By Jeff Zimmerman
As the saying goes, everything is “Bigger in Texas,” and today’s press conference kicking off the Manny Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey super fight on March 13th at the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium was no exception. It’s not the Mayweather vs. Pacquiao mega fight that everyone craved, but this fight, dubbed “The Event” should still do well with pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao as the main draw. Dallas Cowboy Owner Jerry Jones, co-promoting the fight along with Top Rank Chief and Hall of Fame Promoter Bob Arum, showcased the new stadium for the large media contingent and several hundred fans in attendance, mostly pro Pacquiao. And Jones made sure his massive 160 foot long and 72 foot high HD video screen was also on full display making Pacquiao and Clottey look larger than life while highlighting some of the greatest fights in boxing history during the introductions.
Jones, always the marketer, went all out in putting this mini-event together as he dipped into his Cowboy bag of tricks with several former players in attendance including Darren Woodson, Charles Haley, Russell Maryland, Lee Roy Jordan, Rayfield Wright, Preston Pearson and Drew Pearson plus the world renowned Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Former Dallas/Fort Worth boxing stars Paulie Ayala, Troy Dorsey and Gene Hatcher were also introduced. Even the fighters were in awe of the spectacle which had both fighters enter from the player’s tunnel engulfed in smoke with the Cowboy Cheerleaders cheering them to the boxing ring shaped stage.
Pacquiao stated, “I like the introduction. I feel like a football player”. This drew a huge cheer from the crowd.
Clottey shared, “I have never been in a stadium like this before. This is the biggest arena I have fought in so far.” When he was later told there could be 50,000 people at the fight and if he was concerned by such a large crowd, he quickly pointed out, “A large crowd doesn’t bother me.” Clottey was asked how he will handle the speed of Pacquiao. “I will hit hard and slow him down,” Clottey added.
If you came for trash talking and giant size egos, then you came to the wrong place, as this was more of a celebration of this historic fight. And both fighters were very quick to praise the other, showing the utmost respect.
“I have already started my training so I know I am going to focus on Pacquiao. It’s not going to be easy,” Clottey acknowledged. With conditioning a must against Pacquiao, Clottey has hired a new conditioning coach to get ready for the fight. Clottey also declared, “I like Manny Pacquiao. He is my favorite fighter. It’s going to be a great fight.”
Pacquiao encouraged all to come to the fight, “Please come on March 13th. It’s going to be a good fight with Clottey. Clottey is a good fighter, tough fighter, but I will do my best to make people happy.” Pacquiao also thanked Jones for the opportunity, “Thank you Jerry Jones for a chance to fight here in Dallas, my first time to be here.”
Arum also gave his take as the promoter for both fighters. “Manny may be facing the toughest, toughest test in Joshua Clottey. He is rugged and comes to fight.” Arum added however, “There are no challenges that Pacquiao doesn’t take – Oscar was too big, Hatton smothers you, Cotto too strong but Pacquiao takes on all challengers.”
Although the fight and the star power of Pacquiao is why people came, it was the stadium and its physical stature that seemed to take on a life of its own. Jones described what he had in mind when his dream became a reality.
“Our goal is to bring the greatest competition here. I always thought I could put a ring (boxing) on the STAR (referencing the Dallas Cowboy Star). This will be the first fight in history and we will make it a fight to be remembered.”
This was not lost on Arum either. Arum affirmed, “It’s a special privilege to promote the first boxing event at Cowboy Stadium. Thanks to Jerry for having the foresight that great boxing had a place at Cowboy Stadium.” He also added some boxing nostalgia, “Like New York at Madison Square Garden and Caesars Palace in Vegas, with your help, Cowboy Stadium could become the Mecca of Boxing.
Legendary Ring Announcer Michael Buffer also served as the MC of the event adding an extra buzz to the festivities. While comparing new Cowboy Stadium from the Birdnest in Beijing to the new and old Yankee Stadium in New York, Buffer was also blown away by the occasion.
“This is the most amazing press conference I have seen in 28 years”, Buffer pronounced to everyone.
HBO exec Mark Taffet also confirmed that this fight will be on HBO PPV ending speculation that Mayweather may fight the same night. Taffet also expressed gratitude in televising the inaugural event. “Pacquiao is not just a boxing or sports icon but a world figure,” Taffet stated.
And ever the promoter, Arum also took the opportunity to hype one of his company’s brightest and up and coming stars, Dallas based Roberto Marroquin (11-0 8 KOs). Arum said about Marroquin, “He is a Dallas Cowboy Fighter and will be fighting for a championship soon.” Marroquin will be fighting on the undercard and will be the first fight of the PPV.
Jones knows the stakes are high as he promotes his first big time boxing event with the hope that this will allure other big fights to his new home. And while Jones is the ultimate businessman, he has also been a boxing fan for many years.
Jones stated, “I have been to about 20 title fights around the world, including Ali vs. Spinks and Hagler vs. Hearns.” He was glad to get Pacquiao even if the opponent was not Mayweather. “I wanted Pacquiao and the dynamic he brings.”
If today’s kickoff press conference was any indication, Jones is well on his way to hosting some big fights in the future.