ARLINGTON, Texas -- The venue, the crowd, the atmosphere, all of it met -- and in some cases, exceeded -- expectations. Boxing should absolutely return to Texas, where the third-largest crowd in U.S. boxing history (50,994) packed Cowboys Stadium to see Manny Pacquiao successfully defend his WBO welterweight title against Joshua Clottey on Saturday. Only next time, it should come with a better fight.
The unwatchable nature of Pacquiao-Clottey -- and it was, for the most part, at a Gigli-level of unwatchable -- had little to do with Pacquiao and everything to do with Clottey. Pacquiao did what Pacquiao does. He threw punches in bunches -- 1,231 to be exact. He chopped at Clottey's midsection like the ex-welterweight champ was a redwood and bombarded him with power shots from a variety of angles.
Clottey, in turn, did what Clottey does. He turned his forearms into a flesh-and-bone shield and his gloves into modified headgear that absorbed virtually everything Pacquiao threw at him. Of Pacquiao's 549 jabs, only 3 percent -- 3 percent -- found the mark. Clottey made a prophet out of most ringside reporters and did what Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, suspected when he learned that Clottey had chosen the cushier Everlast gloves ("Those gloves suck," Roach said) over the more puncher-friendly Reyes brand.
"I'm disappointed [in Clottey]," Roach said. "He's fighting for the title and he fought like he didn't want to win it."
Of course he didn't want to win. He had already won. The Clottey camp declared victory the day it signed the contract that guaranteed it a reported $1.25 million with a cut of the pay-per-view money after the buys hit 300,000. Fighting Pacquiao wasn't about winning; it was about not getting hurt doing it.
It was, of course, all too predictable. And it was a fight Bob Arum, one of boxing's driving forces who counts both Pacquiao and Clottey in his stable, should have seen coming from a country mile.
Now the attention turns back to Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather, a fight the sport desperately needs but one that almost seems predestined never to occur. The two sides couldn't come to an agreement in January when neither fighter would budge over the issue of blood testing (Mayweather wanted it; Pacquiao did not). Since then Arum and Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer have engaged in a bitter war of words that has threatened to freeze the sport. "F--- Golden Boy" was one of Arum's most notable phrases last week. And Schaefer told SI.com on Sunday that if "Arum brings the same arrogance to the table this time, he should go ahead and make Pacquiao-Antonio Margarito."
See, it's not just about blood testing anymore. Certainly it remains a central issue -- Arum says he will not negotiate it at all in any future talks and Schaefer insists that Mayweather will not agree to any fight without it -- but there will be others. The crash and burn of Pacquiao-Clottey (HBO's replay of the fight next Saturday isn't exactly must-see TV) and the probable success of Mayweather's upcoming fight with Shane Mosley means Mayweather, should he get past Mosley, won't be quick to accept a 50-50 split. And Pacquiao's camp has long insisted it won't settle for a dime less than that, not when Pacquiao can collect $12.5 million checks (his guarantee for the Clottey fight) for fighting fringe contenders.
Where does that leave the world's best? Sinking in a puddle of mediocrity. As Arum paraded around the disgraced welterweight Margarito like a returning hero -- instead of the lowly criminal he is for attempting to Luis Resto Mosley (and probably succeeding against Miguel Cotto) -- speculation was rampant that Arum was building toward a Pacquiao-Margarito fight later this year. Arum continues to ram Yuri Foreman's name down reporters throats and his chummy relationship with Lou DiBella -- with whom he will co-promote Kelly Pavlik's upcoming fight with Sergio Martinez -- opens the door for fringe matchups with Andre Berto, Kermit Cintron and Carlos Quintana.
Decent fights? Sure. The fights boxing needs? Not even close.