This Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium, Bob Arum gets his wish. The Top Rank promoter has returned boxing in America to a major stadium, the giant, state-of-the-art football field in Arlington, Texas. With the help of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Arum's dream has come true. And it won't stop there, as he's got boxing coming back to Yankee Stadium in June.
But for now, it's all about this Saturday. Pound-for-pound co-king and WBO welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao squares off with former IBF titlist and perennial welterweight top fiver Joshua Clottey in the main event of the first HBO PPV broadcast of 2010.
Arum needs big things. He needs a win financially here as much as he needs Pacquiao to win and look good against the tough Clottey. He needs this fight to do great on pay-per-view.
He needs it because after this is done, and after May 1, if both Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. come out victorious, the public demand for them to fight will be at an all-time high ... or at least that's what boxing needs.
But if Mosley-Mayweather beats Pacquiao-Clottey on pay-per-view (and it likely will), Pacquiao isn't going to get the same 50-50 offer that was on the table last time. Mayweather will want more. He'll have plenty of good reasons to want more, too.
Let's ignore business for now, though. How about the fight?
It's a tricky thing to pick a Manny Pacquiao fight these days. If you say he'll lose, the squawking Pacquiao fanatics will turn up and tell you how stupid you are, and that's if they're being nice that day. They especially kick the heat up when he wins, proving you wrong. For the record, I couldn't give a rat's ass if I'm wrong picking who wins a fight. I don't bet money on the outcomes. All I want are good fights.
But now I feel like if I pick Pacquiao to beat the living hell out of Clottey, I'm then "overlooking" Clottey, not giving him enough credit, not aware of how good he is.
So let me get this out of the way: I'm very aware that Joshua Clottey is a very good fighter. I have him ranked No. 5 at welterweight, where the top six is better than any division in boxing, and by a wide margin. There are three pound-for-pound top five guys at the top of this weight class, and the next three (Cotto, Clottey and Berto) aren't anything to shake a stick at either.
I know Clottey fought Margarito hard back when Margarito was steamrolling everyone. I know you can argue that Clottey should have beaten Cotto. I know Clottey beat Zab Judah via technical decision, and also feel that had Judah continued on in that fight, it just would've turned more and more in Clottey's favor.
But Joshua Clottey is not going to beat Manny Pacquiao. He's not going to come close to doing so, either.
Since rising in weight from his brief pit stop at 135 pounds, where he nearly beheaded poor David Diaz, Manny Pacquiao has taken Oscar de la Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto to the woodshed. Each one has gone down spectacularly -- one beaten into retirement, one knocked clean out, and one so overwhelmed he ran out of ring in which to run.
Oscar was old, weight-drained, and a part-time fighter. But Manny beat him so bad, he quit on his stool and looks unlikely to ever return to the ring. Ricky Hatton had never lost at 140 pounds. Then came Manny Pacquiao, who scored an all-time great knockout in just two rounds, flattening the "Hitman" and ending his enjoyable run as one of the sport's true elite. Cotto was in good shape, had a decent gameplan, and then just couldn't keep up. Eventually, Pacquiao wore him down and worked him over.
Counting those three and Joshua Clottey, I'd rate Clottey as definitely the best defensive fighter. But he's also the least explosive of them all, and probably even the least dynamic offensively. Hatton's "hook-and-hold" routine has always been pretty simple, but no one ever accused of him of giving rounds away because he wouldn't do anything. That's been a knock on Clottey.
At some point, Joshua Clottey's guard has to go down, and he has to try to score. I don't think he's got the speed to counter Pacquiao effectively if he wants to cover and shoot back shots one or two at a time when Manny lunges. I don't think he has the punching power to make a real difference that way, either.
He's too slow, too basic, and put simply, I don't think he's good enough. And again, I think Joshua Clottey is very good.
I don't expect this fight to be close. Oddsmakers have Pacquiao installed as the overwhelming favorite. If Joshua Clottey pulls this off, count it as the first great upset of the new decade. But unless the referee jumps in, I also don't see Manny stopping this guy. I'm thinking a wide decision, something like 117-111. Pacquiao UD-12