ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Manny Pacquaio arrived at Cowboys Stadium on Wednesday in a bus skinned with his likeness, the seats filled with members of his entourage.
He walked into the formal part of his appearance wearing a snazzy straw hat and a dark blazer. He quickly swapped the sports coat for a red jacket featuring his MP logo in golden thread.
He talked about his upcoming election for Congress in his homeland, the Philippines.
He talked about singing — rehearsing with his band the night before, with another session later Wednesday night, all in preparation for a performance at the after-party following his fight Saturday night.
Oh, yeah. The fight.
Billed as “The Event,” Pacquiao is facing Joshua Clottey on Saturday night in boxing’s debut at the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium.
It’s an intriguing matchup perfect for a football stadium — Pacquiao’s furious offense against Clottey’s dedication to defense — and it’ll look amazing on the 72-foot-high, 160-foot-wide video boards towering over the ring.
A sellout crowd of 45,000 is expected, with the attendance possibly soaring if Cowboys owner Jerry Jones decides to sell standing-room-only tickets. And, of course, there’s the pay-per-view audience that promoter Bob Arum said is likely to top the hoped-for total of 700,000.
Put the pieces together, and it all makes perfect sense: The WBO welterweight champion — already considered the best fighter in the world, pound for pound — is treating this entire week as one big performance, especially if he wins that election and decides to devote more time on politics that pugilism.
“I’m inspired to give a good show, to do my best,” Pacquiao said, smiling. “To impress the people, you have to make your best (effort).”
Then trainer Freddie Roach jumped in, cranking up the hype.
“There’s no stage big enough for Manny Pacquiao,” Roach said. “He loves it, and I love it. He’s going to perform for the crowd. He’ll entertain all 45,000. He’ll entertain everybody.”
Roach said the adrenaline surge that’s going to come from walking into the ring in these surroundings already has been factored into the game plan. That likely means even more punches from Pacquiao (50-3-2), who is already knowing for throwing plenty.
Then again, Clottey (35-3) is known for blocking punches. The 32-year-old Ghana native also has never been knocked out and knocked down only once.
“Blocking punches doesn’t win fights,” Roach said. “I think we can stop him in the late rounds. The accumulation of punches he’ll be taking in this fight he’s never seen before. … I don’t think he’ll be able to handle it.”
Clottey is taller and with a longer reach. He’s never been stopped cold, with his few losses including a disqualification in 1999 and a split decision to Miguel Cotto in his last bout, in June.
Clottey was given this opportunity against Pacquiao when his proposed megafight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. fell through. He’s very appreciative for this opportunity and has nothing but nice things to say about Pacquiao.
It’s Roach who rankles him, from the predicted result to talk of a head butt being one of Clottey’s best punches.
“I’m predicting a win,” he said.
Clottey’s trainer is Lenny De Jesus, who spent a few years as Pacquiao’s cutman. Clottey went with him after his preferred trainer was denied a visa.
Something else missing from his preparation: film sessions, at least not any featuring Pacquiao.
“I don’t like doing that,” Clottey said. “I know his style, I know the way he moves, the way he throws punches, so it doesn’t matter.
“I study myself,” he added. “I watch my own fights. I know what I have to do.”
As for Pacquiao’s future, Arum laughed off any chance that his ace would walk away at the top of his career. He said he keeps hearing about it from Roach, but never from Pacquiao.
All Pacquiao said about it Wednesday was, “I don’t know.”