Pacquiao matchup

Mar 9, 2010 7:04 AM

The PacMan cometh!

There was a time, all too briefly, alas, that I thought this column was going to be about the biggest fight of all, between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. for the unofficial title of best boxer in the world.

But there’s no use crying over spilled blood tests. Instead, next Saturday we have in Cowboys Stadium – and for $49.95 pay-per-view there had better be cheerleaders because the undercard sucks – Mr. Pacquiao against the venerable Joshua Clottey.

The line is askew. Pacquiao is the obvious choice, but laying 6-1 or higher on him strikes me as a bit overzealous. On the other hand, at 9-2 or so, Clottey seems a very live underdog.

At least physically. The man from Ghana, who gave Antonio Margarito fits before hurting a hand about halfway through, who lost a split decision in his last start, against Miguel Cotto, who is bigger and stronger than Pacman, is not to be trifled with.

Look at the tale of the tape: Pacquiao is 5-foot-6½ with a 67-inch reach; Clottey is 5-8 and 70. But there’s no easy measurement for the advantages the Filipino southpaw has in speed or skills, except perhaps the betting line.

Don’t be caught up in the Cotto comparisons – in his last start, Pacquiao brilliantly broke down and stopped the man who was coming off a victory against Clottey. Horses for courses, styles make fights – choose your cliché.

Don’t believe the hype, either. Like Mayweather now calling himself T.B.E. – for "the best ever" – Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum, may be too lush with the sobriquet of "best fighter I’ve ever seen" and that includes, he says, Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.

Almost sounds like Mr. Arum and young Mr. Mayweather are beginning to hype the big fight all over again. It seems strange that Pacquiao is much more of a favorite to get over his immediate hurdle than Mayweather is May 1 against Sugar Shane Mosley, where T.B.E. is only about 3-1 or 7-2 against the 38-year-old welterweight who has been off for more than a year.

I like Pacquiao here, though I wouldn’t touch the heavy chalk. He has a chance to be the first to stop Clottey, who has only touched canvas once, a flash knockdown in the opening round against Cotto last June, because Freddie Roach says so. Pacquiao’s trainer acknowledges Clottey is "a very strong guy and very strong puncher," but "he can’t beat us."

"He is what he is," said the perennial trainer of the year. "Let’s face it. He fights the same way in every tape I watch, whether he fights southpaws or right-handers. He’s good at what he does, but he does the same thing over and over again. He’s predictable."

Clottey, who rejoiced when the Mayweather fight fell apart and he got this seven-figure payday, "a blessing from God," is a defensive whiz who goes into a crab-like shell protected by his long arms. He understands that Pacquiao throws a lot of punches – why Clottey, who does not, figures to be on the short end of any decision – but only "when he sees the openings."

"He won’t see openings with me," said Clottey.

Clottey said his stinginess on offense was by design. "I am a welterweight," he said, hinting that Pacquiao is probably not a genuine 147-poundeer, "and welterweights only throw punches that connect. I throw punches that connect and cause damage."

Clottey, thankful just to have the fight, of course made no stink about the unproven Mayweather allegations that Pacquiao had some performance-enhancing chemical help. "I don’t want to do that because I respect him too much," said Clottey. "I don’t think he is doing that thing. If he is, he is killing the sport. Between he and God, it is going to some day be a problem. I wouldn’t make him do that steroid thing (blood testing) because I believe him."

Pacquiao again dismissed Mayweather’s deal-breaking demands for random blood tests. "What I believe is Floyd Mayweather is not ready at this time to fight with me," he said. "That’s why he makes the reasons to cancel the fight."

Freddie Roach said, however, that Pacquiao definitely wants to fight Mayweather "to shut his mouth."