Pacquiao's performance put in perspective
If you're looking for evidence that Manny Pacquiao isn't just the world's hottest fighter, but a legitimate welterweight capable of taking down full-grown 147-pounders, the Pac-Man provided it Saturday night with his 12-round domination of Ghana's Josh Clottey.
Pacquiao looked great against Oscar De La Hoya but at 36 Oscar had little left in the tank, especially after drying out to make the welterweight limit.
In pulverizing Miguel Cotto, Pacuiao opened even more eyes to his blinding speed and surprising power, but we can't ignore the lingering effects of Cotto's disheartening loss to Antonio Margarito, nor the 145-pound weight limit imposed by Pacquiao's camp. It was a welterweight fight, but with an asterisk.
So here comes Clottey, the guy who nearly conquered Cotto last June, a legitimate 147-pound welterweight and one of the strongest fighters in the division
And Pacquiao made him look like a sparring partner.
Clottey fought like a poor man's Arthur Abraham, covering up while Pacquiao punched in bunches, responding with single shots when Pacquiao paused to breathe.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, fought like Pacquiao, a buzzsaw boring in from all angles, moving in every direction but backwards and always, always, always punching.
The result? About the most lopsided numbers you'll ever see in a high-level fight.
Two of the three judges had Pacquiao winning 11 of 12 rounds, while the third had Pacquiao in a shutout.
Clottey threw only 399 punches and landed just 108. Pacquiao, meanwhile landed 246 of 1231 punches, a 20-percent connect rate.
Granted, Pacquiao's punches didn't have much effect on Clottey, who was never wobbled and who left the ring looking the same as when he had entered it. But the shots he threw clearly rattled the brain of HBO announcer Jim Lampley, temporarily knocking from his vocabulary every word but "bang."
Still, we can't let the crooked numbers and Lampley's hyperbole obscure a very important point about Saturday's bout.
Pacquiao took a beating.
He may have landed more than twice as many shots, but every time Clottey snapped Pacquiao's head back with a thunderous uppercut or stiff jab it was clear which man was delivering the more damaging blows. About three rounds in Lampley and Max Kellerman tried to shout down fellow HBO analyst and legendary trainer Emanuel Steward when he made the same point, but after the fight the fighters' faces bore Steward out and revealed what the stats overshadowed.
While Clottey finished with his face unmarked, Pacquiao looked a haggard and sported a large welt beneath his right eye.
Certainly Clottey received the result he deserved. Unless you're fighting a mannequin you'll never win a decision throwing 33 punches a round, no matter how much damage you're doing. Clottey was grateful for the payday (a reported $1.25 million plus a pay-per-view percentage) and he fought like it, easing off whenever he had Pacquiao stunned, and touching gloves after every bell like a $20-a-round sparring partner.
"Thanks for the work, Champ."
If his string of spectacular stoppages didn't inspire outright fear in Clottey, it at least engendered an unhealthy respect -- the kind that makes challengers back off when they should press forward, and settle for the honour of surviving Pacquiao instead chasing of the glory of beating him.
That's not Pacquiao's fault. As we've discussed before fear is an effective weapon for big punchers, and it worked against Clottey whether or not Pacquaio even meant to deploy it.
But even an overly cautious Clottey showed Pacquiao lacks some key skills.
Like a tight defense.
You have to wonder how much more punishment Pacquiao would have absorbed against a busier, more accurate, less star struck fighter.
And what happens when Pacquiao meets that committed counterpuncher? A guy who won't allow him to get off 105 shots per round? Who will make him pay for missing 80 percent of his shots? And who offers a puzzle he can't solve by simply throwing more punches?
A 20-percent connect rate might propel you past Clottey, but it's just enough to get you beat against Mayweather or Mosley.
And isn't that what all of this is about?
Did any of us every view Pacquiao-Clottey on its own merits, or did we just take it for what it is -- a chance to see how Pacquiao stacks up against a real welterweight before he meets the winner of Mayweather-Mosley?
The truth is he measures up very, very well, and right now deserves the pound-for-pound crown.
But the truth is also that Mayweather and Mosley each offer Pacquiao a skill set he has never seen.
If Pacquiao struggled to land shots against Clottey how will he reach Mayweather, the best defensive fighter of this generation?
And if Clottey raised welts with his sporadic punching, what damage will a power boxer like Mosley inflict?
This is not to say that a victory against Pacquiao is guaranteed for either of these men. Again, it's no accident that Pacquiao is the world's top fighter, pound for pound.
But if he wants to retain that crown when the inevitable showdown takes place he'll need to show more than he did against Clottey.
Follow the Morgan Campbell on Twitter