Photo by Frank Franklin II
Manny Pacquiao ran roughshod through four different sparring partners earlier this week, and boxing's pound-for-pound king plans to churn through just as many on Saturday.
He's been peppering the speed bag, pounding the heavy bag and doing enough running to make Usain Bolt fall over in a heap. Under the watchful eye of trainer Freddie Roach, Pacquiao is putting himself in position to knock out Joshua Clottey when they fight March 13 in Dallas.
"Manny is getting better all the time," Roach marveled after a training session at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles. "I know Clottey is a big, strong guy. I respect him, he's a great fighter. But Manny I feel is going to overwhelm him with his speed and combinations, and I do believe we will be the first one to stop him in 12 rounds."
If it sounds simple, that's because Pacquiao has little trouble when fights are decided in the ring. Things aren't so easy when the fight is contested with words.
That continues to be the case with Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr., after their proposed blockbuster fell through because of drug testing protocol. Mayweather and his relatives have accused Pacquiao of using performance-enhancing drugs, either directly or by innuendo, while the Filipino champion has balked at taking a blood test within 14 days of a fight.
Pacquiao will instead fight Clottey at Cowboys Stadium, while Mayweather is headed for a showdown May 1 against welterweight champion Shane Mosley. Along with the verbal jabs, Pacquiao and Mayweather can also fight over who generates bigger pay-per-view numbers.
"We're not happy with his remarks and Manny really wants to fight him in the future because of the remarks he made," Roach said. "Manny, sometimes when he's shadowboxing, he shows me how Mayweather fights and how he'll take care of the problem, and I've never seen that before.
"He's trying to ruin our reputations and so forth," Roach added, "but we want to fight him and we'll knock him out."
Promoter Bob Arum still believes that Mayweather never wanted to fight Pacquiao, and his strict adherence to blood testing -- which is far more extensive than urine analysis required by the Nevada Athletic Commission -- was his way of getting out of it.
"We don't have to be geniuses to know what they were trying to do. They were trying to get into Manny's head so he'd be discombobulated," Arum said. "Mayweather against Manny is a no-contest, no contest. Manny would wipe the ring with Floyd Mayweather."
If that's ever to happen, he'll first have to wipe the ring with Clottey.
The fight appears to be a mismatch on paper, especially considering the rugged fighter from Ghana lost to Miguel Cotto -- the same guy Pacquiao dominated last fall. But just like fights aren't decided with words, they aren't decided on paper, either.
"Joshua Clottey I know is taller and bigger than me, and you cannot underestimate him," Pacquiao said, "because he's a former world champion also."
Clottey has been training in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the first seven-figure payday of his career. It would go a long way toward helping his family back home in the dusty city of Accra, where Clottey acknowledges that poverty is a way of life.
"I'm coming to do my best," he said by phone earlier this week. "He is a good fighter. He is the best now. This is the test and I am going for the WBO title. I'm going all out. I have my game plan and I always come to fight."
It's a difficult fight to market because it's not the fight demanded by the public, but that doesn't mean there isn't significant interest. Pacquiao is making an encore appearance on Jimmy Kimmel next week and will soon have a profile in Time Magazine, while Clottey was the subject of a lengthy expose in ESPN The Magazine.
And of course, Pacquiao is running for Congress in the Philippines.
More than 30,000 tickets have already been sold for the fight, and Arum expects the $1.2 billion football stadium just outside Dallas to be filled with about 45,000 fans on March 13.
It may not be Mayweather, but it's something to tide fans over.
"People were looking forward to a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, that's clear. But Manny has a huge, huge fan base," Arum said. "Every sports fan knows Manny Pacquiao. Our job is to present Joshua Clottey as he is, a bigger guy, a stronger guy probably, a guy who has never been off his feet -- a real test for Manny Pacquiao. That's what will sell this fight.
"I think the public gets it, and I think the pay-per-view is going to do extremely well."