(Jed Jacobsohn, Getty Images, captures the fight in microcosm.)
Until Saturday night, the last time anyone had an unsatisfactory evening of boxing in an event that involved Manny Pacquiao was in October of 2007, when the Pac-Man fought Marco Antonio Barrera for the second time. The common denominator for Saturday and October ’07? Barrera fought to survive, and so did Pacquiao’s Saturday night opponent, Joshua Clottey. Making matters worse was one of the crappiest undercards of the last several years, with three fights that weren’t meaningful but were expected at least to produce some fireworks. Didn’t happen.
It was a major event on paper, though, because Pacquiao is the pound-for-pound king and he fought in a billion dollar spaceship. That means there are topics worth discussing yet, satisfied or no.
- Pacquiao’s performance. There is much to like here in Pacquiao’s second welterweight fight. He became the first man to beat Clottey by more than a hair. He threw more punches than ever, almost 1,300, again showing what an athletic freak he is. He landed more body punches than ever, 108. On the other hand, he should have thrown even more to the body, because he was connecting plenty more there than to the head, and it was the closest he came to hurting Clottey, who said afterward he noticed Pacquiao’s speed but didn’t feel his power. According to CompuBox, Pacquiao threw 549 jabs, and landed a mere 14 of them. That’s three percent. I know that just about anybody would have had trouble landing on Clottey with the way he covered up, but 14 for 549 has to be troubling if Pacquiao is to fight Floyd Mayweather and crack his vaunted defense with his jab. And, obviously, Pacquiao’s approach — quick combos, turn, repeat an amazing number of times — had something to do with Clottey fighting so conservatively; if Clottey’s trainer Lenny DeJesus is to be believed, Pacquiao’s power explained the lack of risk-taking by his charge. In return, Clottey’s refusal to open up gave Pacquiao fewer openings for his own attack, and it’s why trainer Freddie Roach said his charge Pacquiao didn’t get the KO. Also worth noting: This is now the third fight in four where Pacquiao made his opponent fight in an apparent survival mode — Clottey, Miguel Cotto, Oscar De La Hoya.
- Next for Pacquiao. First up are the elections in the Philippines. Pacquiao is running for Congress for the second time. He is not expected to win, with even his team calling him the underdog against an opponent with the name recognition in PI that one observer compared to “Bush” or “Kennedy” here. As genuinely as Pacquiao seems to want to help his people by legislating, apparently nobody in the Philippines wants him to do so if it means he doesn’t box, too. Thus, the likeliest outcome is that Pacquiao will lose the race May 20 and fight again in November. If Pacquiao’s promoter Top Rank boss Bob Arum gets his way, the opponent will be Antonio Margarito. Some think this is a ploy to use as leverage to fight the winner of May 1’s Floyd Mayweather-Shane Mosley, but Top Rank also promotes Margarito and Arum played a pretty active role in killing Mayweather-Pacquiao the first time around. I’m guessing Arum genuinely prefers to keep it in the family, even though Pacquiao-Margarito would be greeted with disgust by a great many boxing fans due to Margarito’s glove-loading scandal last year. Pacquiao and trainer Roach genuinely want Mayweather, I think, but they aren’t willing to agree to any blood testing per Mayweather’s demands, and Mayweather isn’t likely to back off. Again, somebody needs to cave if this fight is going to happen, and I could care less whom. Mosley’s a more appealing fight aesthetically, but I believe that even if he wins Mayweather has a rematch clause. The only other option for Pac that would be even remotely compelling would be a defense of his junior welterweight championship against Timothy Bradley or a welterweight fight with Paul Williams. Who knows what we’ll end up with.
- Clottey’s performance. The more I think about Clottey’s no-show the more pissed off I get. Again, Pacquiao’s performance had something to do with Clottey’s. But Clottey showed that when he took chances, he could do some harm to Pacquiao, as Pacquiao’s bruised face indicated. He just decided not to. And this wasn’t only “Clottey being Clottey,” where “The Grandmaster” (worst nickname ever, but maybe an upgrade on his earlier nickname, “The Hitter”) fought his usual conservative fight. In his last bout, Clottey threw 622 punches over 12 rounds at Miguel Cotto. In this fight, he threw a mere 399. His output, already conservative, dropped off by more than one third. He averaged 33.3 punches per round, and the welterweight average is 58.3 — i.e. 25 fewer punches per round. Pacquiao landed more power punches than Clottey attempted, and threw 832 more punches overall. That’s unspeakably lame on Clottey’s part. Coming into the fight, his only game plan appeared to be to block Pacquiao’s punches. Mission accomplished, I guess. He said he tried his hardest. No he didn’t.
- Next for Clottey. I honestly don’t care. I don’t want to see him again. He has been whining for years about not getting the big fights he thinks he deserves, and in the biggest fight of his career, he fought like he never even dreamed of trying to win. I hope the potential $2.5 million he got for this fight makes it so he’s financially secure, because nobody in their right minds would clamor to watch Clottey after this non-effort, and he should consider himself lucky if he ever gets even a decent paycheck again. Over and over, Clottey has showed his true colors when everything’s on the line. This was as bad a no-show in a big fight as I can remember. At least De La Hoya was damn near shot and weight-drained when Pacquiao shellacked him. Clottey is in his prime.
- Attendance/Cowboys Stadium. This proved a highlight. Some 50,994 people came to watch the show on the billion dollar football field’s star, under giant screen televisions that were simultaneously horrifying in their gaudiness and awesome in their awesomosity. It was the third-highest attendance figure for a boxing match in the history of the United States. I’m sure some attendance came from Mexican and Mexican-American fans of some of the undercard fighters, given Texas’ demographics, but this was essentially a one-man show. The total number and how it got there is completely impressive. I’d weighed in early against the idea of Texas deserving a big fight given its poor boxing regulatory body (and still was shocked that all three judges on one of the undercard fights had never been judges in a notable fight) but the success of this event and some key developments I mentioned previously in the run-up to the fight has me fully turned around on that count, at least as it pertains to the stadium. Arum’s on to the right idea with this “big stadium” bent. And how awesome was it to see three Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders singing the national anthem? Maybe it lacked a certain decorum, but the ladies did well with it, so I give it a thumbs-up.
- Jose Luis Castillo’s retirement. I couldn’t be any more relieved. Castillo, a once-great fighter, announced he would retire after his corner called a halt to his welterweight fight against Alfonso Gomez following the 5th round. He said he doesn’t have “it” anymore, although I’m not sure why he thought he had any of “it” left to begin with. He’s been on the borderline of shot for years, and he looked fully shot last night. The fall was steep. He was a pound-for-pound top-10 boxer in ’05 and ’06; he was no worse than the second-best lightweight of the last decade, beating Joel Casamayor, Stevie Johnston, Juan Lazcano, Julio Diaz and Cesar Bezan; he deserved the narrow decision over Mayweather in their first fight; and he was a participant in the greatest fight of all time, a loss to Diego Corrales. It’s a career maybe just short of the Hall of Fame, but you can make the case. A lot of those fights were wars where Castillo took a lot of punishment. This was one of those occasions of it being sad that a boxer once so great was so obviously a shadow of his old self, not so much a fighter probably posing a risk to his own health. But I hope the retirement sticks and he has all the money he needs, because he looked to me like a boxer who might endanger his long-term condition by continuing to fight. If this is the end, I say: Thanks for the great fights, Mr. Castillo, and you should look upon your achievements in the ring with great pride.
- Humberto Soto. In my hurried round-up of the undercard last night, I left out my view of Soto’s performance. Friend of the site Baron said it best — it was “meek.” Soto, now a lightweight, has increasingly shifted toward becoming a counterpunching mover/boxer, not the grueling pressure fighter he once was. As terrible as David Diaz looked early, Soto should have handled him with more aplomb. HBO’s Max Kellerman said something to the effect of “Soto is as good as a boxer gets without being ‘special.'” I beg to differ. I think he’s a good deal below that.
- John Duddy-Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. When this fight amongst junior middleweights/middleweights was first discussed — it’s something Arum talked about in February of 2009 for THAT summer — it stacked up on paper pretty well. Both men had been in good fights and despite not being all that good, both sold gobs of tickets to their respective Irish and Mexican fan bases. Fast forward to now — it’s still being talked about, with it recently moving from this summer (as in 2010) to fall. But since the idea first came up, what shine Duddy and Chavez had has been tarnished significantly. Chavez was booed in his last fight, a boring showing against Troy Rowland, and got busted using an illicit substance; Duddy has lost once to a virtual nobody, Billy Lyell, and nearly lost Saturday to another, Michael Medina (whose nickname “Murder Man” is funny if not necessarily fitting). There was some talk of Duddy-Chavez headlining a show in Cowboys Stadium. Maybe I’m overestimating blind ethnic allegiances, but wouldn’t this fight now suck to the point that no Irishman or Mexican who understands the sport at all take a pass? Arum is viewed as a master of developing fighters and fights, often rightly. But sometimes he lets something sit on the shelf long after its sell-by date, and I think that’s the case here.
- Behind the mic. I like the HBO broadcast team, with Jim Lampley the best play-by-play man in the sports world today and Kellerman a smart analyst in my view despite his detractors. Both had moments of unintentional comedy Saturday. Kellerman tried to torture a “Pacquiao is like the Dave Chappelle Show” metaphor. Lampley? BANG!