DALLAS, TEXAS — World famous Filipino boxing hero, politician and party singer Manny Pacquiao did not disappoint 51,000 spectators who trooped to the spectacular new Texas Cowboys stadium on March 12. Now regarded as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world owning seven different weight class championship belts, Pacquiao gave a virtual clinic to millions who were watching the fight live via satellite by clobbering Ghanaian Joshua Clottey in a 12-round “decisive” decision.
The challenger and former welterweight champion Clottey showed his toughness by keeping his reputation of never having been knocked down in 39 fights, but he was never aggressive. Saturday’s match was a far cry from the usually exciting Pacquiao fights. The result was disappointing to boxing experts who described the “event” as boring. They blamed Clottey’s turtle-like defense for it. Clottey refused to trade leather with the champion, depriving the boxing fans of an epic battle. Two judges generously gave him only one round, and the third gave all rounds to Pacquiao. The bigger and stronger Clottey who personally adored Pacquiao was clearly trying to wear the champion out and was looking for a chance to deliver a lucky punch which never came. The buzzsaw Pacquiao was too fast and too smart. “He was very quick,” conceded Clottey and his trainer. “We clearly got beat by a great champion.” The one-sided affair earned the challenger $2.5 million for showing up.
“When asked if ever the reigning pound-for-pound king held back his punches in the late rounds, Pacquiao’s trainer Fred Roach said: “I always go for the kill all the time, and we wanted to finish Clottey off in great fashion, but it just didn’t work out, as he never got out of his shell.”
It was lopsided right from the start after the Ghanaian challenger opted to keep his face covered in survival mode, clearly avoiding one of Pacquiao’s powerful combinations that could have delivered the KO and put a blot in Clottey’s unblemished record.
Unfazed, promoter Bob Arum said: “There was no way Clottey was going to beat this superstar, even if he took off his gloves and fought him bare-fisted.” Pacquiao is poised to make between $17 and $20 million for pounding Clottey en route to improving his record to 51-3-2. At the press conference that followed the fight, Bob Arum and Dallas Cowboys stadium owner Jerry Jones both pledged to work hard to bring Pacquiao back to Dallas in October against either Floyd Mayweather or Shane Mosely. That, many predict, will be a “real fight.”
The Texas Cowboys Stadium steals the show
The main event did not meet expectations of an exciting fight, but in the end, nobody seemed to care. Clottey was never booed and the huge crowd did not express any displeasure, which is a tribute to the wonderment of the spectacular venue. Almost 51,000 boxing fans were mesmerized by the state-of-the-art stadium which at night looked like a giant space ship from a Hollywood sci-fi movie.
There was not any doubt in the minds of those who came that the magnificent stadium and the glitzy production more than made up for the championship main “non-event”. The new stadium was a big hit to basketball fans when it hosted the last NBA All-Stars game, but the last Pacquiao fight brought it to an even higher level of awareness and amazement worldwide. Once again, the giant high-definition video board the size of a basketball court was mesmerizing and the presentation around the ring was electric. It was a tremendous spectacle never before seen in the sporting world.
This writer, a Texas community and business leader, has lived in Dallas for 35 years and has been a Dallas Cowboys fan since 1975, watching them win Super Bowls. It never ceases to amaze what Jerry Jones has done building and promoting the largest indoor stadium in the world that will host the 2011 Super Bowl, and hopefully, Pacquiao’s next super fight as well.
The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders sang the national anthem and showed better moves in the ring than the unworthy challenger Clottey. Arnel Pineda, the young Filipino lead singer of popular band Journey, sang the Filipino national anthem.
Gaylord Texan transformed into a Filipino Town
Although a bit disappointed that they did not see what they are used to seeing their hero do – knock out his opponents in the early rounds – the thousands of Filipinos who came from all over the world enjoyed the week of the fight watching Pacquiao work out, connect with his fans and freely give away his very intricate autograph.
The 5-star Gaylord Texan Hotel and Convention Center was virtually transformed into a Filipino town, with groups of well-dressed Filipinos roaming the halls and pathways of the elegant 500-room hotel. Pacquiao himself had an entourage of 140 – bigger than Mohammad Ali’s. The members of Team Pacquiao who were resplendent in their red-white-and-blue jackets came in a colorfully decorated Pacquiao Express bus and a private jet dubbed the Pacquiao Air. His entourage includes members of the Philippine media.
The Filipino guests and their local hosts were seen mixing it up with, and getting autographs from local and national celebrities which included Dallas Cowboys hall of famers, Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars players and cheerleaders, NASCAR champions, boxing legends and former champions at all weight classes.
Among the Philippine dignitaries seen at the Gaylord Texan were First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, House Speaker Prospero Nograles, perennial Pacquiao companion Chavit Singson, and several other Philippine congressmen and governors.
The Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce of Texas, led by president Ethel Mercado, hosted a private dinner reception at the Riverwalk restaurant in the hotel the distinguished Philippine guests.
Known for their hospitality and wealth of local talents, the Filipino community of Texas helped organize a “Post-Fight Party” with Manny Paquiao in attendance, win or lose. The late party was held in nearby Texas Rangers ballpark in Arlington and was attended by several hundred guests. The indefatigable champion showed up after a long final press conference and obliged the adoring crowd with eight songs, joined on the stage by Arnel Pineda and by his backup singer Madonna Decena, arranger Lito Camu and the MP Band. The party lasted until 4:00 in the morning, to the delight of the star-struck local Pinoys.
What is in the future for Manny Paquiao?
The final press conference that followed the 12-round bout was very revealing as to what the future holds for the world champion. Trainer Fred Roach intimated that Pacquiao would probably fight two more championship bouts then possibly retire. Roach and Bob Arum expressed strong desire that one of those would be against undefeated Floyd Mayweather.
What would be a fitting end for those impressive victories in seven incremental weight classes are not nearly as impressive as the world-class fighters whom Pacquiao has beaten as he has grown in size and stature over the years. His victims include Cotto, Hatton De La Hoya, Barrera and Morales – a veritable murderers row of champions, which makes him the champion of champions.
“I have been around Muhammad Ali, Marvin Hagler, Sugar Ray Leonard, and I can say that Manny Pacquiao is the best fighter I have seen,” says Bob Arum who has promoted many of the biggest names in boxing for more than 40 years.
While waiting for Pacquiao and his wife Jinkee who were freshening up in a nearby dressing room, I asked Bob Arum: “We the faithful fans will support Manny whatever he decides to do. But we all know about his third love – politics (and singing) – and God forbid, he may leave boxing for Philippine politics. How would all this fan out?”
The effervescent Bob Arum gave a witty response: “Manny asked me to go to the Philippines to support his candidacy and I declined. I told him it would be illegal for me to do so, and luckily I don’t have to contribute to his campaign either!”
Arum later added: “There is no doubt he will win as Congressman, and he can become President of the country if he wants to. But I think he will continue boxing. And if the Philippine Congress is like the U.S. Congress where the Congressmen do absolutely nothing, then it will be just fine for Manny!” That brought the house down.
In his native country, Pacquiao casts a giant shadow
What a week it was! It was not one of Manny’s most memorable performances, but the greatest active fighter in the world delivered, in more ways than one. He brought honor to his millions of fans the world over, and especially to his countrymen and to his native country, where he casts a giant shadow.
To wit: The streets of the Philippines are deserted during his telecast fight. People can pitch a tent in the middle of an intersection without any danger of being hit, as everybody is glued to the TV set or fills thousands of movie houses that show his fight. Even his country’s army and the rebel insurgents agree to a seven-hour ceasefire so both sides could watch his fight. The predominantly Catholic country reduces the number of Sunday masses on Pacquiao Sundays. Men folks do not go to church, afraid that there may not be a priest there to say Mass.
In a country that has never won a gold medal at the Olympics, Manny Pacquiao is a precious, national treasure. May we see more of him where his greatness reigns supreme – the boxing ring.
Thank you, Manny Pacquiao, for making us proud to be Filipinos. And thank you for your wonderful and unforgettable visit to our town. Dallas loves you!
(About the author: Gus Mercado is a successful Dallas-based Filipino business entrepreneur and civic leader whose part-time hobby is journalism. He and his wife are leaders of the Texas Phil-Am Chamber of Commerce and many other civic groups. Reactions to this article may be sent to: email@example.com)