Thursday, January 21, 2010

Welterweight champ Pacquiao forgets Mayweather, gears up for Clottey bout

DALLAS -- World welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao moved on from the acrimony of his aborted fight against Floyd Mayweather by officially announcing his WBO defense against Joshua Clottey at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

Pacquiao, the Filipino winner of world championships in an unprecedented seven different weight classes, takes on the former world champion from Ghana on March 13 at Cowboys Stadium, the new $1.2-billion home of the NFL team.

The highly anticipated Las Vegas showdown between Mayweather and Pacquiao, the two men considered the best pound-for-pound boxers in the world, was scrubbed earlier this month when they could not agree on a drug-testing protocol for the bout.

Celebrated by the appearance of former boxing champions, former Cowboys Super Bowl champion players, and the pom-pom waving Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, Pacquiao and Clottey took the podium at midfield of the stadium to herald what is being promoted as "The Event."

"Amazing. I feel like I’m a football player," Pacquiao said after entering the stadium through a smoke filled tunnel and a gauntlet of cheerleaders.

"It’s going to be a good fight. Clottey, he’s a good fighter, a top fighter and he’s bigger than me. I have to prepare hard for this fight and train hard and focus."

Clottey added: "This fight is going to be a hell of a fight. I love Manny Pacquiao. He is one of my favorite fighters.

"He’s a throwback fighter. If you throw at him, he’ll throw back at you. I know what I’m going to face."

The 31-year-old Pacquiao, winner of his last 11 bouts over the last four years that brought him titles in four different divisions, has a record of 50-3-2.

But Clottey served notice that he intends to be more than simply a fill-in fighter destined to fall to the Philippines’ powerhouse.

Clottey, 32, has a mark of 35-3.

The Ghanaian lost the WBO welterweight title in a 12-round split decision to Miguel Angel Cotto, who subsequently relinquished the crown to Pacquiao.

The matchup will headline the first fight card at Cowboys Stadium, home of the famed American football squad from Dallas. Each fighter sported a Cowboys jersey as cheerleaders screamed beneath a huge video screen.

"It’s a building for great competitions. It bodes well for us to get Manny Pacquiao into the ring," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, whose guarantee of $25 million was not enough to bring a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight together.

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, made it clear after the news conference that hard feelings remain over the failure to make Pacquiao-Mayweather happen after a compromise of no blood test within two weeks of the fight.

Pacquiao "is disappointed the fight is not here," Roach told ESPN. "Life goes on without Mayweather. He wouldn’t agree to [a limit of] 14 days before the fight. We did our best to appease him but he wouldn’t go along with it.

"Mayweather’s people agreed to it but Mayweather wouldn’t go along with it. I don’t think he wants to fight [Manny]. It was a smoke screen for him to say no.

"I want to beat this guy’s ass, believe me, but he won’t give us the opportunity... We will fight him any day of the week. But he doesn’t make the rules."

Pacquiao dislikes having blood drawn so near a fight, saying it weakens him. Roach said he could not afford a blood test to distract "Pacman" so near a fight and dismissed the idea his fighter had anything to hide.

"There are always doubters out there but Manny Pacquiao is clean," Roach said.

"He has passed every drug test in the world."

Welcomed by Jones to the stadium informally known as "Jerry’s House," Roach said: "This is going to be the Super Bowl of boxing."

The 100,000-capacity Cowboys Stadium is expected to seat about 40,000 for the bout, with fans in the distant seats able to follow the ring action on a huge 72-foot (22 m) high-definition screen.


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