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Friday, February 26, 2010

Clottey confident Pacquiao plays by the rules

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As the year began, the attention of the boxing world was on the negotiations between Top Rank and Golden Boy, rival promoters who were attempting to finalize the biggest fight in the sport -- a showdown between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

We all know by now what happened -- how the fight fell apart over a single issue when the sides wouldn't compromise on drug-testing protocol.

Pacquiao and Mayweather went their separate ways after weeks of one of the more rancor-filled negotiations in recent history.

Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs) quickly came to terms with former welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey (35-3, 20 KOs), who is also promoted by Top Rank, making their deal a snap to finalize. They'll meet for Pacquiao's welterweight title on March 13 (HBO PPV) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Mayweather ultimately came to terms to challenge welterweight titleholder Shane Mosley for his belt on May 1 (also HBO PPV) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The replacement fights certainly have merit. Both shape up as competitive bouts in which all four fighters have reasonable chances to win, even if Pacquiao and Mayweather are the favorites in their respective bouts.

But even with two strong bouts taking the place of Pacquiao-Mayweather, there is still the feeling that the new bouts are merely a consolation. Even Top Rank's Bob Arum can't escape that feeling, although he tried to put a happy face on it.

"Are they consolation prizes? Maybe," Arum said on a media conference call with Clottey to promote the fight with Pacquiao on Thursday. "[Pacquiao-Mayweather] didn't happen for one reason or another. I am not here to cast blame. But it didn't happen and now we have this fight that could go either way that I believe is Manny's toughest fight."

As for the possibility of putting Pacquiao-Mayweather together in the future if each wins, Arum was unsure.

"Life goes on," he said. "That's what these boys fight for. If Joshua beats Manny and Mosley beats Mayweather, maybe we do a Mosley-Clottey fight. That's what makes boxing interesting. If I did a walkover fight like Pacquiao-[Paulie] Malignaggi, which was talked about, then people would say I'm just keeping Pacquiao busy and there is no danger in him losing the fight.

"But there is danger in him losing the fight. Joshua Clottey is a very dangerous fighter. Similarly, maybe Mosley goes back to the fountain of youth that he had for the [Antonio] Margarito fight [13 months ago]. That Mosley could very well beat Mayweather. That's what makes boxing interesting. If these would be walkover fights nobody would give a damn. You'll see fireworks [in Pacquiao-Clottey] and if there is an upset, that's what boxing is all about."

For his part, Clottey sounded happy to be in the position of having the biggest fight -- and first seven-figure payday -- of his career, especially because he is coming off a split-decision loss last summer to Miguel Cotto, who was later battered by Pacquiao in a 12th-round knockout in November.

"I'm coming to do my best," Clottey, a native of Ghana living in New York, said from his training camp in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "Like I always said, he is a good fighter. He is the best now. This is the test and I am going for the WBO title. I'm going all out. I have my game plan and I always come to fight.

"I am so happy about this opportunity. He's the man now and he is giving me a chance. If I win, I will be on top of the world."

Unlike Mayweather did in the talks for the fight with Pacquiao, Clottey and manager Vinny Scolpino didn't ask for any special drug testing.

"I don't want to do that because I respect him so much," Clottey said. "He's a very nice guy. I feel comfortable around him. He's a nice, classy guy, he respects everybody."

Mayweather and his father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., accused Pacquiao of using performance-enhancing drugs, even though they had no proof.

Clottey said he didn't think Pacquiao was doing anything against the rules.

"I don't think Manny Pacquiao does that," he said. "But if he does, then he is cheating the sport. I don't think he did that steroid thing. I believe that."

Scolpino said additional drug testing never came up in the negotiations with Arum. Of course, Clottey had zero leverage in the talks to demand more testing even if he wanted it.

"If the [Texas] commission wants to implement other drug-testing rules, let them and we will follow it," Scolpino said. "We abide by the rules set forth. Manny is a super champion and we all hope he is doing the right thing. If they find something in the drug testing, that's the way it is.

"We were going to abide by the rules set forth in the state. We're not getting into extra testing. We're professionals in the sport. Joshua is a professional, Manny is a pro. If the commission says do it, we do it."

Arum, who was against additional testing during the Pacquiao-Mayweather talks, agreed with Scolpino.

"My view is that [drug testing] is not a topic for negotiations," Arum said. "That is something for the commission to decide. Any participant in a boxing match who wants more stringent testing than is applicable in that state can go before the commission and ask for it. It's not for amateurs to make a bunch of demands. That is called chaos. Every fighter has the right to go before the commission and say I want such and such done on the testing and you let the commissioners decide. That is what they are getting paid for."


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