Tuesday, January 19, 2010
First fight in Cowboys Stadium history
By Calvin Watkins
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Bob Arum called it the biggest news conference he's ever seen. Manny Pacquiao said he felt like a football player.
In Texas, they do things big. And a boxing match will take place in the biggest NFL stadium on March 13.
"I feel really good about this," Pacquiao said. "The fans will like what we do in the ring come March 13."
Pacquiao, considered the best fighter in the world, will defend the WBO welterweight title against Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium. It's the first boxing match in the $1.2 billion facility.
The main event will be held in front of a seating capacity of 40,000 on HBO pay-per-view.
Eight bouts will take place on the fight card, including four on television.
"This is going to be the Super Bowl of boxing," said Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer.
This fight came about after a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Pacquiao superfight fell through after Mayweather outlined a drug testing plan Pacquiao wouldn't accept.
Had that fight come together, it would have been in Las Vegas. So as far as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is concerned, things worked out just fine.
"It did," Jones said, smiling. "This gave us an opening. We were very aggressive. We were pretty quick to make a deal."
Before the fighters broke out into groups and talked to reporters Tuesday, the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders danced for a crowd of about 500 and several retired Cowboys and Fort Worth boxers were introduced.
Smoke surrounded the fighters as they entered from the same tunnel the football players use.
Jones presented Pacquiao with a No. 3 jersey featuring his name on the back. Clottey received a No. 13 jersey.
The significance? It's shorthand for the date of the bout: 3-13.
Arum, Pacquiao's promoter, has promoted fights at the Astrodome and at Yankee Stadium. He predicts Cowboys Stadium "will have a big role in boxing for years to come."
"I have never, ever seen anything like it," Arum said. "There is nothing in the world like this place. It just blows you away."
Jones vowed that fight night will be even splashier than the news conference.
"We're going to make this one of the most interesting fights to view that there's ever been," he said. "It'll have everything to do with the flexibility of this board right above the ring. We're going to have some fun with it."
The fight itself should be pretty good, too.
In November, Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs) beat Miguel Cotto, who beat Clottey (35-3, 20 KOs) last summer. However, that fight was a split decision that many felt should've gone to Clottey, a native of Ghana who lives in New York.
The stadium is hosting the NBA All-Star Game next month and will host the Super Bowl next year. A Final Four is on the way, as is a Notre Dame football game. It's also in the running as a World Cup soccer site, should that event come to the United States.
"We want to have big fights here," Jones said. "This is the first step to doing that, and I'm excited we could get a fight like this here."
Still, for all that it has going for it, the building is right off an interstate highway in a suburb midway between Dallas and Fort Worth. There's a nearby amusement park and some strip centers, none of which will ever be confused with the Las Vegas Strip.
But money talks and Jones believes he can make it financially worthwhile for fighters. His goal is to host up to four or five fights a year, "once we establish that we are the place to fight and have the kind of stature that we want to have." He used Madison Square Garden as a comparison.
Arum said he hopes more than 40,000 fans can attend the bout because the stadium can expand its seating capacity to as much as 80,000.
Jones already has gotten ticket requests from former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson and Bill Parcells. Jones and Barry Switzer have gone to fights together, so he'll probably ask for a seat, too.
Parcells, though, is the biggest fight fan of the bunch. In fact, Jones once looked into investing in Pacquiao's career.
"Bill really encouraged me to meet with the guy who had Pacquiao," Jones said. "I had him come in and sit down and talk about backing Pacquiao. You could see his potential at that time."
Information from ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins and The Associated Press was used in this report.