HBO PPV - Mar. 13, 2010

Manny Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey

Boxing returns to Cowboys Stadium for a championship bout.

Fight Week Notes

Mar 11, 2010

Pacquiao's Bathroom Break - Friday

"You can't hold it for five minutes and help me out for once?"

Manny Pacquiao's strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza was pleading with his champion not to urinate. About 5:00 p.m. on Friday in a Cowboys Stadium men's room, Ariza hoped to keep as much weight as possible inside of Pacquiao's bladder minutes before the official weigh-in.

Boxing is predicted in metrics like weight, height, and reach which largely do not apply to Pacquiao and his potential to decimate an opponent. Ariza, however, would prefer to keep his champion's weight as close the 147-lb upper welterweight limit as possible, and now, literally, Pacquiao was about to piss it away.

The Filipino had to go. There was no stopping him. Seeing the anguish in Ariza's face, Pacquiao, ever the diplomat, brokered a deal: "Bro, I will estimate how much I pee, and I will drink it back in water."

The performance was a repeat from months earlier when Pacquiao and Ariza had the same conversation minutes before the Miguel Cotto weigh-in last November.

"I'm not even sure it's even conscious anymore, but Manny loves to torture me," Ariza sighs. "I checked his weight six times this morning," he says, shaking his head. Just a day earlier, Pacquiao had weighed 152 lbs.

Despite the setback, Pacquiao weighed in at the heaviest of his career: 145 3/4-lb. Clottey hit the limit at 147.

As the fighters met face to face, they attempted to feign scowls, but their good-humor and mutual respect brought them both to the brink of laughter. This is when Pacquiao is most dangerous: when he is happy.

After the weigh-in, Pacquiao refueled on rice, chicken soup, and steamed white fish, followed behind locked doors inside the stadium by a streaming entourage, some members invited and some not. Among notable failed attempts to entry included a white man shouted to security to let him join Pacquiao since he was, "Pacquiao's assistant trainer" - he was, however, standing just in front of Buboy Fernandez, also known as Pacquiao's assistant trainer.

While this scene unfolded, trainer Freddie Roach headed back to the hotel with Robert Duval.  The actor and cornerman swapped stories en route: Duval recounted Rocky Graziano knocking out Jackie Gleason at Caesar's Palace, and Roach countered with a tale about a near fistfight that broke out between him and quarterback Jim Kelly the night of Hearns-Leonard over a comment a drunken Roach made about Kelly being stingy.

Duval inquired about Roach's pupil, "Does he just sleep now?"

Roach replied, "Yes, he never has trouble sleeping." The conversation lulled for a moment, then the trainer added, "I used to date a girl who never had trouble sleeping - or at least, I thought she was sleeping all the time. It turned out she was a heroin addict."

In just an hour, Roach would serve as cornerman to young lightweight Jose Benavidez (2-0). Ariza joined Roach and his prospect in the locker room, still rankled by Pacquiao's weight. "Had he just waited," he shakes his head, then gets up and walks out of the room, presumably on a bathroom break.

Joshua Clottey - Thursday

Prizefighters are creatures of habit: They run. They punch. They eat. They rest. They repeat.

By deduction, it would seem only out of character that when asked to answer the same question for the 10,000th time they would then become disgruntled. Logic would hold the reverse to be true: a new question would be irritating for disrupting their routine ¯ like a trainer's demand just days before a fight to invent a new type of punch to knock his man out.

Despite these analytics, Joshua Clottey, 32, is exasperated at the prospect of answering one more reporter. "It is just the same questions," he laments to an interviewer on his last day of training, inside a converted conference center in Dallas' Gaylord Hotel, as he walks off.

Eight days earlier in the Bronx, Clottey (35¯3) had no questions to answer, as he sparred  in front of a banner reading, "JOHN'S BOXING GYM HOME OF CHAMPIONS." Beneath the banner hung two posters of Ghanaian champions on either side of a crucifix: one bearing the image of Joseph "King Kong" Agbeko and the other of Joshua "Hitter" Clottey. Neither holds a title anymore, but they still do in the posters.

On Wednesday of last week, Clottey sparred against southpaw Francisco "Gato" Figueroa (20¯3¯1), who recently worked with Miguel Cotto prior to his loss to Manny Pacquiao and Juan Urango prior to his loss to junior welterweight champion Devon Alexander. It is growing into an unfortunate track record.

Unlike Pacquiao, who generally keeps three to four sparring partners on hand three days a week, Clottey spars everyday and retains only Figueroa in his stable, who gloves up for six rounds that day of the camp's sum 90 total. Each time Clottey is hit, he retreats into the carapace of his broad shoulders, waiting for the fire to cease, then shuffling up to his opponent, throwing a hook to the ribs and an uppercut.

After sparring, Clottey runs mitts for three rounds with an assistant who seemed certain of which punch combination to call or which direction to move, but rarely both. "Joshua is teaching him how to hold the mitts," says his goateed trainer Lenny De Jesus with a proud grin, as if his son had picked the fat kid to join his team at recess from the kindness of his heart.

The fight of Clottey's life seems an odd time for him to be teaching instead of learning, but perhaps he is practicing his pedagogical skills to give Pacquiao a lesson on March 13.

Jumping on a rubber tire wedged between the ring and the back wall, Clottey cools down as De Jesus packs up. Once a cutman for Pacquiao, De Jesus, 64, is working his first fight in Clottey's corner as a head trainer. (Despite appeals to Ghana's president, Clottey was denied visa requests for his usual trainer Godwin Kotey, preventing his departure to the United States.) According to him, March 13 will be the 76th championship bout that he has worked as a second. He is a bit more animated and loquacious than his fighter, a norm that became fashionable ever since Muhammad Ali retired and Angelo Dundee didn't.

De Jesus grew up in the Bronx, where he used to carry two pairs of boxing gloves with him at all times to provide fair means to settle any dispute arising between him and another citizen of the state. Soon, he married after a brief pro career ("my wife knocked me out," he jests), later becoming a keymaster, a trade he learned from a Jewish man. To this day, the Puerto Rican-American maintains his own locksmith shop when not training fighters. On March 13, he has his travel itinerary mapped out, "We're going straight to Pacquiao's body."

Clottey remains silent throughout the entirety of it all: his trainer's conversation, his sparring, mitt work, ab work, and stretching. After Clottey showers, a reporter asks if he can speak with him a moment. He says that he's sorry, but is leaving now ¯ perhaps another time.

The Arrival - Tuesday/Wednesday

A plane to Dallas is being boarded Monday afternoon, which will depart Monday evening. The delay is not a hurricane or blizzard, but rather the natural phenomenon besieging the southern United States air space known as Emmanuel Dapidran Pacquiao.

While yet to materialize at the hangar, Pacquiao is already present: his hulking image gracing the side of the aircraft. It is a private plane, though privacy is not a concept the Filipino likes to practice. In accordance with such a belief system, the Atlantic Aviation reception area is brimming with a throng of Pacquiao's countrymen. Filipino press and the fighter's fans are present, who in this setting are indistinguishable. Everyone has a camera, unless they have a guitar or pompoms, in which case they are outside by the plane, where a live act plays a cover of Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like an Eagle" and the West Torrance High School cheerleading squad invigorates passengers not already inspirited by the free booze en route to their red carpeted walk onto the aircraft.

"There's a pretty good chance this plane is going to crash," says Pacquiao's trainer Freddie Roach to no one in particular while sitting in the aisle of the 8th row. "I mean, we got a singer and a boxer, here." The cornerman is both alluding to the fatal air crashes involving pound-for-pound titan, Rocky Marciano, as well as that of singer Ritchie Valens, whose signature hit "La Bamba" Pacquiao performs as an homage to his homeland, in part because Lou Diamond Phillips (who starred in the movie of Valens' life) has Filipino ancestry.

While Roach's reasoning may be far from linear, he does note, too, that the plane appears to be a Pan-Am found precisely where it had been abandoned by that company after its bankruptcy in 1991.

At last, two hours after the scheduled take-off, the band begins to play "Eye of the Tiger," meaning the Filipino icon has arrived.

The aircraft holds 120 people, around 20 of whom have a direct association with Team Pacquiao in either a professional or familial capacity. What the others lack in purpose for their presence, they compensate for in Pacquiao attire, which is worn layered like New Englanders bundled in Northface fleeces.

This is Pacquiao's army. As Filipinos, they are consanguineous, which means they have the same blood, which means when Pacquiao sheds his in a fight, they feel it as their own. It also means they fly on his plane and stay at his hotel and eat on his tab.

On the flight, Pacquiao plays Chinese poker, as everyone, including the other players, eye him in hopes he'll win. For fighters and their supporters, victory is a practice of habit. It is the same mentality Freddie Roach will exhibit the next morning at 7:30 a.m. when he challenged his pupil to a race across a football field. "Now, I did have a 20-yard head start," Roach says, "but I knew couldn't let Manny lose - not this close to the fight."

After the landing, Pacquiao heads to the hotel, where just hours before, his opponent Joshua Clottey (35-3) held a media workout open to all eight members of the public who showed up. He is there quietly honing a strategy with nothing to lose and driven by a hope to strip from the welterweight champion all the spoils he will bring in tow to Cowboys Stadium for their fight on Saturday.

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