The Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey fight on March 13 is by all accounts an intriguing boxing match.
The sport's pound-for-pound king will be taking on the challenge of a solid fighter in what is still a relatively new weight class.
However, while the style matchup will be enjoyed by the most hardcore boxing fans, casual observers will undoubtedly be looking for more than just a win in the ring.
Pacquiao now has reached a level of success that has doomed the public perception of countless fighters before him, in that every single time he goes out he needs to be nothing short of spectacular.
If this fight ends up a competitive decision (not an unreasonable result, considering Clottey's toughness and superior defensive ability compared to recent Pacquiao opponents), it won't be long before the questions come up.
Has Pacquiao lost his edge? How can he expect to beat the Shane Mosley-Floyd Mayweather Jr. winner if he struggled with Clottey?
Of course, none of this talk would be even remotely fair, but as we all know in the world of boxing, fans will turn on you like a pack of hyenas the second you show the slightest weakness.
So what can Pacquiao do to keep the momentum going with a fight that may not be the one most people want to see?
Well, first of all, he can do what he has been doing recently, which is blow Clottey out. If the Pacman becomes the first fighter to stop Clottey, regardless of the circumstances, I will be impressed.
I have been critical of Pacquiao in the past for fighting guys that play into his style—which is aggressive fighters who leave themselves open and vulnerable to his amazing power. Clottey is not that type of boxer. He is very capable of defending himself, and has done so effectively enough, even in his three losses.
Short of a knockout, I'm not sure there is anything that can be done in the ring that won't cause people to shrug their shoulders and say, "Well, of course Pacquiao won—he's a much better fighter."
We have seen this for years with Pacquiao's pound-for-pound rival Floyd Mayweather Jr. Floyd, who will fight a competent, if not spectacular, opponent, win an easy decision, and fans everywhere will yawn in apathy.
This is the price of success in the boxing world. Despite the fact that these men give so much in every single fight, the fans always seem to want more.
One advantage Pacquiao has in terms of impressing people, however, is a very crowd-pleasing style. Even if he isn't able to knock Clottey out, it is unlikely that it will be for lack of trying, something Mayweather's critics have been very vocal about.
This in itself is also a bit unfair. If I'm in Manny's corner and he's winning a comfortable decision late in the fight, the last thing I want him to do is risk getting caught with something just to quench the fans' thirst for blood. But again, that's the boxing business.
Speaking of business, the most talked about story after the fight may not even be what happens in the ring, but what kind of PPV numbers Pacquiao is able to do.
Mayweather has recently stated that after a win over Mosley in their May bout he would be in a stronger bargaining position than Pacquiao coming off a win over Clottey. Because of this he doesn't feel a 50/50 split of a potential fight purse would be in his best interest.
This is a reasonable statement if the Mayweather-Mosley fight does the three million buys that Golden Boy has predicted, but that number seems far-fetched to me.
Considering that Mosley is a much bigger name than Clottey, Mayweather will have to absolutely crush Pacquiao's sales to put himself in a position to ask for more money, and while I think "Money" will outsell him, it may not be the rout that people expect for a couple reasons.
First of all, the fight being in Cowboys Stadium is a tremendous incentive to watch. Bob Arum has already stated that there will be at least 45,000 fans present, and the atmosphere should be electric.
Secondly, for whatever reason, Mosley is not really the box office draw you might expect for a guy that has been around at top levels for a long time. Boxing fans like the guy, but casual sports fans are just not that familiar with him.
In the end, I think 1.5 million to two million is a reasonable expectation for Mayweather, and a million or so for Pacquiao would be a pretty good night.
Considering that the Mayweather-Mosley fight is so much bigger, in terms of what it means to the sport, that isn't a large enough difference for Floyd to claim that he is a larger draw.
Whatever happens on March 13, let's not forget to block all this stuff out of our heads while we watch the fight, and just enjoy Pacquiao on the merit of his amazing talent. It should be a great night for boxing (dreadful undercard aside), and we can wait till at least the 14th to start back up with the "yeah, but..." game.
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