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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Clottey instinctively dirty?

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Pacquiao vs Clottey
By Joaquin Henson
Thu, 04 Mar 2010

Only three losses smear former IBF welterweight champion Joshua Clottey’s record and all of them seem questionable. If you ask the Ghanaian, he’ll insist he’s never been beaten - fairly – in the ring.

Clottey, 32, has compiled a 35-3 record, with 20 KOs, since turning pro in 1995. Curiously, the man whom he faces at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on March 13 also has three defeats in his career. Defending WBO welterweight titleholder Manny Pacquiao, 31, has a record of 50-3-2, with 38 KOs.

While most fans feel let down that Pacquiao isn’t fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr. next, their consolation is Clottey will provide stiff opposition. The “Hitter” is durable, physical, intense and extremely motivated to win. If Pacquiao takes Clottey lightly, he’ll pay for it.

Clottey is a self-styled second coming of legendary countryman Azumah Nelson, a blood-and-guts warrior who never knew the meaning of retreat. His trainer Kwame Asante used to be Nelson’s chief sparring partner so whatever Clottey brings to the table, he learned indirectly from the Hall of Famer who held the world featherweight and superfeatherweight crowns.

What makes Clottey more dangerous than a Ricky Hatton or a Miguel Cotto is he fights dirty even if he doesn’t need to. It’s almost instinctive for Clottey to scrap like a street brawler with no respect for rules. Clottey fights the way he does because it’s his way to survive.

In 1999, Clottey blew a golden chance to win the IBC (International Boxing Council) welterweight belt by repeatedly butting Argentina’s Carlos Baldomir at the Wembley Arena in London. He was penalized two points for butting in the 10th round and finally disqualified in the next stanza for repeating the infraction despite a string of warnings. Ironically, Clottey led on the three judges’ scorecards, 96-92, 95-93, 96-92, at the time of the stoppage. It was one of the three setbacks that the Ghanaian said he should’ve won.

Clottey’s two other disputed losses were decisions to Cotto and former Mexican WBO welterweight champion Antonio Margarito, both rugged sluggers.

* * * *

Against Margarito at Atlantic City in 2006, Clottey was ahead on points up to the fourth round when he hurt his hand - a report mentioned that it was broken. Despite the injury, Clottey refused to back off and slugged it out until the end. It was a rare display of courage and endurance by the proud African. The scores were 116-112, 116-112 and 116-109.

To this day, Clottey claims that without the hand injury, he would’ve beaten Margarito and says the Mexican’s victory was indecisive. He’s probably right.

Against Cotto at Madison Square Garden in New York City last June, Clottey almost pulled off a huge upset and dropped a controversial split 12-round decision to the heavily favored Puerto Rican. Clottey’s headbutting opened a gaping wound around Cotto’s left eye in the third round. The cut was later closed with 20 stitches, six under the eye and 14 over.

Judge Tom Miller saw it 114-113 for Clottey while judge Don Trella had it 116-111 and judge John McKaie 115-112, both for Cotto. The Ring Magazine reported that “many along press row felt Clottey had won.” Jack Hirsch of Boxing News, the fight trade’s oldest publication (the London weekly celebrated its 100th birthday last year), saw it 115-112 for Clottey.

Writer Don Stradley said Clottey was born to be a difficult opponent, not a Hall of Famer. “Clottey is tough enough to take an anvil to the head and his defense is difficult to penetrate but he’s a bit slow on his feet and is not a particularly heavy puncher,” said Stradley. “We wouldn’t blame anyone for avoiding him because there’s rarely an upside to fighting a durable, head-clashing brute who can box a little.”

* * * *

Clottey was convinced he had done enough to defeat Cotto who was knocked out in 12 rounds by Pacquiao last November. The fight was closer than expected even as Cotto floored Clottey with a left jab in the first round. The trip to the canvas exposed Clottey’s faulty foot balance. It was a clear knockdown because Clottey got hit and fell off-balance. He was up at the count of two, looking more embarrassed than anything. Clottey was clearly unhurt.

In the fifth, Clottey again fell to the canvas, this time as a result of a tripping accident. Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. allowed Clottey some time to recover. Clottey was slow to rise and limped around the ring, apparently hurting his left knee, before he resumed fighting. In the 12th round, Clottey went down a third time from a foul blow behind the head. Mercante, however, didn’t rule a violation as Clottey was turning away when the punch landed.

Punch stats showed that Clottey had a higher landing rate, 36 percent to Cotto’s 25 percent, but the Puerto Rican enjoyed the edge in total punches connected, particularly with the jab where his advantage was 319 to 209.

Pacquiao will exploit Clottey’s lack of foot movement for sure. Clottey has a tendency to walk into an opponent’s range without throwing punches, making him an easy target. Pacquiao will run rings around Clottey and rain punches from all angles. If the Ghanaian isn’t able to move away from Pacquiao’s winging space, he’ll be a sitting duck and punching bag for the Filipino icon.

To his credit, Clottey has never been stopped. He’s known for his resiliency and durability. Clottey is bigger than Pacquiao and will definitely be heavier when they clash. But as the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

When the smoke of battle clears, Clottey will admit he was beaten by the better man. But Pacquiao will have worked hard to earn the victory.


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