Not a Super Bowl, but Pacquiao an event

Published March 11, 2010

| AP

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The czar of boxing was so devastated the fight didn't happen, it took him weeks to get over it.

The (not Don) King of promoters was so mad he could barely utter Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s name.

And the emperor of Dallas felt like he had just lost the Super Bowl.

"I wanted that fight here with those two fighters worse than my next breath," Jerry Jones said.

The fight, of course, was Mayweather against Manny Pacquiao, and it fell apart despite the frenzied efforts of some of the biggest names in boxing and one of the biggest egos in Texas. If not for a nasty dispute over blood testing, it might have filled Cowboy Stadium and given Jones the kind of megafight he believes his new $1.2 billion edifice rightfully deserves.

Instead, he had to settle for the hottest fighter in the game. He got Pacquiao, but even a salesman like Jones can't fool anyone into believing Joshua Clottey is Mayweather.

So he's selling Pacman. He's selling the event which, appropriately enough, is titled "The Event."

Mostly, he's selling his stadium.

"This is going to be big time," Jones said. "I'm going to over-deliver."

That should make the 45,000 fans expected to show up Saturday night happy, and it will certainly please de facto boxing boss Ross Greenburg and promoter Bob Arum. They couldn't put together the fight that everyone wanted, but, between the show in Dallas and the May 1 show featuring Mayweather against Shane Mosley in Las Vegas, they've rebounded to produce a decent substitute.

They've also gotten a new ally for the sport in Jones, who is already better at selling fights than he is at picking wide receivers.

"The thing that's blown me away is what an unbelievable promoter this guy is," Arum said. "He never gets tired. We took a two-day trip to Mexico and he was able to drink everybody under the table and kept going. He gave dozens and dozens of interviews to Mexican media outlets. It's really something to see."

Dallas is hardly Las Vegas, of course, and once the novelty act that is the stadium starts to wear thin Jones will need a better matchup to fill so many seats. Clottey is a fine enough fighter, but he's never sold a ticket on his own, and oddsmakers make him a 5-1 underdog in the welterweight bout against a fighter who seems to get better with each fight.

But his plan to invite Cowboys of old and present, toss in a few cheerleaders and show it all on the huge overhead screens that will reveal every drop of sweat, should be more than enough to make it a memorable evening, if not a great show.

It should also be enough to get respectable pay-per-view numbers, something that Greenburg, head of sports at HBO, watches closely.

"Just the curiosity of seeing a 20-by-20 foot ring in that massive stadium should attract some attention," Greenburg said. "That, plus Jerry Jones as the co-promoter and the star power of Pacquiao, is what really makes this an event."

Greenburg thought he would be putting on a pay-per-view for the ages this weekend with a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight that would have done huge numbers. But even he couldn't get Mayweather to back off on blood testing demands that eventually killed the bout.

"It took me two to three weeks just to get over a pretty frustrated and sad state," Greenburg said. "I knew we were on the cusp of generating so much mainstream interest in boxing. We were hitting on all cylinders and got a flat tire. It was definitely a wound."

The wound is already starting to heal. The Pacquiao-Clottey fight is drawing plenty of attention, and the Mayweather-Mosley fight is such a good matchup that it doesn't need a glittering new stadium to boost sales.

And, of course, if both Pacquiao and Mayweather win, there likely will be another chance to making this fight happen sometime in the fall.

"Hopefully, calmer and more rational business minds can sit at a table and resolve the negotiations if that happens," Greenburg said. "Right now we have to look positively at what we have. We've got two conference championship games now, and hopefully we can have a Super Bowl."

The football analogy works for Jones, who sees a lot of parallels between the sport and boxing. He also sees a lot of business potential in mixing the two, particularly in reaching the Hispanic fans who tend to watch boxing in higher numbers than any other demographic.

Jones didn't get the fight he really wanted, but he's throwing a party anyway. Arum, meanwhile, is getting a sidekick who could give a lot of boxing promoters a run for the money if he didn't already have a day job.

Told the other day that Jones sells standing room only tickets in his new stadium for Cowboy games and calls them "party passes," Arum was almost beside himself.

"He's the best promoter I've ever run into," Arum said. "Party passes for standing room only? What a genius!"

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org

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