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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Manny Pacquiao raises the bar: The Pacman to test reluctant Floyd Mayweather Jr after crushing Joshua Clottey

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By Jeff Powell in DALLAS Last updated at 11:29 PM on 14th March 2010

As if 12 rounds of world championship boxing were not enough for one night's work, Manny Pacquaio bounced out to another stadium across the road to give a late night concert for thousands of his fans.

The first song of his 90 minute session was a rousing rendition of La Bamba.

This little chap is possessed of more energy than it takes to power up the space station of an arena in which he retained his world welterweight title against a challenger who dwarfed him in the ring.

The sound and light show was dazzling but no star shone bigger or brighter in the Texas sky this Saturday night the most brilliant boxer on planet Earth.

The high-tec wizardry which surged across the largest HD screens in the world created a spectacle in its own right but nothing could equal the velocity of Pacquaio.

The Pacman was a blur, a meteor hurtling through the vastness of the Dallas Cowboys Stadum as he continued his journey from the slums of the Philippines to a place in the galaxy of sporting greatness.

There is no word yet as to how Floyd Mayweather Jr viewed his arch-rival's performance but if the idea was to lure back into negotiations the American who kicked up the stink about drugs testing which forced the cancellation of their mega-fight, it may have done exactly the opposite.

The perceived wisdom has been that Mayweather's size and defensive skills would make him impregnable against any smaller fighter, no matter how gifted. That theory was thrown into question here as Pacquaio won almost every round against Joshua Clottey, an iron-man of a former champion who weighed two divisions heavier than himself by the time they entered the ring and who boxed behind a defensive wall of arms and gloves.

Promoter Bob Arum accuses Mayweather of manufacturing the blood-testing scandal to avoid fighting his Pacman. If so, Floyd Jr may be more reluctant now to come back to the party in November.

If that fight were to take place here it would become not only the first $200 million promotion but would more than double Saturday's crowd of 50,994, which of itself raised the bar for boxing attendances in the future.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones would relish the opportunity - saying 'such an event would be very good for boxing' - even though Clottey's unwillingness to co-operate in a thriller left Pacquaio to put on a virtual one-man show.

As the Ghanian who came to America via east London played peek-a-boo Pacquaio piled up the points by throwing a phenomenal 1,231 punches, most of them in clusters at light speed, many of them to the body.

He kept firing, even though that left him exposed to Clottey's occasional counters.

Sporadic, Clottey's responses may have been but when he did connect he did so with sufficient force to prove that Pacquaio is equipped with another of the components of ring greatness. In common with Muhammad Ali, he has a granite jaw.

Clottey excused his negative tactics by saying: 'He is so fast. Maybe too fast even for Mayweather. My only chance was to land the big counter punch.'

Then, in reference to three previous defeats on his long record, he admitted: 'This is the only fight I fight I think I really lost.'

By a considerable distance, as it happens. One judge awarded Pacquaio a 12-round shut-out. The other two, like most of us at ringside, gave Clottey just the third round in a 119-109 thrashing.

The third biggest gate of modern times in US boxing would have preferred a stoppage but Pacquaio's master-coach Freddie Roach said: 'When a guy this big and strong is simply trying to survive it is very difficult to knock him out. I still give me my man an A-star for his performance.'

Few present would disagree. They were treated to a an eye-popping extravaganza which even included three Cowboy cheerleaders singing the US national anthem, and very well, too.

Yet for the most part the special effects were tailored to complement the boxing. That came by way of round-by-round repetition. Pacquaio went to work with a lightning will, getting caught from time to time by Clottey's heavy but infrequent punches.

At the service of Mass which always precedes his fights, the devoutly Catholic Pacqauio had not only his shorts, boots and robe blessed by the priest but also the cup which protects his groin. A not unwise precaution since Clottey was warned for hitting him low in round eight.

At the end, Roach, Arum and Pacquaio goaded Mayweather. The trainer said: 'Come on Floyd, stop talking and start fighting.' The promoter said: 'We believe he is using the drugs testing controversy to duck Manny. If we're wrong, let him sign a regular contract.' The boxer said: 'I have no problem fighting Mayweather but I don't think he's ready in his mind to me at the moment. Maybe some time.'

It had better be some time soon if Pacquaio wins a seat in the Philippine congress in the May 10 election there. And the politics of helping the poor is not his only distraction. He is now acting in movies, as well as taking the singing career so seriously that a voice coach - as well as his Jack Russell terrier who is his running partner every morning - is in his personal entourage.

For his next act - on his way home for the election campaign - he will star in another concert, in Honolulu next Sunday.

There ain't no stopping him now.

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