ARLINGTON, Texas — When they stepped on the scale outside Texas Stadium Friday night the differential between them was a mere pound and a quarter, but Manny Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach supposes that as much as 15 or 16 pounds could separate Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey by the time they step into the ring tomorrow night.
“Manny won’t put on much at all. He can’t gain much more (than the 145 3/4 he scaled in last night),” said Roach, who expects his righter to come into the ring weighing no more than 148 or 149. Clottey, on the other hand, is a natural welterweight who has made no secret of his intent to come in ‘big’ for the megabout, and Roach fully expects his fighter to be facing a full-fledged super-middleweight by the time the bell rings.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Clottey weighs 165 or 166 by fight time,” said Roach, who nonetheless remains resolute in his prediction of a Pacquiao knockout.
The weigh-in was conducted before an audience several thousand strong that would make for a decent crowd at most any club fight show you could think of. Announcer Michael Buffer was kept busy introducing the dignitaries, who included former champions Antonio Margarito and Jorge Arce of Mexico, along with Dallas‘ own Stevie Cruz, who upset Barry McGuigan to win the WBA featherweight title almost a quarter-century ago. Actor Robert Duvall was also introduced on the dais but did not weigh in, and Cowboys‘ safety Darren Woodson took the microphone from Buffer to warm up the crowd, whose allegiance seemed evenly divided between Mexico and the Philippines. If there were any rooters from Ghana they did not make their presence known.
Even though Cowboys Stadium was reconfigured to accommodate 45,000 for Pacquiao-Clottey, promoter Bob Arum said shortly before the weigh-in that just a handful of tickets remained, and a sellout appears likely. Arum revealed that his partner, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, had opted to put an undetermined (but probably unlimited) number of $35 “party” tickets on sale 24 hours before the fight.
The “party pass” is an innovation Jones developed for sold-out Cowboys home games. Patrons don’t get a seat, but rather are allowed to mill around on a plaza high above the field. Sight lines are pretty limited, but the party patrons are able to watch on the state of the art video boards, and, of course, have access to a bar. The setup was designed, according to Jones, “to accommodate fans who just want to be part of the atmosphere” — and judging from the turnout at last night’s weigh-in and their reaction to Arum’s “party time!” announcement, there appears to be an abundance of those.
The main event referee, Rafael Ramos, was working the night Manny Pacquiao last fought in Texas three years ago, but their paths didn’t cross that night at the Alamodome. Ramos drew several undercard bouts, including those involving Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Victor Ortiz, but the assignment for the Paquiao-Jorge Solis main event went to Vic Drakulich of Transylvania.
Although he has resided in San Antonio for the past 17 years, the 53 year-old Ramos was born in Puerto Rico and cut his refereeing teeth in the New Jersey casinos two decades ago. Although he has worked upwards of 30 world title bouts, more than half of them were overseas, and he seems to specialize in Oriental junkets, having worked two dozen title bouts in the Far East, including 21 separate trips to Japan.
Ironically, Ramos was not the WBO’s first choice to work tonight’s bout. The slate of officials initially proposed listed Laurence Cole as the referee, but that was overruled by William Kuntz, the executive director of the Texas Commission. Not only has Cole involved himself in controversy by mishandling several high-profile bouts over the years (including a suspension for his misconduct in a 2006 fight involving Juan Manuel Marquez), but it was felt that the fact that he is the son of former Texas boxing boss Dickie Cole might create the appearance of impropriety. (This apparently never occurred to anyone on Dickie’s watch.)
At the very least, had the Cole appointment stood, there would have been as much attention focused on the referee as on the fighters themselves, and, Ramos noted earlier this week, “the fans aren’t paying to see me.”
Should their services be required, the panel of ringside judges for the main event will be Duane Ford (Nevada), Levi Martinez (New Mexico) and Nelson Vasquez (Puerto Rico).
Ramos was the referee when Marquez stopped Juan Diaz in the ninth round of their 2009 Fight of the Year candidate in Houston. Ironically, although their services were not required that night, both Ford and Martinez were judges for that bout.
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Ten bouts in all are on tap, with the last four of them slated to be aired on the HBO PPV telecast, including the Humberto Soto-David Diaz WBC lightweight title fight.
In introducing the principals for that one at Thursday’s undercard press conference, promoter Bob Arum noted that more than any other single person, Diaz is responsible for setting in motion the chain of events leading to tonight’s megafight by agreeing to Pacquiao’s 2008 challenge for his WBC lightweight title.
Since Pacquiao had not once in 50 pro fights ventured north of 130 pounds, it was not a fight Diaz was obliged to take, and Pac-Man’s TKO9 presaged similar fates for Oscar De Lay Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto in Manny’s subsequent climb up the scales.
At 29, Alfonso Gomez is better known for his role in ‘The Contender’ and as the man who retired the late Arturo Gatti than for anything he’s done lately. Gomez revealed that much of his recent energy has gone into performing with his two brothers in a Spanish hip-hop group called Hybrid. Thursday afternoon the Fonz provided a sneak peek, reciting the lyrics to a recent composition, the subject of which was tonight’s 36 year-old opponent, Jose Luis Castillo.
The recitation was in Spanish, but we can reliably report that Gomez’ song incorporated the names of Castillo, Bob Arum, Freddy Krueger, and Tecate beer. Castillo seemed properly amused.
The PPV show will kick off with a scheduled ten-rounder in which Irish middleweight John Duddy has been pitted against his third consecutive Mexican-born opponent in his year-long quest for redemption following last year’s upset at the hands of Billy Lyell. Unlike his recent victims Michi Munoz and Juan Astorga, both of whom now reside in Kansas, Michael Medina lives in Monterrey and will be fighting North of the border for just the third time in his career.
It was consequently something of a surprise, then, to hear Medina address the gathering in perfectly un-accented English. (In fact, claimed a Texan in attendance, “Medina’s English is easier to understand than Duddy’s is.”)
“English was actually my first language,” Medina explained to us later. “I was born in Mexico, but my family moved to California when I was little. I went to American schools until I was 12, when we moved back to Mexico.”
In addition to the sold-out live audience, Arum is hoping for as many as 750,000 buys for the US pay-per-view telecast. Millions more, as Buffer likes to say, will be watching on live television around the world. The team of Ian Darke and Jim Watt are here to call the bout for Britain’s SKY TV. Because no Brit is involved, Pacquiao-Clottey will be shown on free television in the United Kingdom. By contrast, May’s Amir Khan-Paulie Malignaggi fight at the Madison Square Garden Theatre will be a pay-per-view fight in Britain. Go figure.