Friday, March 12, 2010
Pac-man primed for Clottey showdown
ARLINGTON, Texas – Manny Pacquiao has ascended to the level of the boxing legends.
He faces a difficult test on Saturday at Cowboys Stadium when he defends his World Boxing Organization welterweight title in an HBO Pay-Per-View bout against Joshua Clottey.
Promoter Bob Arum was beaming after Friday’s festive weigh-in that attracted around 2,500 enthusiastic fans to the plaza outside the swank stadium.
Only a few hundred of the 45,000 tickets for the card remain, prompting Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Friday to offer standing-room tickets at $35 apiece.
Jones refers to his standing-room seats as “party passes,” and Arum will be partying for a week if early indications of the fight’s popularity prove true.
The closed-circuit locations and presales in the East are at record levels, surpassing where they were in 2007 for the Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight. Indications are that the pay-per-view is tracking better than expected, and Arum said he won’t be shocked if it touches 900,000 buyers.
That’s an astonishing number for just about any fight but even more so for a bout against a largely unknown opponent like Clottey, who doesn’t bring with him a large fan base.
Had Pacquiao-Clottey fought two years ago, Arum would have been lucky to have sold a quarter of the tickets he has sold for Saturday’s card.
One of the truths in boxing promoting is that you always need a strong ‘B-side’ if you’re going to do real business.
Pacquiao, though, is one of the few exceptions to that maxim. He is one of those, like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, who no longer needs a wildly popular B-side to sell. Pacquiao sells tickets and pay-per-views on his name alone.
He erased any doubts about his legitimacy as a welterweight when he decimated Cotto in November.
Pacquiao has set the bar enormously high, and though Clottey never has been knocked out, trainer Freddie Roach is expecting Pacquiao to set another first.
“I really believe Manny will find a way,” Roach said.
Pacquiao was as relaxed as ever on Friday. He was wolfing down food in an attempt to come somewhere near the welterweight limit of 147 pounds.
He was 142 when he awakened on Friday, then ate a large breakfast featuring eggs and had a lunch of grilled pork, grilled beef, white and brown rice and steamed vegetables. He was also gulping large amounts of water.
That’s in stark contrast to the vast majority of fighters, who can’t eat at all on the day of the weigh-in and wind up sucking on ice or, if they’re lucky, slices of fruit.
Despite all he ate – and he was headed for dinner after the weigh-in – he still was only 145 pounds.
Like Ali, he understands his place in the sport, as well. Boxing fans were bitterly disappointed when a bout with Mayweather wasn’t finalized. That would have pitted the two best fighters in the world for overall supremacy in a match that in essence would have been boxing’s Super Bowl.
Facing a difficult, but far less notable opponent, Pacquiao understands the need to perform to give the sport a jolt when it needs one after it lost a mega-fight at the negotiating table.
“I can’t promise a knockout, but I want to put on a good show for the people who support me all the time,” he said.
Clottey is a bigger man naturally and probably will weigh around 160 pounds by the time he walks to the ring on Saturday. Pacquiao may go up to 148 but certainly isn’t expected to hit 150.
He has been smaller than everyone he has fought since his epic 2008 match with Juan Manuel Marquez, but in subsequent knockout victories over then-lightweight champion David Diaz, De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Cotto, Pacquiao has been stalking his larger opponents.
Perhaps the most stunning scene in many a year was Cotto, one of the toughest, most aggressive fighters in recent times, backpedaling to flee the power of the man who just two years earlier was fighting at 128 pounds.
His meteoric rise from super bantamweight in 2001, where he won the International Boxing Federation title while weighing 121 pounds, to his crushing victory over Cotto in November has caused some to suspect he has used performance-enhancing drugs.
The Mayweather fight was unable to be made for that very reason, as Mayweather for the first time in his career demanded that his opponent agree to random blood and urine testing.
Arum, though, insists it’s a misnomer to believe Pacquiao is a big man now.
“He was having trouble making 130 and after the Marquez fight (on March 15, 2008), he wanted to go to lightweight (and its 135-pound limit,” Arum said. “But he’s really a 140-pounder now. He fought Hatton at 138. His most comfortable weight now is 140, but if there were some kind of a huge fight at 135, he could make that if he had to.
“That’s what makes what he’s doing all the more remarkable, because you have this little guy just beating the (expletive) out of guys who are physically a lot bigger than he is.”
Clottey has a tight defense and isn’t a guy who throws a lot of punches, thereby reducing the number of openings to be hit. So Pacquiao may not get the knockout, but there is one thing you can count on when Manny Pacquiao hits the ring – excitement.
Legendary hockey announcer Mike Lange of the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins often would say during a particularly exciting game, “If you’ve missed this one, shame on you for six weeks.”
And if you’re a boxing fan and you miss a chance to see Pacquiao, you’re going to regret it a lot longer than just six weeks.
He’s that good.
Author: Kevin Iole