THE VOICE of the announcer yo-yoed across the boxing arena at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California. "Your winner, by unanimous decision ... and now undefeated in his professional career: Patricio 'Cacahuate' Manuel!"
The applause and cheers came first, concentrated in Section VV, packed with Manuel's family, biological and chosen alike.
Then, like smoke seeping through a vent, the arena began to fill with a chorus of boos. An angry male voice rasped, "Liar, liar, pants on fire!" Manuel's partner, Amita Swadhin, raised a middle finger at the jeers. Manuel stood in the ring unfazed, under the lighting truss that blinded him. "I think if people knew what it took to get to this moment," he said into the mic held in front of him. "It's been almost two years since I've been in the ring."
Since his amateur debut in 2016, Manuel has entered the ring for only three official fights -- a slim record for any boxer to take into the pros. He spent months at a time traveling to amateur exhibitions, weighing in, only to watch his opponents refuse to get into the ring with him.
Now, his face rapidly swelling, Manuel addressed his hecklers directly: "I hear some fans aren't happy; it's OK, I'll be back. I'll make you happy then."
It was Dec. 8, 2018. Manuel had just become the first transgender man to box professionally in the United States -- and the first to win.
But two and a half years since that professional debut against Hugo Aguilar, since making that promise, Manuel has yet to return to the ring and does not know whether he ever will again.