World's best Pac-Man devours all before him

Thu, Mar 25, 2010, 00:00

AMERICA AT LARGE:Money Boy Mayweather needs manny a lot more than Manny needs Floyd, writes GEORGE KIMBALL

ALTHOUGH HIS opponent didn’t leave him much of a canvas to work with, Manny Pacquiao’s display of artistry at Cowboys Stadium 12 days ago reaffirmed his position as the world’s top practising boxer, and as the numbers continue to roll in there is every indication he could emerge from this spring the number one box-office draw as well.

This, in the end, could be the more critical point if and when negotiations resume for a showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr, because if one thing has become clear it is that, no matter what the folks at Golden Boy Promotions might try to tell you, Money Boy needs Manny a lot more than Manny needs Floyd.

The 700,000 PPV buys engendered by what must retrospectively be conceded was a mismatch against the game but unwilling Joshua Clottey on March 13th constituted the US’ largest pay-per-view audience for a fight between two non-American boxers, a claim that will remain undisturbed by whatever numbers emerge from Mayweather’s May 1st bout against Shane Mosely. Moreover, even a sellout crowd for Mayweather-Mosely at the MGM Grand Garden would represent barely a third of the 50,944 who paid their way into Jerry Jones’ space-age stadium outside Dallas.

The last 6,000 or so of these, by the way, came in the 24 hours before the bout, when Jones, assured of a sellout in the 45,000-seat boxing configuration, opened up the stadium to the “Party Pass” option. An innovation developed by the Cowboys’ owner for sold-out football games, the party pass provides patrons with access to a standing-room-only plaza inside the stadium.

For €26 (in the case of the Pacquiao fight), fans are able to commingle, with access to bars and the state-of-the-art video boards. The Cowboys’ information page says Jones developed his party pass concept “to accommodate fans who just want to be part of the atmosphere”. Since for another €10 they could have stayed home and gotten a much better view of the fight in their living rooms, we must assume the party-pass crowd was there mostly to, well, party.

Interestingly, as impressively head-turning as the live gate numbers turned out to be, the crowd was not a Texas record for either indoor or outdoor boxing events, but Pacquiao and Bob Arum can blame Jones for that. The largest crowd to see a boxing event in the Lone Star state was the 58,891 who witnessed the Julio Cesar Chavez-Pernell Whitaker draw in San Antonio’s Alamodome 18 years earlier. The record for outdoor attendance belongs to Oscar De La Hoya-Patrick Charpentier, at the Sun Bowl in El Paso in 1988.

With its retractable roof, Cowboys Stadium could have been either. It had always been Jones’ intention to roll back the roof at the conclusion of the evening to give the patrons one more thing to gasp about on their way out the door. It requires nearly 20 minutes to fully open or close the roof, and the winches weren’t even switched on until the 10th round was in progress. Had Jerry his wits about him, he could have ordered the roof opened before the main event and assured himself the outdoor record.

Mayweather and Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer had dismissed Cowboys Stadium as a site even before they essentially dismissed Pacquiao as an opponent with their insulting demand for additional blood testing as a precondition.

Pacquiao is already on record as wanting to return to Dallas for his next bout, and as the man with more options, the tune may be his to call.

How viable those options turn out to be remains to be learned. Pacquiao is standing for office back in the Philippines, and, according to trainer Freddie Roach, no negotiations will take place until after the May elections.

Of course, this isn’t the first time Pac-Man has been a congressional candidate. Three years ago, when he last fought in Texas, he came out of his April win over Jorge Solid with a 20-point lead in the polls over his incumbent opponent, Darling Antonio-Custodia, only to be trounced at the voting booths a month later.

Arum, who campaigned for Pacquiao then, ascribed the defeat not to the boxer’s ill-defined position on the issues, but to the notion that “the Filipino people were afraid if he got elected Manny would retire from boxing. This was the only way they could make sure he’d keep fighting.”

If that was true then, isn’t it equally true today

Like Mayweather, a self-styled rapper with his own label, Filthy Rich records, Pacquiao also fancies himself an entertainer. A few nights before fighting Clottey he appeared before a national television audience on Jimmy Kimmell’s late-night programme, and followed an interview with a rendition of a song. Asked to evaluate Pacquiao’s performance, Arum said “compared to Oscar (De La Hoya), he sounds like Caruso”.

But from other indications Manny shouldn’t be thinking about giving up his day job just yet. He had raised some eyebrows when he had booked a singing engagement in Hawaii just six days after the fight. Pacquiao, whose take from the Clottey fight could push the €15 million mark, had been guaranteed €100,000 for a one-night appearance at the Waikiki Shell last Sunday. Then, just a few nights after the fight in Dallas, promoters of the Hawaii concert pulled the plug and cancelled the gig on the entirely reasonable grounds that the advance sale consisted of 603 tickets for an 8,500 capacity venue.

One more interesting footnote to Pacquiao-Clottey. Pacquiao’s three previous bouts had seen him impressively stop De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto, but the Ghanaian became the first opponent weighing more than 135lb to go the distance with Manny.

Roach, who had all but guaranteed a Pac-Man KO, had based his assumption on a game plan predicated on his exhaustive study of Clottey’s tapes.

“I knew our best chance of knocking Clottey out would be to catch him when he’s throwing a punch,” said Roach. “But Clottey doesn’t like to punch while you’re throwing one.

“The plan was that Manny would throw a one-two and then step backward as if he were trying to get out. We knew that would bring Clottey in, and the instant Manny saw him start to throw his jab he was supposed to catch him with a hook on top of it.”

“But when I step back out, what if he doesn’t come in?” wondered Pacquiao.

“He will,” promised Roach.

But he didn’t. At least 10 times in 12 rounds Pacquiao baited the hook, and not once did Clottey rise to it, leading Roach to speculate on the presence of a mole.

Gee. You think?

“We did have one sparring partner from Ghana (Abullai Amidu),” Roach reflected the morning after the fight. “(Clottey and his corner) sure seemed to know what we were up to.”

Not that it did them a lot of good otherwise.

“Pacquiao is already on record as wanting to return to Dallas for his next bout, and as the man with more options, the tune may be his to call. How viable those options turn out to be remains to be learned