NEW YORK — Critics called Bob Arum crazy when he supported Manny Pacquiao's decision to walk away from a potential $40 million payday for a March 13 fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. over blood-testing issues.
The colorful promoter joked Wednesday that they must've thought he completely lost his mind when Arum picked Joshua Clottey as Mayweather's replacement. Clottey isn't Pacquiao's primary competitor for pound-for-pound supremacy and he doesn't boast Mayweather's mainstream fame, but he's widely viewed as a high-risk, low-reward threat to end Pacquiao's remarkable run since he last lost a fight nearly five years ago to Mexico's Erik Morales.
"This is a tough fight for us," Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer, told reporters at Madison Square Garden to promote the March 13 clash in Arlington, Texas. "Joshua is a big, strong welterweight."
Ghana's Clottey (35-3, 20 KOs, 1 NC) is a tough former champion who many ringside observers believe beat Miguel Cotto in their welterweight title fight last June 13 at the Garden. Puerto Rico's Cotto was awarded a split-decision win, however, which secured Cotto's November fight against Pacquiao in Las Vegas.
Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs) dominated Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs) in such surprising fashion, a Pacquiao-Mayweather match became boxing's must-see attraction.
Negotiations finally fell apart after representatives for Pacquiao and Mayweather couldn't come to an agreement on time frames for Olympic-style drug testing following mediation two weeks ago in Santa Monica, Calif.
Pacquiao already had filed a defamation lawsuit against Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, which represented Mayweather in the negotiations, because they've at least insinuated that Pacquiao has used performance-enhancing drugs. Clottey, who is managed by Oakland's Vinny Scolpino, made no such suggestions during negotiations.
Clottey claims he won't make the same mistakes Cotto made in the ring against the Filipino southpaw, either.
"Cotto is stronger than Pacquiao," Clottey said. "But Cotto [didn't] respect Pacquiao. He [thought] Pacquiao is too small to hurt him. I'm not thinking that at all. I will give him a lot of respect. With that, he's not going to surprise me with any punch."
Clottey, 32, is considered a smart, defensive-minded fighter who sometimes doesn't throw enough punches against top opponents.
But he has never been knocked out and has beaten former welterweight champ Zab Judah (38-6, 26 KOs, 2 NC) and the late Diego Corrales (40-5, 33 KOs) in recent years. He has lost on points to Cotto and former welterweight champ Antonio Margarito (37-6, 27 KOs, 1 NC), and by disqualification to former welterweight champ Carlos Baldomir (45-12-6, 14 KOs).
Pacquiao, 31, said Wednesday he thought Clottey defeated Cotto. He also expects a much more difficult fight against Clottey than his 12th-round TKO over Cotto.
Pacquiao doesn't know what to expect from Mayweather, though, if he defeats Clottey. If Mayweather (40-0, 25 KOs) fights Shane Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs, 1 NC) — a proposed Pacquiao replacement — Pacquiao expects Mosley will win, which would ruin the Pacquiao-Mayweather momentum they had before the blood-testing controversy.
If Mayweather overcomes Mosley or another opponent, Pacquiao still won't count on facing him.
"I'm not the one who's making alibis to cancel the fight," said Pacquiao. "I think the real thing is he doesn't want the fight."