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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Clottey a hard-headed foe

By Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) Updated January 14, 2010 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines
- WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao isn’t taking Ghanaian challenger Joshua (The Hitter) Clottey lightly and will be careful not to knock heads when they clash at the Cowboys
Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on March 13.

Clottey, 32, has an unsavory history of butting opponents and that’s something Pacquiao should be wary of.

In 1999, Clottey was disqualified for repeatedly butting Argentina’s Carlos Baldomir in the 11th round of a fight for the International Boxing Council welterweight title at the Wembley Arena in London. He was docked two points for butting Baldomir in the 10th and did it again the next round, resulting in his disqualification. Curiously, the head-strong Clottey led on the three judges’ scorecards, 96-92, 95-93, 96-92, at the time of the stoppage.

Last June, Clottey again used his head to open a nasty cut over Miguel Cotto’s left eye in the third round. Cotto survived the headbutt and barely won on a split decision but paid a stiff price for the wound – 20 stitches, six below the eye and 14 over.

It will be recalled that in 1963, Filipino world junior lightweight champion Flash Elorde faced Ghanaian challenger Love Allotey at the Araneta Coliseum and was viciously butted in retaining the crown on an 11th round disqualification by referee Jaime Valencia. Allotey was penalized a point for a low blow in the fifth and another point for butting in the eighth before Valencia threw him out for continuous fouling. Elorde bled profusely from a cut over the right eye because of Allotey’s butting.

Former world junior lightweight titlist Rene Barrientos, who once beat Allotey on points, called the Ghanaian the dirtiest fighter he ever met.

The record books show that the only world title fight involving a Filipino and a Ghanaian was the Elorde-Allotey bout. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Ghana’s Manyo Plange decisioned the Philippines’ only boxing qualifier Harry TaƱamor in a lightflyweight bout.

Despite his shady reputation, Clottey is known as a durable, intense, physical, blue-collar worker who has never been knocked out in compiling a 35-3 record, with 20 KOs, since turning pro in 1995 – the same year Pacquiao made his debut. He is armed with a strong left hook to the body, a left uppercut down the middle and a jarring left jab-right straight combination to the head – the main weapons in his arsenal. Clottey fights out of a high guard.

Clottey’s weakness is a tendency to walk into an opponent’s range without throwing punches, making him an easy target. Another weakness is poor foot balance, which was evident when he was floored by a Cotto’s left jab in the first round. Clottey got up at the count of two and seemed more embarrassed than hurt. A third weakness is fading in the late going, a psychological more than a conditioning problem.

Clottey’s most impressive showing was his win over Zab Judah via a ninth round technical decision for the IBF welterweight title in Las Vegas in 2008. He was also masterful in outpointing previously unbeaten Shamone Alvarez and decisioning former world champion Diego Corrales, who was floored twice, the year before.

Clottey’s three setbacks were disputed. He claimed the referee acted hastily in ruling a disqualification in the Baldomir fight and the losses on points to Cotto and Antonio Margarito could’ve gone the other way. Margarito trailed in the scorecards when Clottey broke his hand in the fourth round, endured the injury and went the full route with the tough Mexican.

Clottey was initially set to take on Mexico’s Michel Rosales on Jan. 16 but pulled out. Rosales was the same brawler who beat Filipino Mark Jason Melligen on a split decision in Las Vegas last November.

Inspiring Clottey to beat Pacquiao is his legendary Hall of Fame countryman Azumah Nelson whose style he emulates. Nelson’s chief sparring partner Kwame Asante is Clottey’s trainer.

“I want to be the best,” said Clottey, quoted by James Slater in “I want the people to respect me as the best. I want people to say that the guy from Ghana is the best in the world. I always do all I can to get that respect. I want to be appreciated, this game is so hard, I want to be recognized for having longevity and for giving the fans the fights they want.”

Clottey said he’s more dangerous coming off a loss and the Ghanaian gave fair warning to Pacquiao, his first opponent since the defeat to Cotto.

“I’m coming with everything and I’m good at bouncing back from a loss,” said Clottey whose older brother Emmanuel, 35, also campaigns as a welterweight. “I want to fight everybody in my weight division. I will fight anybody. If the people asked me to go heavyweight, I’d go there. I fight for the people and want them to love me.”

Even before fighting Cotto, Clottey already had visions of meeting Pacquiao. “I know Cotto is a good fighter and it’s not an easy fight for either of us,” he said. “If I go in the ring and beat Cotto and they keep talking about him fighting Pacquiao, then the only thing I ask is that they give me Pacquiao.” Clottey, of course, felt he deserved the decision over Cotto and that’s why he insists he’s Pacquiao’s rightful next opponent.

“I did enough to win,” said Clottey, referring to the Cotto bout. “If you watch the fight closely, you can see he never beat me. I beat the guy and the people know that. Robberies are no good for boxing. I would love a rematch with Cotto and Margarito because both those fights are questionable losses for me. I beat Cotto yet they gave it to him. If I lose a fight fairly, I would admit it.”

Ghana has produced several world boxing champions, including Nelson, Ike Quartey, Joseph Agbeko, David Kotei and Alfred Kotey. Clottey is determined to join the elite roster and what more spectacular way to do it than at Pacquiao’s expense.


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