If you’re not familiar with the company Everlast you’re probably not a big fan of fighting sports. They make boxing gloves and a host of other sports equipment seen regularly in both professional and Olympic competitions. They recently launched a new sales campaign titled Be First, encouraging athletes to rise above adversity and work to be first in their field. Their choice for a spokesperson is attracting plenty of media attention this month, mostly glowingly positive from the usual sources.
They’ve chosen Patricio Manuel as their spokesman. What makes the story unusual is that Manuel was born female and fought as a woman until 2012, winning multiple USA national female amateur boxing titles. At that point, he announced that he was “transitioning” to become a transgender male. (I use the incorrect masculine pronoun because Manuel has apparently completed reassignment surgery.)
As I mentioned above, many in the media are beside themselves in showering praise on Manuel for this distinct honor. Particularly over at CNBC.
At the age of 34, Patricio Manuel has already made history twice.
On Dec. 12, 2018, he became the world’s first transgender boxer to compete in a professional fight — and he came away with a win, to boot.
On Sept. 26 he made history again when iconic boxing brand Everlast named him the face of its company — a position previously held by boxing legends Jack Dempsey, Sugar Ray Robinson and Canelo Álvarez.
It’s certainly a unique story, but I’m not sure we should be rushing to put Manuel on the same shelf with Dempsey or Sugar Ray. While highly successful in the amateur women’s ranks, Manuel has had precisely one fight in the professional men’s ranks. He did come away with a victory, but it was over a guy named Hugo Aguilar in the super featherweight division. And not to run the guy down too hard, but Aguilar is a fighter who, over the course of a ten-year career, managed a grand total of eight professional fights and lost every single one of them.
Since I’ve written extensively about issues arising from transgender athletes competing in sports, I should point out at least one thing. I have zero problems with Manuel fighting in the men’s division if he wants to and the commission grants him a license. My objections come when men “identifying” as women compete in women’s sports and dominate them because of an unfair physical advantage. If a woman transitions to become a man and wants to compete against the men, it’s going to be really rough, but I wish them the best of luck.
Does that mean I’m embracing a double standard? You bet it does. And I have no problem with that, either. The two scenarios are just not the same thing.
If you want to get a look at Manuel’s style, here’s a short profile from the L.A. Times.