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It’s time again for the Manny show

12
Mar

Manny Pacquiao has been on a remarkable roll the past 21 months, stopping four former or current titleholders. Will Joshua Clottey be No. 5 on Saturday at Cowboys Stadium. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

DALLAS – It’s time for the next installment of “Manny,” the greatest show in boxing.

When we last left you, Manny Pacquiao, the 31-year-old superman from the Philippines, was beating the stuffing out of another elite opponent who was supposed to give him hell, Miguel Cotto. Before that, it was Ricky Hatton. And before that, Oscar De La Hoya.

Now it’s Joshua Clottey’s turn on Saturday night at gargantuan Cowboys Stadium, which is barely big enough to contain 50,000 fans (including standing room only) and Pacquiao’s vast talent.



We’re told that Clottey’s substantial size advantage and sublime defensive skills might make him the biggest threat to Pacquiao since rival Juan Manuel Marquez in 2008. Yeah, whatever. Again, we’ve heard that before

Clottey, who also has a great chin, might be standing when the final bell rings but most experts believe Pacquiao’s magic powers – his speed (both in hand and foot), his power (ask Hatton) and, most important, his skill – will overwhelm the Ghanian.

And some, this writer included, believe Clottey will become his fifth consecutive knockout victim – all five of them being former or current titleholders.

“The guy is pretty amazing,” said David Diaz, the first of the five KO victims. “I didn’t know it at the time but now you see everything he’s done, beating De La Hoya, knocking out Hatton, really beating Cotto. Cotto did a tremendous job of running away after the fourth round. Manny is something to watch. I think his big advantage in this fight is his speed. ÔǪ I can take his punches. He just threw too many at one time.

“He was in ÔǪ boom, boom , boom ÔǪ and out. I was like, ‘I can’t deal with his speed.' If he brought it down a notch, maybe 20 punches per minute, I might’ve been alright.”

Again, we can come up with reasons why Clottey (35-3, 20 knockouts) will give Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs) trouble, the most significant being his size.

Clottey could have as much as a 15-pound weight advantage when they step through the ropes, which means the favorite will be fighting a substantially bigger man. The idea that Pacquiao can’t hurt Clottey with one punch is a stretch but not outrageous.

Clottey also is one of the best defensive fighters in the world, avoiding almost 80 percent of his opponents’ punches in his last nine fights. Pacquiao certainly can’t hurt what he can’t hit.

And, while Clottey has stopped only one of his last 10 opponents, he has some power. We wonder what will happen if a bigger, stronger man lands a big, strong punch on Pacquiao’s chin.

“A lot of fighters are unbeatable when they get into the ring,” said Lenny DeJesus, Clottey’s first-time trainer. “Then you make one little mistake. You could be crossing the street and look this way and forget to look that way and a car runs you down. ÔǪ It’s a hurting game. If my guy puts a hurt on Pacquiao, it will change the outlook of the fight. When you get hurt, you start covering up and fighting differently.

“You can teach a guy to dance and move and all that (Pacquaio does) but one shot could decide the whole fight .”

However, most observers agree that Pacquiao is the one who is more likely to land that shot.

Freddie Roach, his longtime trainer, has turned a very good fighter with rare gifts into the best fighting machine since Sugar Ray Leonard. Bert Sugar, the respected author who has been ranking fighters for three decades, puts Pacquiao in his Top 25 all time. Think about that.

And it’s not just that he wins, it’s HOW he wins. The beating he put on Diaz was brutally fascinating. His knockout of De La Hoya, which lifted him to superstardom, was astonishing. His one-thunderous-punch knockout of Hatton was breathtaking. And his KO of Cotto had people shaking their heads.

Pacquiao leaves fans exhilarated, an ability shared by precious few fighters in the history of the sport.

Can he do it again on Saturday? Even casual fans will want to find out. Pacquiao has become must-see TV, particularly because he has hinted at retirement in the near future. We won’t get too many more opportunities to witness his magic.

“He’s the most-exciting fighter in the world,” said Freddie Roach, his trainer. “Why would you not want to watch him?”

Good question.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]