Wichita boxing fans may recall first hearing of Immanuel “Manny” Thompson from the Wichita Eagle’s seven part story titled “Hope City” by Roy Wenzl in November of 2002.
The series covered the personal story of Coach Johnny Papin and his then 14-year-old protege, Manny Thompson.
Roy Wenzl was able to capture the heart felt relationship between a coach and his boxer. From a coach repenting from his old thuggish ways to instilling a better way to a trouble-prone child, Manny.
The series ended with Manny writing an article of his own in the Wichita Eagle crediting his Mom and Coach Johnny for his scholastic achievements.
Seven years later, Manny stands at 6’2″ and keeping his fighting weight steady at 168lbs. A lot has happened since the Wichita Eagle series in life and boxing for Manny.
Since the Wichita Eagle series
Manny won the Regional Silver Gloves in 2002 at the 106lb weight division, won two Regional Golden Gloves in 2008 for the 165lb weight class, in 2009 for the 178lb weight class, and fought at the invitational only 2009 USA Boxing Nationals Championships in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
He is ranked 12th in the nation for the 178lb light heavyweight class by USA Boxing. Manny has closed his amateur career of 41 fights (31-11) and is training for a professional debut bout that is in the works for the near future.
However, the Wichita Eagle series didn’t conclude with Manny’s success in the ring but to his achievements in the classroom. As a 14-year-old, getting good grades was a means to boxing because of the restrictions set forth by his Mom, Brenda Thompson. She took him out of boxing for a little more than 2 weeks and that was enough to get Manny’s attention.
Manny Thompson (Photo by Cowley Co. Comm College)
Since then, Manny earned an Associates Degree from Cowley Community College paid for by a full-ride high school academic scholarship.
During the school’s off-season, Manny enlisted in the Army Reserves flirting with trying out for the Army boxing team. The Army boxing didn’t pan out but the training he received has been a valuable experience.
Manny learned to make use of everything he does for excellence and his future under the mentorship of Master Sergeant Keith Price.
Now as a soldier and full-time student on another academic scholarship, he is working toward a Criminal Justice degree with a minor in sociology from Wichita State University.
Manny sounds like a confident young man who has it together of which he doesn’t attribute the credit solely to himself. He is very modest and genuinely gives credit to those who have been there for him.
His Mom, the disciplinarian was the one who set the boundaries and enforced it. A single mother with three boys put her in a position to be tougher than them.
Then Coach Johnny was the one who pressured and developed Manny toward excellence within those set boundaries. He thanks God knowing that the people who came into his life to shape him into who he is and only made possible by God’s mercy and grace to endure.
Manny shows his quick hand speed (Photo by I.Thompson)
“People have told me that I could have done well in other sports like football and basketball if I’d committed myself to any of them like I have with boxing,” said Manny when asked about other sports.
“I chose boxing because of Coach. There’s a one-on-one bond I have with my coach that I never had with any other sports (coaches). I trust him for things outside of the ring as much.”
Manny freely spoke and expressed the love he has for Coach Johnny. It wasn’t just boxing that kept them together.
It was the small things like meeting for Sunday meals, jamming on the saxophones together, and the honest advice Johnny would give him when it was necessary.
Manny, top center, with 2009 Kansas/Oklahoma Regional Golden Gloves Team
The biggest lesson he learned from Coach Johnny is the secret to many successes.
“Coach would always say that you have to be trainable,” said Manny.
Quoting Coach Johnny, Manny said, “You can have all the talent and skills of a great boxer but it means nothing if you’re not trainable! You can’t say you know it.”
Manny has exemplified that advice in his boxing and is also evident in his success out of the ring.
He serves as a role model for many young men in and out of the ring. Boxing fans may want to keep eye out for this young man of great potential.
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