Manny Pacquiao has reached a point at which greatness is not enough. It's not enough for him to deliver career-ending beatings to Oscar De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton in consecutive fights. It's not enough for him to brutalize opponents, as he did in carving up Miguel Cotto's face with surgical precision in November. And it's not enough for Pacquiao to dominate from wire to wire, as he did in defending his WBO welterweight title against Joshua Clottey last Saturday night in Arlington, Texas. In front of a crowd of 50,994 at Cowboys Stadium, Pacquiao overwhelmed Clottey, himself a former welterweight champion, throwing 1,231 punches to Clottey's 399. Though few of Pacquiao's punches landed cleanly—according to CompuBox, fewer than 3% of his jabs (14 of 549) connected—his furious work rate was enough to assure victory. Of the 36 rounds on the three judges' cards, Clottey was awarded two. Asked what he would have done differently, Clottey smiled, shrugged and said, "I did my best." Yet all of Pacquiao's brilliance doesn't seem to matter if his opponent isn't Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Pacquiao, 31, doesn't need Mayweather, whom the Filipino supplanted as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. The 33-year-old Mayweather's insistence on prefight blood testing, and Pacquiao's refusal to go along, scrapped a proposed bout between the two boxers earlier this year. In Mayweather's absence Pacquiao's promoter, Bob Arum, serves him up members of his own stable for eight-figure paydays. You don't want Yuri Foreman, Manny? O.K., here's Clottey.
Pacquiao, in fact, doesn't need anyone. He is seeking election to the Philippine Congress in May, a campaign into which he has sunk $5 million. With considerable revenue flowing in from endorsements and real estate holdings—a source inside Team Pacquiao estimates the fighter's annual out-of-the ring income at $10 million—and with his trainer, Freddie Roach, whispering retirement in his ear, Congressman Pacquiao could make politics a full-time job.
Nevertheless, if Pacquiao's life won't suffer without a Mayweather fight, his legacy will. Rarely do boxing's two best fighters reside in the same weight class. Should Pacquiao and Mayweather never meet—a possibility that grows ever larger with all the bad blood flowing between Arum and Mayweather's copromoter, Richard Schaefer—their careers will be linked by massive asterisks.
And it's the sport that will suffer the most. "People like to talk about how MMA is overtaking boxing," says Roach. "If fights like Pacquiao-Mayweather don't happen, it might." Roach thinks like the rest of us: Pacquiao can continue to be great. Greatness, however, just isn't enough.
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