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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Clottey’s comedy corner turns weigh-in into laugh-in

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ARLINGTON, Tex. – Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey tried to play it straight when they were asked to pose. The stare-down is supposed to be serious stuff. One blink signals fear. But Pacquiao and Clottey laughed like kids at play. They couldn’t stop laughing.

A weigh-in, a well-rehearsed ritual, can be funny. One in front of Cowboys Stadium Friday was more laugh-in than weigh-in. Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs) and Clottey (35-3, 21 KOs) made the welterweight limit, Clottey at 147 pounds and Pacquiao at 145 ¾, for their fight Saturday night at the $1.2 billion arena.

After they stepped off the official scale, they must have laughed off another quarter pound or two. The Clottey camp played the straight man, the tomato can. Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach delivered the punch lines.

Clottey camper Gjin Gjini, owner of John’s Gym in New York, leaned over and told Roach that if the corners were fighting, Clottey’s corner would win in a beat-down. It was the equivalent of one kid telling another kid: My dad can whip your dad. No wonder they were laughing.

“He tells me that if the corners were fighting, we’d get beat up,’’ said Roach, who didn’t recall Ginji’s name and referred to him only as “the Albanian.”

At 50, Roach is well-past his best days as a brawling featherweight. Nevertheless, he has managed to become a target for insults from opposing corners. Floyd Mayweather, Sr., spouted dismissive poetry and few other things at Roach before Pacquiao knocked out Ricky Hatton. Joe Santiago took his rhetorical shots at Roach before Pacquiao’s stoppage of Miguel Cotto.

“When Manny fights Floyd Mayweather Jr., no telling what will happen between me and Roger Mayweather,’’ Roach said of Floyd’s uncle and trainer, also a former fighter. “Roger really doesn’t like me.’’

Anger at Roach from opposing camps might just be rooted in Pacquiao’s recent run of dominance. Nobody has been able to beat the Filipino, who was heavier than he has ever been at an official weigh-in. The Pacquiao reign isn’t expected to change against Clottey in a ring above the 50-yard line and beneath the biggest and brightest high-definition screen in this video universe and maybe a few others.

An undercurrent of rancor between the Clottey camp and Roach starts with Lenny DeJesus, who moved into Clottey’s corner as the lead trainer when Godwin Kotey of Ghana could not get a U.S. visa in time to travel to Dallas.

DeJesus was Pacquiao’s cutman. His role ended in 2005 after the Filipino’s loss to Erik Morales. It also was the last time Pacquiao lost. That fight represents some important history. DeJesus hopes it repeats itself. Roach has been making sure that it won’t. Pacquiao was badly cut over the left eye in the fifth round by head butt. DeJesus couldn’t stop the bleeding. Pacquiao, bothered by a river blood the flowed over and into his eye, couldn’t see well enough to stop Morales. Pacquiao lost a decision. DeJesus lost his job.

With Clottey, DeJesus has an opportunity at revenge with a durable fighter whose best weapon might be a head butt. A clash of heads against Cotto in June almost allowed Clottey to escape New York’s Madison Square Garden with a major upset instead of a loss by split decision.

“We won’t be there for that to happen,’’ Roach said of the head-butt possibility. “We’re at perfect fighting weight.”

Roach paused and added:

“We’re where we want to be.’’

Pacquiao has been for a while. That’s no joke.


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