The Next Instalment: Pacquiao - Clottey

By John Wight: The next instalment of the Manny Pacquiao story is about to take place in Dallas, Texas, when the Filipino phenomenon steps into the ring to face genuinely tough, genuine welterweight - Joshua Clottey. However, and with no disrespect to Mr Clottey, superb athlete and proponent of the sport that he is, in the weeks and days leading up to this fight the burning question on everyone’s lips, the one question that the sport itself demands answer to, has continued to be: when will we see Pacquiao v Mayweather?

It is a question, concerning the two pound-for-pound greats of the modern era, which has assumed the status of a religious mantra; such has been the impassioned desire of sports fans to see it take place..

The simple fact is that at this stage in his career Manny Pacquiao doesn’t need Clottey on his record to cement his boxing legacy. But he does need Mayweather. As for Pretty Boy, whilst a better case can perhaps be made for him testing his unbeaten record against the superb Shane Mosley, much the same logic applies: the only fight that makes sense for him now is against the one man with the style to smash through his justifiably renowned defence – Manny Pacquiao.

Of course, it is tempting fate to write off fighters of the calibre of Clottey or Mosley in advance. But on this one I am more than willing to stick my neck out. In the case of the former, he doesn’t have the speed or reflexes to counter the blizzard combinations, thrown from multiple angles, of Manny Pacquiao. A style which involves standing straight up in front of his opponent with a high, tight guard is a godsend for the fighter from the Philippines, who in over 50 pro fights, with only 3 defeats, has proved adept at following the adage that in boxing you take what you are given. Clottey’s muscular physique will prove a severe disadvantage past the midway point, when a combination of sustained blows to the body, arms and shoulders, combined with the build up of lactic acid, will see him too exhausted to pull the trigger. And when he does his shots will be drained of any meaningful snap and power, not to mention the speed required to catch his opponent. Add this to the fact that Clottey goes into this fight already disadvantaged by his tendency to throw fewer shots than his opponent, much less against one known for the exact opposite, and you begin to see why Freddie Roach is a man who knows his boxing onions better than anyone in the sport today.

The truth is that Clottey, size and weight advantage regardless, is tailor-made for Pacquiao, as was Miguel Cotto before him, a fighter lest we forget that many in the run up convinced themselves had too much strength, durability and power for Pacman.

Rumours abound as to the real reason that the Mayweather fight didn’t take place. Some within the tent have claimed that Mayweather didn’t feel ready to face Pacquiao; that he was nursing a hand injury and wanted a fight in-between to get himself right. Others claim that all the talk about performance enhancing drugs was a PR stunt employed to hype the fight up even more than it was already, with an eye on breaking the bank with pay-per-view hits when it finally does take place.

I’m not sure that I agree with either thesis. First of all, Mayweather didn’t need to engage in hyperbole to justify delaying the Pacman fight if he’d had genuine reason to. He could have been honest and revealed that he needed more time to get over a niggling injury and the sport would have understood. Too, it would be a statement of gross absurdity to describe a fight against an opponent of the stature and skill of Sugar Shane Mosley as a tune-up fight, no matter how good Mayweather is.

Secondly, Mayweather v Pacquiao is one sporting event that needs no additional hype, even of the bad blood variety injected by the furore that took place in the wake of the Mayweather camp’s demands for random drug testing.

No, what we have are two of the greatest fighters to ever grace the sport living and fighting in the same era. Mayweather knows that Pacquiao is all that stands between him and the eternal status in the sport, the legacy, which even he, with his attachment to conspicuous consumption, cherishes more than money.

Pacquaio is a different matter. With him you get a strong sense that life after boxing fast approaches, with the desire to return to his country and use his popularity and platform to succeed in politics increasingly eclipsing his hunger to step through the ropes. This is a man intent on trying to drag his benighted country out of the mire of poverty and corruption in which it has existed for far too long, and compared to such a lofty objective boxing comes a poor second, as does his legacy in the sport. This is why the question we’ve all been asking may well return the answer the sport has been dreading. The fact is that Pacquiao is running out of time to hang around the sport he’s graced so majestically for the past ten years or so, with not only the fans, commentators and aficionados of the game but Mayweather himself in real danger of being left to forever regret that the fight never took place.

The details of the dispute that we witnessed poisoning the sport at the turn of the year have already been gone over too many times to repeat.

They didn’t make pleasant reading, and all in all have been bad for boxing. Mud sticks, and for many Pacquiao’s halo of greatness doesn’t fit as well as it once did. Partisans of either side of the argument will continue to be unshakable in their respective stance, but if there is a middle ground then I am firmly on it. I see both sides of the argument and therefore find it hard to see how a compromise can possibly be reached. Mayweather demands random blood testing, which he is willing to accede to himself. On the surface it would be hard to argue with that.

However, the counter argument against a fighter being able to demand his own conditions, outside the existing rules of the sport, is also compelling.

What is also compelling is that these two men face one another in the squared circle a few months from now. For if ever a fight could be described as bigger than the sport then surely this is it.

Regardless of what happens in Dallas this Saturday or in Vegas on May 1, when Mayweather and Mosley get it on, the question will not go away.

For the sake not only of boxing but for sport in general, let’s hope it doesn’t become one of those ‘who would have won between…?’ questions that are thrown around boxing gyms, diners, workplaces and bars for decades to come.

Article posted on 12.03.2010

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