Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pacquiao, Clottey more friends than foes

GRAPEVINE, Texas – They were supposed to be combatants, but Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey appeared more like friends when they met at the final press conference of “The Event” at the cavernous $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium Wednesday.

Pacquiao and Clottey stood up from their corners, headed for the center of the stage, exchanged glances and then smiled at each other. They were still grinning when they were made to stand side by side and back to back by the swarm of photographers angling for right spots.

Since becoming pound-for-pound king in 2006, Pacquiao, who was accompanied by Dallas Cowgirls, brightened up the boxing scene with his pleasant behavior. He doesn’t trash-talk, belittle opponents and flaunt his exploits, forcing opponents to reciprocate with similar civility, thus avoiding pre-fight hostilities.

Clottey, who’ll be trying to snare Pacquiao’s welterweight crown Saturday, was no exception. Drawn by the Filipino’s genuine warmth and humbleness, the Ghanaian ended up an admirer.

Come fight time, however, Pacquiao, the only seven-time world champion in as many divisions, and Clottey, a fierce warrior longing for international recognition, will try to knock each other out as they try to make their countrymen back home happy and proud.

But for the moment, billionaire Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys and the sparkling new stadium that can accommodate more than 100,000 fans, is satisfied with his successful return to boxing promotion.

Jones, along with co-promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank, are hoping for a sellout crowd of 45,000, that would be more than double the 18,276 fans he drew when he stopped Erik Morales in the end of their trilogy in and at least 700,000 pay-per-view hits.

Also in attendance were WBO president lawyer Francisco "Paco" Valcarcel and Mark Taffet, head of HBO PPV.

Valcarcel, who gave Jones a plaque of appreciation for helping the sport, sad Pacquiao is in for a tough battle as Clottey has never been stopped in compiling a 35-win, 3-loss slate laced with 21 knockouts.

Taffet, on the other hand, tagged Pacquiao as the PPV superstar after his last three fights posted more than a million hits each.

Pacquiao (50-3-2 with 38 Kos) remains the heavy favorite though as his riding an 11-game winning streak, the last four coming by knockout over former WBC lightweight titlist David Diaz, future Hall-of-Famer Oscar De La Hoya, British pride Ricky Hatton and Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto, who bested Clottey by split decision last year.

With their wards refusing to make predictions, the responsibilities fell on four-time Trainer of the Year Freddie Roach, who’s handling Pacquiao and Lenny DeJesus, who’s got 40 years of involvement in boxing and is regarded as one of the best cutmen ever.

Roach earlier predicted a 6th or 7th round knockout of Clottey while DeJesus, who’ve been in Pacquiao’s corner five times from 2003-2005, said his ward has a 70 percent chance to dethrone Pacquiao, who’ll be performing with his own band in a post-fight party at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

Pacquiao, a ferocious attacker, merely promised to give the fans a great fight while Clottey, a durable defender, vowed a performance of his life.

Roach said Pacquiao would overwhelm Clottey with the sheer volume of punches he’d throw from all angles.

Clottey believes he can either block or withstand Pacquiao’s assault and eventually wear him down.

Whoever is right will be known on Saturday, when Pacquiao and Clottey discard the pleasantries and waged an all-out-war that has a good chance of becoming a classic.


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