Fight packs punch at Cowboys Stadium

ARLINGTON, Texas -- At the start of the night, the crowd was dead.

Maybe it was in awe of what it was seeing.

A boxing match at the $1.2 billion stadium in this city between Dallas and Fort Worth left some speechless.

When the night was over, the crowd of 50,994, the third-largest to see an indoor match in boxing history, had seen Manny Pacquiao retain his WBO welterweight title with a 12-round unanimous decision over Joshua Clottey.

"I was worried if there were a few people here for the fight," said Pacquiao, considered pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world. "Then I come out and I can't believe it."

Boxing made a grand return to the Dallas-Fort Worth area Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium. Fighters such as Evander Holyfield, Muhammad Ali and Salvador Sanchez have fought in North Texas. All had star power. But the current star power of Pacquiao brought people from all over the world to see this Filipino fighter, whose next battle will be a run for Congress in his homeland.

"It was one of the grandest spectacles in the history of boxing," promoter Bob Arum said. "Really something special. All the people who watched on TV, they saw something out of the ordinary and something special."

Arum said he would like to bring another fight to this palace, which was called "Jerry Jones' Cowboys Stadium," by ring announcer Michael Buffer.

"It is a dream of mine that a night like this can create another night," Jones said.

What type of fight comes next is uncertain.

A Floyd Mayweather-Pacquiao fight in the fall could generate millions of dollars in live gate revenue and on pay-per-view. Jones said last week if Mayweather-Pacquiao had been set up, he would have set the seating capacity at 100,000 to cover the cost of a $25 million site fee.

If Jones brings another fight to his stadium, especially a major one, it would have to happen in the fall, because Jones said he wants to deal with only Arum. Another fight could take place during the Cowboys' bye week.

"Yes, this entire night was very entertaining," said Corey Mims, who flew in from Buffalo, N.Y., and paid $700 for a ringside seat. "You need star power to bring fights here, and I think they can do it."

The only disappointment in this night was in Clottey, who fought in a defensive style for most of the night instead of throwing punches. Of course, this was about Pacquiao, and when he entered the ring he heard a loud cheer from the crowd.

It was a crowd that had plenty of former and current Cowboys players in attendance, including Troy Aikman, Deion Sanders, Miles Austin, Ken Hamlin, Drew Pearson and Marion Barber.

The ringside seats were leather, with the Cowboys Stadium and Top Rank logos as well as the fight's name, "The Event," on the inside of the seat.

Fans were taken aback by the video board sitting 50 feet above the ring. At one point, the video board went to black and white, which drew boos from the crowd. It was quickly fixed.

The video board had the Cowboys star on top of it, adding a unique look for television. In the 12th round of the bout, the stadium's roof began to open.

"Jerry is an absolute genius," Arum said.

Yes, and Jones paid $7 million as a site fee for this bout and was willing to pay more. Jones knows to make money on a fight like this you have to put a person of Pacquiao's drawing power in the ring and make sure you get stars to come to the fight.

Actor Robert Duvall attended the Friday weigh-in, the fight and the postfight news conference.

"Celebrities come to this event as a notable example of why people go to events rather than watch them on television," Jones said. "It's a social element."

Fans paid ticket prices ranging from $35 for standing room to $700 for ringside seats. Parking prices ranged from $30 to $50.

"Jerry Jones put on a show," said Big Sugar Ray Phillips, a former pro fighter from Mineral Wells, Texas, who is now a trainer and actor. "The good thing is that he didn't price out the fans. He made the prices reasonable for the working man to come to fights like this."

At the start of all this, Jones wanted a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight. The money wasn't the issue, but the blood testing Mayweather wanted Pacquiao to submit to was.

Arum was upset about it because he feels the state commissions should administer the drug testing and not go toward Olympic-style testing.

All of that was forgotten when Jones and Arum hugged each other at the end of the night.

And maybe Jones can bring a Mayweather-Pacquiao fight to Cowboys Stadium after all.

"I think God willing," Jones said early Sunday morning. "But I think we can have a fight here that could beat the NBA All-Star Game that had over 108,000, if we can have a fighter in Manny Pacquiao and a promoter in Bob Arum."

Calvin Watkins covers boxing for ESPN Dallas. You can follow him on Twitter.