By Jason Pribila: Two weeks before stepping into the ring to defend the WBO welterweight title for the first time, Team Pacquiao hosted a media conference call on Friday. As they tried to focus on the road to Dallas that will lead them to the challenge of Joshua Clottey, they did their best to leave Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the rearview mirror… for now.
“To be frank, we had to overcome disappointment,” admitted Top Rank President Bob Arum. “People were looking forward to a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. That is clear. Manny has a huge fan base. He has crossed over. Our job is to present Joshua Clottey as he is: A bigger guy. A stronger guy. A real test for Manny Pacquiao. That is what will sell this fight.”
Unfortunately for Arum, it is not Freddie Roach’s job to sell tickets or PPVs. Therefore when the esteemed trainer was asked to break down the fight, everyone could count on receiving Roach’s honest opinion. And recently when it comes to his prized pupil, Roach has been nothing short of Nostradamus.
“We have watched a lot of tape on Clottey. We know his characteristics, we know his mistakes, and we know his habits,” Roach said. “I know Clottey is a big strong guy and a great fighter, and we respect him; but with Manny Pacquiao I feel that he’s going to overwhelm him with his speed and his combinations, and I do believe he will be the first person to stop him before the 12th round.”
Adding to Roach’s confidence is the fact this will be the second straight fight that he will be matching X’s and O’s with a trainer that is comparatively a novice.
Training Clottey for the first time will be Lenny DeJesus, a veteran of the fight game for over forty years. Dejesus has worked corners with legends like Angelo Dundee and Eddie Futch, and worked with champions like Roberto Duran, Wilfredo Benitez, Joel Casamayor, and one Manny Pacquiao. However, despite his lifetime of experience, DeJesus worked primarily as a cutman; not the head trainer.
“Lenny DeJesus used to work as a cut man for Manny Pacquiao,” Roach explained. “He knows us pretty well, but we have changed a lot since then. He thinks he’s going to face the old Manny Pacquiao, but that’s not going to be the case. I respect him and he’s a good boxing guy.
Am I a better trainer? I don’t know, but I have the better fighter.”
It is hard to believe that it was only two years ago that Roach was leading Pacquiao to the ring for the highly anticipated, and closely contested rematch against Juan Manuel Marquez. Even harder to believe is that fight took place at Super Featherweight (130 lbs).
Following the Marquez fight it was no surprise that Pacquiao moved up to the lightweight division. Three months later he challenged and stopped David Diaz for the WBC version of that title. That night at Mandalay Bay seemed as if it would mark the beginning of a potentially long, and brilliant run at lightweight.
Less than two years later Pacquiao has not only moved up two weight classes, but he has stopped everyone in his path. On March 13 he will face a man that will resemble a middleweight when the opening bell rings. And he is a big favorite.
To me, that is the story of this fight. That is what makes this fight more than a consolation prize. And that is what the media should have been discussing with Manny Pacquiao during this call. Instead they wanted the pound for pound champ to either look back prior to, or beyond Clottey.
Looking back, of course, was to revisit the failed negotiations with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and the accusations that were made against him.
“I don’t want to talk about or think about blood testing. I want to focus on the Clottey fight, “Pacquiao said.
Although that plea fell on deaf ears, follow-up questions did reveal Pacquiao’s feelings about whether or not a bout with Mayweather was inevitable.
“I don’t really need Floyd Mayweather because what I have achieved in boxing is good enough for me, and people know that by comparing my achievements in boxing to his achievements.”
While those sentiments are not what the boxing world wanted to hear, Pacquiao’s response to the retirement rumors should be well received.
“I am not saying retire,” Pacquiao confirmed. “This is my last fight before the election. It is hard to say right now when I’m going to retire, but this is my last fight before the election and I’m very excited about it.”
A relieved Bob Arum added, “He is not saying he would retire after the Clottey fight, quite the contrary. Obviously one of these days he is going to retire. After the election he may retire or he may fight. He is leaving the options open.”
Pacquiao provided another clue that he is not ready to hang up the gloves when he was asked, “What type of boxer can beat you?”
“When I’m old, “Pacquiao responded.
With the top spot in the division currently being held by 38 year-old Shane Mosley, it is safe to say that March 13 will not be the last we see of the 31 year-old Manny Pacquiao.
March 2, 2010