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By Ronnie Nathanielsz

04 Feb 2011

One has only to read the basic vision of the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards to realize that out of the six nominees for this year’s honors – Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, Spanish footballer Andres Iniesta and Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Spain’s tennis grandslam winner Rafael Nadal, Germany’s FI racing phenomenon Sebastian Vettel and Manny Pacquiao - its clear that our very own pound-for-pound king and “Fighter of the Decade” embodies all that the award stands for.

As its website states, Laureus celebrates the universal power of sport to bring people together as a force for good, passionately embodying the very spirit of sport – the pursuit of excellence, overcoming challenges, celebrating achievement and excellence, and winning against the odds.

It's as though it was written with Manny Pacquiao in mind. And should those who cast their secret ballots for the winner somehow fail to measure Pacquiao’s credentials against what Laureus stands for then it would be a monumental disservice not just to Pacquiao and what he represents, but the award itself.

Breaking free from the bondage of his childhood poverty Pacquiao looked at his hardship not as a burden but as a challenge and through remarkable discipline, hard-work and unmatched dedication overcame all odds to become the only boxer in the long and storied history of the sport to win eight world titles in eight different weight divisions. In a truly demanding sport he rose above its demands.

Every time he entered the ring he carried our nation on his shoulders. He fought for the honor of his countrymen and the glory of his motherland and offered his success in the ring to God from whom he said all blessings flow

He single-handedly restored respectability to the Philippines in the international community and redeemed our country’s image at a time of trouble. When he fights, people from all walks of life and from every economic and social bracket join as one in cheering their hero and exulting in his triumphs.

Crime is almost non-existent on the day he fights and even the Muslim rebels and the Communist New Peoples Army lay down their arms to follow his exploits. Bitter political rivals answer his call to set aside their differences and gather as one in movie houses, restaurants, college auditoriums and venues across the country to cheer him on and to share the pride and joy of his victories.

Through all his successes in the ring Pacquiao has shown care and concern for his opponents, treated them with respect and demonstrated incredible humility despite his glorious achievements and the wealth he has deservedly earned from his exploits in the ring.

We vividly recall how Manny some ten years ago walked into the office of his father-figure, mentor and business manager, the late Rod Nazario, and told him in our presence that he wanted to help the poor people of his region and wished to enter public service.

Four years ago he ran for public office and lost. But like a true warrior he never gave up. Learning from his mistakes Pacquiao waged a passionate campaign for the lone congressional district of Sarangani province against the representative of a wealthy and entrenched political dynasty. He identified with the vast majority of poor people in Sarangani by recalling the story of his own life and inspiring them to follow his example and to overcome. At the same time he promised to stand with them in the battle for a better life. That noble mission is underway.

Manny recently recorded a television endorsement for the socially oriented Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office which, at his going rate would amount to anywhere between P10 to 20 million. In a gesture characteristic of his commitment to his constituents Pacquiao sacrificed his fees and instead bargained for seven ambulances for his congressional district. That provided an insight into the measure of the man.

Manny is in the forefront of the drive against the degradation of the environment and goes into mountainous areas to educate people on the irreparable damage caused by illegal logging. He plays a vital role in the drive against human trafficking and many other endeavors that uplift the spirit and nourish the soul of human dignity.

While Laureus strives to change the world for the better and seeks to inspire hope and positive change for young people around the world using sport as a unique social vehicle, Manny has been a beacon for poor young men in the Philippines to fight their way out of poverty and to seek a better quality of life for themselves and their families..

The Laureus World Sports Awards has been hailed as a magical concept that affects all that it touches. It brings people together and unites them - for sport is a universal language that unites and inspires. Manny Pacquiao embodies the very essence of the award. He deserves it like no other.

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