Pacquiao marches on as true star of boxing


ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The fight was long over and most of the biggest crowd to see a fight in the U.S. in 17 years had found their way out of massive Cowboys Stadium. Manny Pacquiao was in the shower, where one member of his entourage surely was in charge of selecting his shampoo while another had the task of making sure the towels were just right.

Pacquiao had easily disposed of a timid Joshua Clottey, and now he had a concert to perform. He finally emerged in an argyle sweater that would have looked better on the golf course and sunglasses more suited for the beach, with the entourage swelling about him, each jockeying for position in case he could be the lucky one chosen to fluff Pacman’s rice for him.

There was only a few minutes to talk about Floyd Mayweather Jr. and next month’s run for congress in the Philippines. The postfight party awaited, and once more the star was ready to perform.

“The first song I’m going to sing is ‘La Bamba,'” Pacquiao said.

It’s a good time to be Manny Pacquiao, and Texas proved to be a good host to the hottest fighter around. Nearly 51,000 made their way into the edifice built by Jerry Jones to watch him fight Saturday night and few seemed to leave disappointed, even if Clottey’s reluctance to mix it up deprived them of a spectacular fight.

The win was about as easy as they come, with Pacquiao capturing every round on one judge’s scorecard and all but one on the other two. By the time they count all the pay-per-view receipts he’ll probably head home at least $15 million richer, and he didn’t have to put up with Mayweather’s antics to make another huge payday.

The fight that never was may still happen, perhaps in November, perhaps at Cowboys Stadium. Pacquiao made it clear he still wants it, and both his trainer and promoter seem to want it even more badly than the fighter himself.

“We will crush him,” trainer Freddie Roach said.

It wasn’t an idle boast, and it wasn’t a way to hype the fight because it doesn’t need hyping. Before it fell apart over Mayweather’s insistence on blood testing, the bout was supposed to have taken place Saturday night and likely would have been the richest ever in boxing.

But Mayweather must first now get past a fight of his own, a May 1 bout against Shane Mosley that may be his toughest yet. And promoter Bob Arum made it clear that there will be no negotiations this time around about any sort of blood testing no matter how much Mayweather might try to raise the point.

“That was a stupid mistake I made by playing Neville Chamberlain and negotiating this issue,” Arum said, drawing an analogy that only a boxing promoter could. “You don’t negotiate. You don’t appease. Chamberlain negotiated with Hitler on Munich and look what happened.”

History lesson aside, there clearly isn’t any need for Pacquiao’s camp to bend on the issue. Any thought that Mayweather diminished his popularity when he insinuated Pacquiao must be juiced to have won titles from 112 to 147 pounds evaporated when they opened the doors at Cowboys Stadium and throngs of people poured in hours early for the party.

And a party was what it was, despite Clottey’s attempt to preserve his boxing future by spending long stretches of time in the ring holding his gloves in a peek-a-boo style to avoid getting hit. Pacquiao did the best he could to force the issue, throwing punch after punch after punch — more than 1,200 in all — but if a fighter goes into the ring just to survive the odds are good he will do just that.

Someone who managed to get a microphone at the postfight press conference congratulated Clottey for making it through 12 rounds, and asked him what his secret for success was.

“Manny Pacquiao is beating everybody,” Clottey said. “He’s knocking them out. I have to do what I can and I think I did my best.”

Arum didn’t seem to mind that he had just paid someone $2 million to go into a shell. This was a party, after all, and the fight was secondary.

‘What was he supposed to do?” Arum said. “If he played offense he’d get knocked out.”

This was a freebie for Pacquiao, and one he had probably earned. It’s hard to blame him for having an opponent just trying to stay upright, not after what he did to Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto in his previous three fights.

This, apparently, is what it has come to with Pacman. No longer just content to beat fighters he’s now a 145 3/4 pounds of sheer intimidation, kind of a junior Mike Tyson who takes on his business with a smile instead of a scowl.

He’s so good that a very good and veteran practicer of the sweet science decided that it was better to survive intact than go down in a blaze of glory. So good that there wouldn’t be any question about his place on boxing’s hierarchy if there wasn’t this annoyance named Floyd Mayweather.

So good that the only worry in his camp is that he will actually win a seat in congress back home and not fight anymore.

“He’s probably going to win the election,” Arum said. “But that’s all right because if their congress is anything like ours, they don’t do anything anyway.”

The glow of his latest win had even his tough guy trainer speaking fondly about the fighter he has helped transform a tough sport.

“I’m just happy to be a part of Manny Pacquiao’s life,” Roach said.

He’s not alone. Just ask the guy lucky enough to be chosen to fluff his rice.