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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pacquiao, Mayweather fights separate but equally hyped

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Pacquiao vs Clottey
NEW YORK - Imagine you are the owner of the Hope Diamond or some similarly large, one-of-a-kind gem. Now imagine that circumstances dictate that you turn that stone over to a diamond-cutter who splits it into two smaller, still-glittering but undeniably less valuable pieces.

Should you feel bad that your big, brilliant diamond is now a couple of downsized ones? Or do you breathe a sigh of relief that you have retained much of what you started out with?

Such is the dilemma of boxing fans, whose giddiness over the thought of seeing a welterweight megafight between the two men widely regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., was shattered when they couldn't agree on drug-testing specifics.

The result is that Pacquiao and Mayweather decided to go their separate ways, with Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs) set to defend his WBO championship against Ghana's Joshua Clottey (35-3, 20 KOs) on March 13 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and Mayweather (40-25 KOs) to challenge WBA 147-pound champion "Sugar" Shane Mosley (46-5, 39 KOs) on May 1 at Las Vegas' MGM Grand.

As stand-alone events, Pacquiao-Clottey and especially Mayweather-Mosley are attractive bouts that figure to be aesthetic and commercial successes. Whether a segment of the public will choose to be resentful that an even more spectacular showdown won't happen at least for a while, and maybe ever, is something to which the promoters of both shows can only speculate.

For the moment, those involved with the dueling pay-per-view entities have elected to portray their fight as the better option for fight fans' disposable income. It is a variation of boxing's familiar war of the words, which always precede the actual punches.

Last week Top Rank promoter Bob Arum made his case for the Pacquiao-Clottey fight being the more compelling attraction, even though Clottey is not nearly as well-known as Pacquiao, Mayweather or Mosley.

"People were looking forward to a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, that's clear," said Arum, whose company, Top Rank, promotes both Pacquiao and Clottey. "But Manny Pacquiao has a huge fan base now. He's crossed over. Every sports fan knows Manny Pacquiao.

"We can't say there's two household names fighting on March 13. That would be ridiculous. But there's excitement in Texas. It should be a great fight, a great show."

Even though his guy is an overwhelming favorite, Freddie Roach, who trains Pacquiao, went so far as to say that Pacquiao-Clottey was "going to be the Super Bowl of boxing."

Yesterday, at Broadway's Nokia Theater, Golden Boy executives (who promote Mosley) and Leonard Ellerbee of Mayweather Promotions got their turn to respond with even more grandiose claims.

"I have absolutely no doubt that this fight is going to do substantially better [than Pacquiao-Clottey]," said Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy, who predicted a record 3 million PPV buys. "Both fights are good. I'm not going to say anything bad about Pacquiao-Clottey. But our fight involves two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world [a recent Ring magazine poll had Mayweather second to Pacquiao, with Mosley third]. It's a fight people have wanted to see for quite a while."

Brother Naazim Richardson, Bernard Hopkins' trainer who will be working Mosley's corner for the second time, said people should move past their disappointment over not getting Pacquiao-Mayweather and embrace the reality of what is.

"It's like going to a dance," Richardson said. "If you ask a young lady to dance and she says no, you go on to the next young lady. Now, Shane Mosley loves to dance, so here we are. He's an exceptional athlete and Floyd is an exceptional athlete. This is a battle for greatness."

The loquacious Mayweather is a 3 1/2-1 favorite and, again, a lightning rod for controversy. His demand that Pacquiao submit to random, Olympic-style blood-testing (which is not required by the Nevada State Athletic Commission) was dismissed as "bullying tactics" by Arum, but defended by Schaefer, who said Mayweather's stance "should not be belittled or criticized. To the contrary, I think it should be applauded."

For his part, Mayweather has noted that Mosley (who agreed to the more stringent testing) admitted before a grand jury that he had used performance-enhancing drugs, albeit unwittingly, and he stepped up his attack on Pacquiao for refusing to submit to drug-testing that goes above and beyond what the NSAC mandates.

"I want to show the world that my sport is clean," Mayweather said. "I think we should take a stand in all sports to show that. We have to separate the average from the good from the great."

Asked about Mosley, Mayweather said "we all know he used enhancement drugs." And, although he said "I never said Pacquiao was on nothing," he later noted that "I never seen a fighter go from ordinary once he reached, like, 25 to extraordinary. It just don't work like that. Pacquiao got that steroid juice. I don't like to throw no nails, but they all cheaters."

Mosley seemed bemused by Mayweather's latest tirade.

"Mayweather just blurts things out he really doesn't know about," Mosley said. "That can be dangerous. People have filed lawsuits over that kind of stuff."

In fact, one already has been filed, in which Pacquiao is charging Mayweather with defamation of character. If nothing else, someday "Pac-Man" and "Money" might square off in a court of law, if not in the ring.


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