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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Fight Lover's Forum 3.04.10: Manny's Making a Big Mistake

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A little over a week from now, Manny Pacquiao is going to step in the ring for one of the toughest fights of his entire career. This will at least be his toughest test since his second fight with Juan Manuel Marquez back in March of 2008. Pacquiao has been on a historic rise since then, and knocking out fighters while displaying increasing levels of skill and domination. I think all that ends now. While I'm picking Manny to win his title defense on March 13th, I think he's in for a hellish night in the ring. Why did he take this fight?

I've never understood this matchup. Manny Pacquiao is at the point in his career where his legacy is clearly established. He's arguably the greatest fighter of all-time, and at the very, very least in the top-ten. At this point, he should be protecting his legacy, or adding to it. Of course the epic showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. could have possibly added to the legacy if he beat the Pretty Boy. We all know why that fight didn't happen.

Another way he could have added to his legacy was by challenging 154 lb champion Yuri Foreman to go for 8 titles in 8 divisions. A bout with the light hitting Foreman likely would have been an easy match to make, but trainer Freddie Roach didn't want to dick around with Manny's weight too much at this point in his career. That's probably a good idea.

So why not just relax and protect the legacy this spring, before he goes into the final stretch for his May political election bid in the Phillippines? I've written it before, and I'll write it again, Manny has earned an easy fight. His resume is impeccable. After a tough battle with Cotto, which resulted in a busted eardrum for the Pacman, why not take on a stiff–preferably in the Phillippines? It could have been an easy stay busy fight until the Mayweather/Mosley situation got straightened out. After their May 1rst scrap, Manny could then decide whether it's worth it to him to negotiate with the winner for a fall showdown; or end the Saga with JMM; or try for 8 in 8; or retire. Regardless of future plans, the Clottey fight makes no sense.

It's the classic high risk, low reward fight. It's actually a NO reward fight. Even insider fight fans who should know better, are saying that Clottey has no chance, and Manny will plow right over him. Um, nobody plows over Clottey. Clottey has three losses in his career. In 1999, he was easily beating Carlos Baldomir before he was disqualified for excessive fouling in the 11th round. Later in 2006, he was getting the best of Antonio Margarito before he injured his hand in the 4th round, on his way to losing the decision. For the record, that fight was against a "pre-cheat revealed" Margarito. Clottey withstood the heavy hands, and possibly loaded gloves of Margarito for 12 rounds without getting knocked out. Yet somehow the undersized Pacman is supposed to blow through him out with ease? Bullcrap.

It drives me crazy to hear the twisted logic that Clottey will be dominated by Pacman, because Pacman got the best of Miguel Cotto to the point of stopping him, and Cotto beat Clottey last year, so therefore Manny will have an easier time with Clottey than he had with Cotto. Wrong! STYLES MAKE FIGHTS.

You know what, Ken Norton got destroyed in less than two rounds by Ernie Shavers and George Foreman. Yet, Norton arguably beat Ali on all three of their meetings, and he was life and death for 15 rounds with the great Larry Holmes in 1978. Moreover, the Norton slayer, Shavers got dominated by Holmes and Ali. Of course, Ali knocked out the same Foreman who humiliated Norton in two rounds. STYLES MAKE FIGHTS. It's the most basic truism in boxing.

Also, although Cotto dropped Clottey in the opening round, it was clearly a flash, off balance drop. Clottey wasn't hurt. I can't remember if I've ever seen Clottey really hurt in any of his 39 fights. When Clottey had Cotto cut, and seemingly hurt in the middle of their fight, he was unable to step on the gas in the later rounds to score enough points; let alone close the show. Intelligently, Cotto protected his cut, and purely boxed in the final rounds. He stuck and retreated. Clottey didn't have the speed, skill, endurance, "something" to cut off the ring and tag him. Question: When's the last time we saw Manny defensively retreat in the ring?

What happens if Clottey walks through Manny's best shots in the early rounds of the fight, and presses forward with his tight defense, throwing short, compact punches? Clottey also has a history of causing headbutts, and Dude has a huge head. What happens if Clottey gets the best of Manny in the early rounds, and an "accidental" headbutt causes the bout to go to the scorecards? This is certainly a fight Manny could lose.

I don't see Clottey stopping Manny, because Clottey doesn't have great power, and Manny takes a tremendous shot anyway. That's the main reason I think Manny will win this fight. I think both fighters will tag the shit out of each other for 12 rounds, but due to Manny's superior speed, skill, and speed again, I think he'll out land Clottey in a war by 2-4 points. It would be smart for Manny to simply outbox and dance on Clottey, once he figures out he can't knock him out. However, I just don't know if Manny is willing to fight that way. He's a tightly wound machine of aggression. Either way, I think Manny wins on points, I think. But for what? And how much of himself will he leave in the ring?

The Manny haters will laughable try to denigrate his record, and crap on his close victory over the clearly talented Joshua Clottey. By acting like Manny should blow through Clottey, so many are setting the bar irrationally high. If Manny loses–which is certainly plausible–Manny will cost himself 10's of millions in the purse split, if he plans to negotiate with Mayweather again; assuming Mayweather beats Mosley. And Manny's legacy takes a major hit if he loses. He's still one of the all-time greats, but the "hit" on his legacy is undeniable. This is just bad matchmaking. Look, like it or not, most all of the historically great fighters with superior resumes, also were careful to protect the legacy they established by not taking high risk, low reward fights.

Jack Johnson refused to defend his title against quality fellow black fighters. Ali didn't give Foreman a rematch. Frazier never fought Norton. Leonard didn't fight Pryor, or give Hagler a rematch. Oscar didn't give Sweat Pea a rematch. Lewis didn't fight Foreman in the 90's, or give Vitali Klitschko a rematch. Mosley never should have fought rematches against Forrest and Wright, because they were simply terrible matchups, and not in his "class" regarding historical perception. One can find dozens of examples to make my point.

Pacquiao shouldn't be fighting Clottey, and if it's close, he sure as hell shouldn't give him a rematch. There's a fine balance between establishing a great historical resume/legacy, and avoiding pointless, "nothing to gain" matchups. Manny has nothing to gain, and everything to lose. I'm scratching my head now, I'm be shaking it with amazement during the action-packed fight, and I'll be rolling my eyes and shaking my head ruefully after the fight is over. Manny's making a big mistake. But despite what the haters and misguided are saying, expect one hell of a competitive fight on March 13th in Dallas Cowboys Stadium; a fight Manny will wish he never took in the first place.


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