked at around 60 kilos until a small talk during an amateur event intrigued him. (READ: Team Lakay confident about return to glory days)
“When I worked in La Union, I was looking for a place to train. Then I saw the group of Pastor Ray. I asked him if I can join them, they said yes and convinced me to even teach,” Capan recalled.
“Then I met Joshua. I wasn’t paying much attention to him at first, but there was a time when a muay thai event was held in La Trinidad. We were all there and Joshua told me, ‘I want to be that guy.'”
Eager to see if Pacio’s ambition was genuine or just mere hyperbole, Capan tested Pacio.
“At his age, I gave him 100 squat-rushes, 100 push-ups, 100 jumping squats, and even though he was close to crying, he finished it. I made him do it in two sets,” Capan remembered.
“I appreciated that will. He was young but he was so eager in finishing our drills even though it was a struggle for him. That’s when I called coach Mark [Sangiao] [and told him] that there might be potential here.”
Upon hearing the news from his former teammate, Sangiao instructed Capan to keep a close eye on Pacio and oversee his growth.
They trained every day from 4 am to 6 am then competed in amateur kickboxing bouts in Baguio City.
“Each time there was an event in Baguio, coach Mark always told me to keep Joshua ready because he will get a fight,” Capan said.
“He went through ups and downs, but it still ended up well for him. Even if he lost, he never got discouraged.”
Capan never really thought that Pacio was a world champion in the making despite his dedication to honing his craft.
Then one day, he finally realized why Sangiao was so adamant about Pacio’s development.
“Honestly speaking, I never expected that he would become a world champion,” Capan said.
“It was coach Mark who told me that this guy will be a world champion, and if he sees that in him, of course I would buy in even though I wasn’t a believer at first.”
“There was a time when he was hurdling cement during training. He got off balanced, his shin hit the cement, and I told him to rest, but he told me that he had to finish it. After that I called coach Mark and [told him] I believe he will become a world champion.”
A decade later, Pacio turned out to be the man his trainers predicted.
Nowadays, some even see him as the best Team Lakay athlete there is – he has become the most dominant world champion in ONE strawweight history.
And while it may look like “The Passion” is now at the top of his game, his former trainers are convinced that he has yet to peak. (READ: Young Stars Pacio, Kingad leading Team Lakay’s new generation)
“He’s always hungry for more. He is a serious world champion who doesn’t like to slack off,” his uncle said.
“I think he will still improve,” Capan added.
“Experience-wise, attitude-wise in training, with his mindset, I know that he will still get better. I am 100% sure of that.” – Rappler.com
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