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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Manny Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey Boxing Review

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By Mike Samuels: Boxing is all but one month away from Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey stepping into the ring in front of thousands inside the Dallas Cowboy’s new home arena, but more importantly the “PacMan” is one month away from letting his fists do the talking in an effort to quiet the constant criticism by trainers – Floyd Mayweather Sr and Teddy Atlas – and fighters – Floyd Mayweather Jr, Paulie Malignaggi, Kermit Cintron, to name a few – who have linked the Filipino’s monster success to the possible use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.

Lost in the everyday whirlwind of rumors, accusations and predictions surrounding the sports consensus #1 ranked pound-for-pound superstar, is the fact that Pacquiao’s opponent on March 13th – the tough as nails “Grand Master” Joshua Clottey – is hardly a journeyman looking to get a quick payday and then sit back and watch as Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr – who will have his own problems on May 1st with Shane Mosley – shatter every record within the boxing business come late fall.

Clottey doesn’t provide any selling points. He’s not controversial. He’s not outspoken. He doesn’t walk around shopping malls with a band of security thugs at his side – hell, you probably wouldn’t recognize him if he came to your front door on Sunday mornings to deliver the newspaper. Despite those short-comings, of sorts, Clottey deserves a lot of respect and should provide a stiff challenge for Pacquiao.

And so ... we rank them. Similar to my last column (and I promise, I’m not going to do fight breakdowns every week, that could get stale for our readership, I know, I know ...) I will provide a simple assessment on the following criteria: Experience, Speed, Power, Boxing IQ, Chin, and Defense.
Okay, let’s get this ball-a-rollin’.

EXPERIENCE – Once again I’m only going to look at experience within the appropriate weight class. In this instance we need to look at each fighter’s time as a welterweight. Without getting to deep in to my soap box, it’s fairly easy for anyone with half a brain to see that Joshua Clottey holds a clear and distinct advantage. “Grand Master” has been fighting at or around the welterweight limit since 1997 and has faced some of the division’s best opposition – Diego Corrales, Antonio Margarito, Jose Luis Cruz, Zab Judah and Miguel Cotto. Clottey has also fought at the junior middleweight limit of 154lbs against Marcos Primera. Clottey’s career mark stands at 35-3 (20 KO’s) and while it isn’t as clean looking as Floyd Mayweather’s undefeated record of 40-0 (25 KO’s), what the Ghana native does have is a solid, reliable resume that has proved he can stand up and defeat some of the sport’s top welterweights in a very talented era.

Manny Pacquiao began made his welterweight debut at the tail end of 2008 in thrilling fashion by stopping Oscar De la Hoya in eight rounds. After cold-cocking England’s Ricky Hatton at 140lbs, Pacquiao stepped up to welterweight once again and derailed Miguel Cotto by TKO in twelve rounds that saw the Filipino icon dominate throughout the majority of the fight. What people fail to realize is that both of Pacquiao’s “welterweight” fights were fought under the actual weight of 147lbs – at 145lbs, to be exact – and while two pounds may not have changed the icon, it’s worth noting because obviously Freddie Roach saw it as an advantage for his guy or he would not have put the stipulation in the contract to begin with. Pacquiao’s bout with Clottey will be at 147lbs so realistically this is the first time Manny Pacquiao will be fighting what some observers may call a “real welterweight” with no strings attached. I’m not going to stand on the street corner and waive the Ghana flag in celebration because it may prove to be miniscule in stature, however, it may also prove to make an interesting stylistic matchup that much more relevant in the landscape of the welterweight division. Advantage: Clottey

SPEED – The most accurate way to describe Joshua Clottey (and you’ll hear me refer to it over and over – sorry if I’m beating a dead horse) is any slew of the following terms: stable, accurate, rugged, durable, tough and reliable. Notice anything missing? Oh yeah, speed. Clottey isn’t slow by any means but any way you look at it, he’s just not all that fast. He’s not a fast puncher. He’s not overly quick on his feet. He’s by no means a snail, but when you compare his speed to that of an animal like Manny Pacquiao, well, you’re going to notice a very clear difference – one that could, perhaps, have devastating consequences for Clottey.

Manny Pacquiao is fast. Everyone knows this. Most fighters can prepare for speed, whether it is through sparring partners or training methods or strategic game planning. What all fighters not named Juan Manuel Marquez are dumbfounded by is the deception is Manny Pacquiao’s speed. Not only is he fast, but his punches come from such an array of angles that it’s hard for most boxers to find an appropriate defense to stop the pound-for-pound king’s arsenal of combination punching. Manny Pacquiao’s feet are so very fast and when moving in conjunction with his fists, often time’s fighters find themselves questioning when it’s safe to be offensive and when it’s better to be defensive. Opponents of the Filipino are forced to think against Manny Pacquiao, and usually a fighter is lost in the art thinking too much, thus giving Manny Pacquiao the perfect chance to land a bone crushing hook that ends the night for the foe, and raises the already brilliant knockout percentage of the PacMan. Pacquiao’s speed gives him the ability to just be himself in the ring, whereas Joshua Clottey will have to make adjustments to give him a legit shot to overcome the speed factor. Hands down Manny Pacquiao is the clear winner here. Advantage: Pacquiao

POWER – Just the mention of the word power from a debatable standpoint and most observers will automatically clamor to Manny Pacquiao. I’m not necessarily disagreeing with that stand. However, Joshua Clottey cannot be slid over to the curb simply because he doesn’t have any highlight reel knockouts being broadcasted over the YouTube community. Clottey has eleven wins since 2003 with only three coming by stoppage. This should be proof enough he doesn’t hold very much one-punch power, especially when fighting some of the division’s best welterweights. Clottey does crack enough to get the respect and if Manny Pacquiao storms in to the ring with a lack of respect for Clottey’s punching power and combination presence, he could very well end up flat on his back reliving his teenage youth inside the ring all over again.

Pacquiao is 2-0 with two blistering knockouts as a welterweight. Critics will argue that Pacquiao’s two choices in opponents were more a result of clever matchmaking rather than his ability to somehow keep his power while moving up in weight. Oscar De la Hoya was long thought to be long in the tooth and weight drained (agreeing to make 145lbs, rather than 147lbs) going in to his bout with Pacquiao. Miguel Cotto – fair or unfairly – is widely seen as a shot fighter since Antonio Margarito was found to have attempted to use illegal substances in his gloves prior to the Shane Mosley fight in January of 2008. There are many people who think Margarito used something during his slugfest with Cotto, mainly because the Puerto Rican’s face was swollen and badly disfigured through the course of the fight in a manner not seen in his entire career. There’s no real way to determine if any of this holds any merit in the long run. It’s all a matter of personal opinion. Looking at everything as a whole, however, and I believe it’s accurate to assume Manny Pacquiao holds more one-punch power than Joshua Clottey in either hand he so chooses to attack with. Clottey will have his chance to prove what is sure to be an overly pro-Pacquiao fan bases in Dallas, Texas by fight night.Advantage: Pacquiao

BOXING IQ – Neither Clottey or Pacquiao are seen as pugilistic scientists inside the ring. Clottey is a smart fighter but at times has been plagued in big fights by his lack of activity. Clottey’s attack has been very basic – almost textbook from a book on boxing – with a decent jab, solid overhand right and a fairly regular approach to body punching. Zab Judah and Miguel Cotto both gave the Grand Master plenty of opportunity to turn it up a notch and do some real damage and he was unable to move away from basic boxing fundamentals. There are many people who thought Clottey could have knocked Judah out, and those same believers feel his loss to Cotto was more about what he didn’t do, opposed to what the Puerto Rican superstar did. Perhaps that’s a basic way for loyal Clottey fans to discredit Miguel Cotto and Zab Judah, but I tend to agree for the most part. Clottey is going to have to throw everything and the kitchen sink at Pacquiao come fight night, and he’s going to have to be able to change course at the blink of an eye if he wants to be successful.

Pacquiao was always thought of as a fast banger with a great left hand. Enter Freddie Roach and the little man from the island has transformed his game in to much more than just one good power punch. Critics have clung to the idea that while Pacquiao is a smart fighter, his success is more due to the game planning of Roach and his ability to follow the plan to the tee of execution. Even in times when the plan is followed and Pacquiao has found some trouble, he’s usually able to punch his way out of it due to his heavy hands and extreme gifts as an athlete. Again, this could all be speculation on the part of a few people throwing sour grapes at magnificent run of Pacquiao over the last few years, or oddly enough, it could be true. March 13th Pacquiao will have plenty of questions to answer about his ring smarts, and there are plenty of supporters who expect him let his fists do the talking as they have in the past. Until someone proves the critics right, logic has to favor Pacquiao. Advantage: Pacquiao

CHIN – One guy (Clottey) has made a living fighting welterweights and the other (Pacquiao) hasn’t. Clottey has three losses within the division (Carlos Baldomir, DQ11, Antonio Margarito, UD12, Miguel Cotto, SD12) and not one of them has come by knockout. As far as I’m concerned, if you can trade bombs with Margarito and Cotto then no more proof is needed as to the durability of your chin as a prizefighter. Neither opponent will ever be confused with having the quickness nor laser like precision of Manny Pacquiao – and speed definitely can trump power in some cases – but hell, that’s a whole lot of Ifs, Ands and Buts to try and dispel Joshua Clottey as having the glass jaw of Roy Jones. Having seen Clottey fight numerous times, it’s safe to say his beard is one of the best.

Pacquiao hasn’t been knocked out since 1999 against a guy with more syllables in his name than knockout wins on his record and that was far, far from the welterweight division (112lbs, to be exact). To his credit, Pacquiao walked through some of Cotto’s toughest shots in their battle last November, but even still, it’s hard to gauge the Filipino’s chin at welterweight and while I don’t doubt for a second he could go Blitzkrieg on Clottey, it would be a disservice to the hard nose from Ghana to not give him the upper hand here. Advantage: Clottey

DEFENSE – The old adage “The best defense is a good offense” fits perfectly with Manny Pacquiao. His defense isn’t bad – he implements a lot of faints, movement and angles – but he’s been proven to have holes in his game on more than one occasion. Put in laymen terms: he’s hittable. The only problem lies in whether you are going to stand up to his power before it chews you up and spits you out. Kill or be killed, that’s a pretty accurate synopsis. You can bet your last dollar Joshua Clottey has seen tapes and witnessed the effects of Pacquiao’s power live. There’s no better test than inside the squared circle and Clottey will have to answer the bell for real on March 13th.

Speaking of Clottey, his defense is pretty basic, but also, very effective. Shoulders up right, hands held high and tight, Clottey is very hard to hit cleanly at times, and then there are times when he is so open he looks almost amateurish. Which Josh Clottey will show up when it counts? The nation of Ghana is hoping for the better. It’s a tough call, but so far nobody has been able to make Pacquiao pay desperately for the mistakes he’s prone to, and until that occurs, I have to lean in his direction – albeit, very cautiously. Advantage: Pacquiao

FINAL VERDICT – I’m not sold on either fighter just yet. Obviously I’m leaning towards Pacquiao just simply due to the fact that he’s been dominating guys while coming up in weight in such a shocking manner it’s hard to believe it won’t continue. But Joshua Clottey is far more dangerous than “live dog” status and so I am going to wait to make anything official. It’s not Mayweather-Pacquiao, but Dallas is definitely in for a good fight.


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