"Clottey did not seem to want to win, but just survive," said Freddie Roach in the locker room after the fight.
Throughout the past few years, Pacquiao has turned sparring sessions into a playpen. One of his favorite games is marching up to his opponent, standing flat-footed in front of him, covering up his face, and shouting, "Go." The order is intended for his sparring partner to then hit him as hard as he can. In November of 2009, Pacquiao emasculated Miguel Cotto by playing this game, exposing Cotto's inability to hurt him. With Clottey, Pacquiao invited him to play the same game: the effect was similar to that with Cotto though less pronounced. On the flip side, Pacquiao's punches seemed less destructive against Clottey than Cotto. They remained, however, debilitating.
The games continued into the fourth round, when Pacquiao wrapped his arms around Clottey in a double-punch, another move practiced in sparring. The challenger grew frustrated, but never quite enough to throw more than a two-punch combination. "Clottey did not seem to want to win, but just survive," said Roach in the locker room after the fight.
Over the first seven rounds, these two gentle warriors exhibited a sportsmanship that bordered on irritating. They touched gloves at the start and end of each round. No head-butts. No intentional low blows. No malice. At times, donnybrooks that broke out in the stands outstripped the belligerence found in the ring. When the eighth ended, however, Pacquiao's angled punches had come to rankle Clottey, who in the final seconds of the round put Pacquiao in a headlock and slapped him atop the skull as if to beat a drum.
The hostility seemed further to enliven Pacquiao, who enjoys being the underdog on a quest to undercut a bully, and momentarily he appeared to forget how likable he found Clottey just a day earlier at the weigh-in. With a sizable welt amassing on his right eye from blows sustained, Pacquiao then landed a succession of punches, and while Clottey seemed to be breaking down, he continued to retreat into his shell, even if Pacquiao's fists had started to crack it just slightly.
Despite Clottey not even being knocked down in the 11th, Pacquiao's virtuosity led to a standing ovation at the round's end, giving way to a largely anticlimactic 12th before the unanimous decision (120-108, 119-109, 119-109) in favor of Pacquiao's 1231 punches versus Clottey's 399 was announced.
Returning triumphantly to the locker room, Pacquiao was greeted by his swarming entourage. The commission attempted to eject those without credentials, leading some unofficial Team Pacquiao members run inside the bathroom stalls for fear of being thrown out. They ran in trepidation, but with felicity. They may have been hiding by standing on top of toilets in a bathroom stall, but they could hold their heads high: The pride of the Philippines had vanquished his competition once more, and soon they would join him in song.