Sunday, January 17, 2010

Manny Pacquiao the Hypocrite

I have a problem.

Never a bandwagon chaser, and wholly unwilling to disrespect the undeserving, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to stay on board the Manny Pacquiao express.

I’ve made my feelings clear about the drug issue, and continue to maintain that Manny was, and is, wrong not to roll up his sleeve and offer a pin-prick of blood to any interested party that wants to clear his name. It seems that not doing so has cost him some $40m (at least for now), and that just doesn’t add up for me.

So be it. I’m no fan of Mayweather either, or of his odious entourage. They go their separate ways for now but everyone knows the financial imperatives will bring them together sooner rather than later.

I was pleased to see Manny name Joshua Clottey as the replacement opponent, who will challenge for the Pacman’s WBO welterweight title on March 13th. I was pleased because I rate Clottey highly and actually think that he’ll be a handful for Pacquiao, and even has an opportunity to walk off with the win.

Imagine my disappointment, then, when it was revealed that Manny’s team is seeking to make the fight at a catch-weight of 145 pounds. It was Pacquiao’s team who winged to the skies that by asking for irregular drug tests Mayweather was seeking to take unfair control of their negotiations, and here they are (not for the first time) trying to manipulate the rules to give their man an unfair advantage.

Of course, they know that Pacquiao is the biggest draw in boxing, that Clottey will enjoy his biggest ever payday, and that he’ll cave on their request because he won’t pass up the cash. They’ll know that Pacquiao won his welterweight title by beating Miguel Angel Cotto, who also agreed to boil down to 145 to accommodate his illustrious challenger.

The point is that the welterweight division has now, and always has had, an upper limit of 147 pounds. Weight limits are in place for the safety of boxers, and to demarcate between them. The governing bodies make fools of themselves, of the boxers, and of us, when they allow championships to be contested outside of the stipulated weight limits.

Sure, Pacquiao and Clottey can agree to fight at any weight they like, but the only possible weight limit under which the welterweight title should be at stake is 147 pounds. Otherwise, it’s a catchweight non-title affair, as was Manny’s contest with Oscar De La Hoya, when the Golden Boy crippled himself in favor of his bank balance.

But, of course, they need a title to attract the big bucks, so the organizations scrape and fawn, genuflect and compromise, and bow to the cash-cow. Lost in translation is the fact that Clottey is big even for 147 (he’s weighed in at 145 before - twice in the last ten years) who at 32 will have to starve himself down to make the weight.

Manny can do this because he’s Manny. He holds all the cards. If Clottey says “no” he loses the payday. It’s the height of hypocrisy for the Pacquiao camp to cry over the manipulations of Mayweather, and then seek to hamstring his replacement in this way.

If one were to draw a parallel with other sports, it’s akin to Roger Federer refusing to play unless the net is dropped a couple of inches on his side only, or Michael Jordan downing tools unless he’s allowed his own personal, wider hoop, or Tiger Woods even insisting on playing with a bigger ball. What they would effectively be saying is: I’m bigger than the sport, play by my rules or not at all.

Pacquiao’s proponents will say, hey, it’s just a measly insignificant two pounds. Yet if it’s significant enough for them to insist upon, then it’s significant enough.
By asking for it, Pacquiao is admitting he’s pushing the envelope in the size stakes. He’s able to do so because he is the finest fighter on the planet right now.
One of his predecessors, and former claimant to that title, was Sugar Ray Robinson, who had his own tilt at Joey Maxim’s light heavyweight title in 1952, when Robinson was world middleweight king and also at the top of his game. Back then, had Robinson asked Maxim to hit the scales at, say, 168 pounds, he would have been laughed out of the ring.

But of course the world has gone mad since then, and money talks. The other option for Pacquiao would have been to jump up yet another weight to challenge for Yuri Foreman’s recently acquired WBA light-middle title, and one wonders how far he’d expect Foreman to shrink to accommodate him.

Clottey, 35-3, 20 KO’s, will sign dutifully on the dotted line, dollar-signs flashing before his eyes. He’s a highly capable fighter who has an unfair reputation as a guy who loses when he moves into the top level. In truth he’s lost three times- the first was a controversial disqualification to Carlos Baldomir 10 years ago when he was thrown out for indiscriminate use of his head, the second was a decision loss in 2006 to a probably un-supplemented Antonio Margarito (the story goes that Clottey damaged his left hand early in the fight), and latterly in June last year when he completely out-fought Miguel Cotto for six rounds only to allow Cotto to out-point him with a skilful rear-guard action in the second half of the fight. There were many on-lookers who had Clottey the winner that night.

So assuming he’s allowed to compete unfettered, Clottey should give the Pacman a run for his money. He might even do so if asked to boil down to 145, but surely then a Pacquiao victory will have a hollow feel to it, and Manny will add yet another victim to his roster of world-class conquests who subjugated their own interests in pursuit of the mighty dollar.


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