HBO PPV - Mar. 13, 2010

Manny Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey

Boxing returns to Cowboys Stadium for a championship bout.

Fight Recap: And The Band Played On

Mar 13, 2010

Manny Pacquiao likes to sing. After his past two fights, he has performed his set for an adulatory Filipino crowd. He did so after demolishing Ricky Hatton, and then Miguel Cotto, despite torn cartilage in his right ear from the fight. He did so once more after defeating Joshua Clottey on Saturday in Dallas' Cowboys Stadium before 50,994 fans.

It has become unclear whether Pacquiao continues to fight simply as a warm-up for his concerts.

But hours before singing in the Texas Rangers' ballpark, for twelve rounds, Pacqauio's gloves alternately rapped against the ebony body of Joshua Clottey as if in efforts to produce a trill.

Prior to the fight, the locker rooms had encountered technical difficulties. While his entourage sang a Ghanaian song "Ashwa Ashwa" about a prostitute to live drum accompaniment, the former champion Clottey had to have his wraps removed for improperly taping them. Meanwhile Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach had forgotten to bring a pair of punching mitts, and so caught his fighter's punches in his palms barehanded.

As the fight began, Pacquiao unleashed combinations which thudded on the carapace of Joshua Clottey as often as they punctured it. Minutes earlier in the locker room, Pacquiao had bragged of his own speed while throwing a combination, saying, "1-2-hook: It's like one punch. Boomboomboom!"

In the early rounds, Clottey blocked Pacquiao's jab by clenching his arms around it. Pacquiao appeared intrigued by his opponent's method, as the Filipino playfully lobbed his jab between Clottey's clamping arms as if to test the shell-speed of a mussel.

This toying and pawing continued throughout the first half of the fight, as Pacquiao showcased a variety of games he likes to play during training, and Clottey rarely attempted to return fire. When a fighter throws a punch he is both at his most lethal and most exposed. It was a risk Clottey was unwilling to take.

"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.

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