Manny Pacquiao easily wins a shell game

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A huge crowd of 50,994, in a huge stadium in this Dallas suburb, watched Manny Pacquiao battle 12 rounds against a turtle Saturday night.

Pacquiao, currently the best of the best in the fight game, won a unanimous and lopsided decision over Joshua Clottey, a man from Ghana, by way of the Bronx, whose style was to cover his head with his hands high and plod around. While he was doing this, Pacquiao hit him from every angle at every speed.

“He’s a tough fighter, a good fighter,” Pacquiao said afterward, probably being nice.

Others might have substituted the word “boring” for “tough.”

Pacquiao also said, “This was not an easy fight,”

Certainly not to watch.

Two judges gave Clottey one round each, the third zero rounds.

Clottey, known for his defense, took this fight to a ridiculous extreme. The bell for each round rang, Clottey put his gloves upside his head and sauntered out toward Pacquiao, who hit him with everything. The only mistake Pacquiao’s camp made was not bringing a kitchen sink.

The lightweight title fight that immediately preceded the main event and matched good friends and tough brawlers, David Diaz of Chicago and Humberto Soto of Mexico, went the full 12 rounds. Soto won a unanimous decision, but it was the kind of fight that failed to capture the imagination of the huge crowd in this huge stadium, nor serve as much of a warmup.

For a while, the crowd did the wave. Then they waited for the giant TV screen that hung over the ring to flash pictures of Cowboys football players, current and former, so they could applaud wildly. Some of it was so incongruous to what was happening in the ring that Soto and Diaz had to wonder what was going on.

It was 10:45 p.m. local time, before the first punch was thrown in the main event.

That followed three national anthems, one for Clottey’s Ghana, one for Pacquiao’s Philippines and one for the good ol’ USA.

This being Dallas, Francis Scott Key’s rendition was done by three Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

You expected Placido Domingo in Dallas?

All in all, they did quite well, and the crowd loved it. And it was oh, so, Texas. Oh Say Can You See ... white knee boots and lots of cleavage.

Pacquiao entered to “Eye of the Tiger.” He came in with his ever-present smile, went right to his corner to kneel in prayer, and then was ready. In light of his recent ring dominance, you wonder whom he prayed for -- in this case, presumably Clottey.

Michael Buffer, the world’s richest public address announcer, milked his “Ready to Rumble” as best he could.

And then they did.

The first round looked like a continuation of the last half-dozen Pacquiao fights, where he initiated the action, moved quickly and smoothly, and established himself as the faster, better fighter. Clottey did what Clottey does, come forward with hands high, blocking much of what Pacquiao offered.

The second round was much the same. Pacquiao pursued, Clottey played peek-a-boo. Pacquiao landed a good body combination that staggered Clottey, and the African, by way of the Bronx, pretended to stagger in a sort of mock “you can’t hurt me.”

A main consideration after a third round of much the same -- Pacquiao throwing and Clottey blocking -- was whether Pacquiao would punch himself out at this rate. Clottey landed several times, but remained seemingly content to block and block and move forward, taking barrage after barrage of punches.

After five rounds, little had changed. Clottey appeared interested in staying in his shell and Pacquiao appeared challenged as to how to crack it.

After five rounds, Pacquiao was averaging 98 punches a round thrown, Clottey 34. Through seven rounds, Pacquiao threw 677 punches and Clottey 225.

In the ninth, Pacquiao stepped up the flurries. He hit Clottey with at least 10 power surges. He might as well have been punching a redwood tree.

As they entered the 11th round, Pacquiao had already thrown more than 1,000 punches.

Pacquiao still had it in the 11th. Obviously in superb condition, he chased Clottey all over the ring, delivered one barrage after another, and Clottey covered up, coming out of the shell occasionally to land a shot of his own. The relative volume, however, was staggering. Final punch stats by the Compubox people, who and probably went home with cramped fingers, had Pacquiao throwing a total of 1,271 punches, to Clottey’s 399.

The main consolation for the fans was that they could tell their grandchildren someday that they spent an evening in a new palace of an arena, watching a short, stumpy man trying to chop down a tree, which didn’t fall.