(STAR) By Abac Cordero  - Freddie Roach is just as thrilled as everybody who’s looking forward to Manny Pacquiao’s fight with Josh Clottey on March 13 at the Dallas Cowboys’ Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“I wanted Manny in an action fight and that’s what we got with Clottey,” Roach, the hottest boxing trainer out there today, told the Las Vegas Sun yesterday from Los Angeles.

Clottey, a 33-year-old, 5-foot-8 welterweight from Ghana, must have felt like he won the lottery when he was chosen from among a short list as Pacquiao’s next opponent.

Paulie Malignaggi, Yuri Foreman and Juan Manuel Marquez were in the radar after negotiations for the superfight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. went up in a ball of fire.

Any fight would have been a good fight for the fans as long as Pacquiao is up on the ring, but in the end, they ended up with Clottey, a stablemate of Pacquiao’s at Top Rank.

It was a decision that thrilled Roach.

“I wanted an action fight, I don’t want Manny in a boring fight. With Paulie it would be a blowout. Let’s face it, he’s not in the same class as Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. Yuri Foreman is a good fighter, he’s clever, but he’s boring.”

Roach said the Mayweather fight didn’t happen because the undefeated American “has all the excuses in the world” and just doesn’t want to fight Pacquiao and risk losing that “zero” in his ring record.

Arum and his stepson, Top Rank president Todd duBeof, flew to Dallas the other day and shared the VIP box with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and former President George Bush and his wife, Laura.

Arum is in town to seal the deal that should bring Pacquiao to the $1.2 billion stadium, which could house as many as 100,000 fans when all seats are taken, for the first time in his career.

It’s almost a done deal, everybody’s saying, and soon both fighters will sign the contract, and appear in a press conference on Jan. 18 in Dallas and the following day in New York.

Pacquiao will have to defend his WBO welterweight crown against Clottey, who seven months ago came close to defeating Miguel Cotto, who was eventually knocked out by Pacquiao last November.

Pacquiao’s adviser, Mike Koncz, said Pacquiao will fly to Los Angeles on Jan. 17 to start training.

Arum is just as thrilled as well as Jones and the ex-President.

“I think that he’s [Bush] going to come to the fight. He said that he ‘loves Pacquiao.’ He ‘loves Pacquiao.’ I was talking to him for like a long time, me and Todd. He was sitting with us in Jerry Jones’ box,” Arum told

He said they would set up the stadium for 50,000 fans.

“This place is absolutely awesome, I mean you should see it. The crowd is unbelievable. This is going to be incredible. This stadium, I’m telling you, with this fight, we’re going to pack this place,” said Arum as he enjoyed a Cowboys-Eagles game.

“I’m definitely going to sign for it tomorrow and finalize the deal tomorrow. And on Jan. 18, all of the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleaders are going to be there. This is going to be absolutely huge,” Arum told

Pacquiao and the realities of boxing THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) Updated January 11, 2010 12:00 AM

I always enjoy conversations with international boxing referee Bruce McTavish. His depth and range of experience and knowledge of professional boxing is second to none. Aside from always being accurate and keeping things real, Bruce – fondly called “Tatang” by some of his close friends in Angeles – always has a sharp sense of humor about everything, and is always ready to extend a helping hand.

I recently asked Bruce about the accomplishments of Manny Pacquiao, from the view of someone as deeply involved in boxing who can still be objective about what the Filipino champion has done, particularly over the last few years.

“Inside the ring, he’s phenomenal,” Bruce begins. “Somebody asked me if he’s the greatest I’ve ever seen. I said you’d have to put him in the same category as Ali. Muhammad Ali. Those types of boxers come along once every couple of decades. We had Ali, now we have Pacquiao.”

Looking at the scale of what Pacquiao has done, fighting to get a world record, I asked Bruce if he thought Pacquiao was just fighting for the most number of titles and the recognition, and not really for the love of the sport.

“Wrong on both counts,” McTavish was quick to respond. “He doesn’t decide who fights. Bob Arum does. He always listens to his coach, Freddie Roach, and he fights anyone and enjoys what he does. So on both counts, that is incorrect.”

Even though the plans for a supposed megabuck fight between the Pacman and undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. seem to have hit a wall, I asked Bruce if, without all the peripheral issues, Mayweather would have really gotten into the ring with Pacquiao in the first place.

“Yes. Forget the percentages. Even if you offered Mayweather 10 percent, if he’s going to get $59 million, it doesn’t matter what the percentages are. As for the fight itself, before Manny thought of running for politics: even fight. He has to concentrate 1,000 percent to fight Mayweather.”

On a larger issue, I picked Bruce’s brains about the disturbing trend of catchweights in boxing. Did this mean that there was a lack of quality boxers, and the sport was in dire straits.

“Boxing is not a sport, boxing is a profession,” he answered bluntly.

The catchweight is necessary. And it was at Pacquiao’s advantage, for example to fight at 145. To Miguel Cotto, it was a business proposition. He’s prepared to do it, so both parties were happy. At that level, yes, there aren’t that many quality boxers and, as I mentioned, Pacquiao is phenomenal.”

Then our conversation takes a leap outside the squared circle, looking at the status of boxing in the modern age, with the explosion of media and other sports that challenge its primacy in the minds of fans. Over two decades ago, promoters opted to not spend money on venue rental, and instead charged site fees to hold big bouts at hotel and casino chains, bringing the sport closer to big-time gambling, and farther away from true fans, who found it difficult not only to travel to Las Vegas, for example, but could no longer afford the tickets. So instead of purely understanding sympathetic fight fans at ringside, we often have high rollers who are screaming for blood, and celebrities who just want to be seen.

“Boxing is in serious trouble,” McTavish admits. “Mixed martial arts is getting the blue collar fans. They really have gotten behind it, because now, they get 30,000 to 50,000 fans at a fight, while some boxing matches get 4,000 to 5,000. It’s an unknown quantity.”

Lately, though, there has been a surge of world champions unseen in previous generations.

“We have four world champions, and would have had five with (Marvin) Sonsona.

Seventy percent of that is attributed to Pacquiao. I think the scientific approach is also making a difference in the training. Manny is no easy-going guy, so he is an exception. The Philippines has nothing but a good future. There is so much talent out there right now. They just need to get 20 to 25 fights locally, then go overseas, and not rush things.” Wise words, as always.

* * *

I would like to extend my birthday greeting to my grandmother, Teofila Unson, who turned 85 last Friday. Our Mama Upe hasn’t changed over the years, and we’re thankful for having her loving, prayerful presence in our lives.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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