By Dan Rafael
Jerry Jones got his fight.
The owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who made a strong pitch to host the now-aborted Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight at Cowboys Stadium by offering a record $25 million site fee, landed the next best thing.
The new $1.2 billion state-of-the-art facility in Arlington, Texas, will host Pacquiao’s March 13 pay-per-view welterweight title defense against Joshua Clottey.
Jones and Top Rank’s Bob Arum and Todd duBoef, who toured the facility and were Jones’ guests at Saturday night’s Cowboys playoff victory against the Philadelphia Eagles, closed the deal for the bout on Sunday afternoon.
“Bob was persistent in keeping this alive as a place for Manny’s fight,” Jones told ESPN.com, while celebrating the deal with Arum and duBoef. “I’m so glad Bob came back to us. We are so excited about this event and that we will be able to bring a big fight here for the Hispanic boxing fans, and all boxing fans in this area, who are also Dallas Cowboys fans. It’s important for us. Manny is such an exemplary athlete.”
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Jones could not contain his excitement.
“I never got into the NFL or bought the Cowboys for the money. I was lucky enough to already have some,” he said. “This is about having a fighter like Manny and an event like this in our venue. When we finished the deal, I was shaking as much as I was when we beat the Eagles. I’m just as excited.”
The timing of the formal news conference has not been determined because Pacquiao still needs to come to the United States from the Philippines and Clottey is headed to the U.S. from Ghana.
DuBoef said it probably won’t be until after the Cowboys’ Jan. 17 game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Jones said the stadium won’t be set for the full 100,000 seating capacity as was planned for a Pacquiao-Mayweather bout. Instead, they’ll start in the 40,000-seat range.
“But that’s one of the great things about the stadium — we can expand the seating capacity as it warrants,” Jones said.
Arum (a huge New York Giants fan, not a Cowboys fan) was already in full promotional form after the deal was agreed to.
“This is going to be one of the biggest events in the history of boxing,” Arum said. “This is the most incredible stadium setting I have ever seen. It is absolutely unbelievable. This is going to be much, much more than just a boxing match. A lot of things that happen are ordained by God. We weren’t going to go here for Pacquiao-Mayweather fight because [Golden Boy CEO Richard] Schaefer wouldn’t get on a plane and come down here and see the place. So that didn’t happen. And now that fight isn’t happening. And now we are here with Manny for another fight. When people see this event and how it will be presented, nothing in the past will ever compare to it.”
Before the fight fell apart over a single issue — the protocol for drug testing — Arum was intrigued with the idea of bringing Pacquiao-Mayweather to Cowboys Stadium.
Arum, Schaefer and HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg were scheduled to be in Dallas on Dec. 9 to meet with Jones and tour the facility. But the night before, Schaefer called off the trip, a move that in retrospect was the beginning of the fight going downhill.
Besides being the home field for the Cowboys and now the host for Pacquiao-Clottey, Cowboys Stadium hosts the annual AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic and will host the NBA All-Star Game next month, the 2011 Super Bowl and the 2014 NCAA men’s basketball Final Four.
One of the stadium’s most significant fan-friendly elements is the world’s largest (and most expensive at $40 million) HD video board, which is 72 feet high and 160 feet wide. Jones said every fan, regardless of where they are seated, would have a good view of the action because of it.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.