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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Joshua Clottey's 'Unbelievable' Shot at Manny Pacquiao

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1/13/2010 8:33 PM ET By Lem Satterfield

Joshua Clottey found himself two months ago standing before a classroom of 10-year-olds when the former world champion was asked by one of them, "What happened?" during June's 12-round unanimous decision loss to Miguel Cotto.

That question, said Clottey, came from his daughter, Zeenat.

"Their teacher had wanted me to come and talk to the kids," said the 32-year-old Clottey, a native of Accra, Ghana, who lives in the Bronx, N.Y. "But I didn't think she'd be the first one to ask me something about that fight."

Zeenat will be on American soil for the first time on March 13 at Cowboys' Stadium in Arlington, Tex., where she will be ringside for her father's attempt to lift the WBO welterweight (147 pounds) title from Manny Pacquiao.

"I chose boxing to be my profession, and it's a very, very tough life for us. But my career has always been about trying to fight the best," said Clottey, whose American debut was New York's sixth-round knockout of Jeffrey Hill in November 2003.

"When I was traveling to America for the first time, this is what I said to myself at the Ghana airport," said Clottey. "I said, 'You know, I want to travel to America today, and I want to be among those top guys.' Deep down, I know that I'm one of the top fighters in the world. And I told my daughter that I'm going to be a champion in 2010."

The bout with the 31-year-old Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 knockouts) represents the largest career payday for Clottey (35-3, 20 KOs), who arrived from Ghana in New York on Tuesday night, and spoke with FanHouse on Wednesday within an hour of signing the bout contract for their fight.

Nicknamed, "The Grand Master," Clottey's purse will surpass $1 million for the first time, with an upside to the pay-per-view.

"You can't get any bigger in this business than to fight Manny Pacquiao right now," said Clottey's manager, Vinnie Scolpino.

"But now, Joshua's got to take advantage of this opportunity, and to turn it into his favor," said Scolpino. "And Joshua Clottey has got every skill in the world to do that."

The muscular, 5-foot-9 Clottey poses perhaps the most physically-challenging threat to Pacquiao of any the Filipino star has previously faced, even as Pacqiauo comes off of November's 12th-round knockout of Cotto.

"Sometimes, when you're in the ring, during the later rounds, you think about getting tired. I thought that I might have done that in rounds nine and 10 against Cotto, but I thought that I won the 12th round and the fight," said Clottey.

"This fight, I'm not going to think about tiring. This fight, I want to make everybody happy," said Clottey. "I want Manny Pacquiao to know that he picked a guy who will give him all that he wants. I'm going to fight until the last bell."

Unlike Cotto, who was contracted to come in at 145 pounds, Clottey will not be required to weigh-in at a catchweight.

Clottey, instead, will be able to tip the scales at the standard welterweight ceiling of 147 pounds. And, by fight time, fully hydrated and fed, Clottey could be closer to or beyond 160 pounds when he walks into the ring.

Known as a large welterweight, Clottey has been troubled at times with making weight. Clottey has fought at more than 147 pounds 11 times during his career, including twice at 154.

"That's going to help me a lot, because I don't think I could have done it at 145 pounds. Pacquiao's being very nice, because he's the man now," said Clottey.

"That's going to make me the bigger guy in the ring," said Clottey. "So, with him choosing me to fight at 147, I respect him for that."

A southpaw, Pacquiao is 11-0 with eight knockouts since losing by unanimous decision to Erik Morales in March 2005.

Clottey is encouraged by the fact that he dismantled former world champion Zab Judah -- a southpaw -- damaging and cutting his rival's face badly on the way to all but scoring a knockout. The result was a ninth-round technical decision in August 2008.

Clottey's three losses have been against former world champs.

Clottey was ahead on all three judges' cards in November 1999 when he was mysteriously disqualified for an intentional head butt -- during a time when the fighters were at a distance -- on the way to an 11th-round disqualification loss to Carlos Baldomir.

Fate took another bad turn for Clottey in December 2006 when, ahead after four rounds, he broke one hand and suffered damage in the other. That slowed Clottey over the course of a 12-round unanimous decision loss to Antonio Margarito during his initial bid to earn the WBO crown.

"Joshua hurt his knuckles, and he just couldn't pound Margarito anymore. So he just went the distance," said Clottey's manager, Vinnie Scolpino. "It's just what happened. He did fabulous, lasting throughout the whole fight. That's not a loss in our books."

Nearly two years later in August 2008, Clottey rebounded to earn the vacant IBF title over Judah, a fleet-footed, skillful boxing southpaw.

Clottey's performance against Judah was perhaps the most superlative of his career, earning him a title that he yielded in order to face Cotto.

"That was a business decision, and the move that we had to make to get into the ring with Miguel Cotto," said Scolpino, regarding the choice not to defend against the IBF's No. 1 contender but to pursue Cotto's WBO belt.

"Then Joshua gets into the ring, and he loses a close decision in front of Cotto's crowd," said Scolpino. "That was a tough, tough, tough place to be."

In December, there were potential fights with present WBC super world welterweight champ Shane Mosley and, former WBO world welterweight titlist Carlos Quintana -- each of which never materialized.

"We waited, tried to get tough fights," said Scolpino. "We tried again, another one didn't happen."

Then, over the course of about the first week of January, Scolpino began to receive calls from Top Rank promoter Bob Arum, alluding to "a big fight for you guys. We spoke, briefly. But then, we were trying to figure out who it could possibly be," said Scolpino. "And then, finally, the word came down that it was Manny Pacquiao. It's an unbelievable opportunity. There's no words that can tell you what this means to Joshua Clottey in this business."

But Clottey, himself, still couldn't believe it and wondered if it really was true.

So he started doing some research.

"I went to my computer and I was checking one of the internet boxing sites. Then I saw it on a couple of sites, and I was like, 'Wow.,' I couldn't even sleep that night, thinking, 'Wow, I'm going to share the ring with Manny Pacquiao,'" said Clottey. "I want to thank Top Rank and Bob Arum -- they are really doing well by me. And I want to thank all of my fans for sticking with me. And I want to thank Manny Pacquiao, so much, for giving me what is the biggest opportunity of my life."

But as thankful as Clottey is for the chance, he's equally determined not to blow it.

"I feel like I've fought the best guys out there, and now I've got to prove a point," said Clottey. "As far I'm concerned, I know deep down that I've never lost a fight."


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