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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Joshua Clottey ready to follow hometown heroes when he fights Manny Pacquiao

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Pacquiao vs Clottey
Bukom, in Jamestown, on the outskirts of the country's capital Accra, is an area known to all Ghanaians. It is a slum, and yet the small number of criss-crossed dusty streets in the port town have spawned a succession of world-class fighters over several decades.

Clottey follows in the tradition of the great Azumah Nelson, arguably the best boxer to come from Africa, who defeated Wilfredo Gómez in the Eighties and held the World Boxing Council title at feather and super-featherweight, and Ike Quartey, the welterweight from the mid-Nineties, who fought, and lost, to Oscar de la Hoya.

They all hail from those tough streets. The people of this tiny shanty are renowned as warriors throughout Ghana.

Clottey remembers when, as a youngster, he was beaten up in a street fight by the local bully. Until then, football had been his game, his precious football boots lovingly polished.

He had dreamt of playing professionally, even for his beloved Manchester United, with his heroes, among them Ryan Giggs and Eric Cantona.

Why Manchester United? "Why? Because they were the team who were always winning, and sport is about winning," he says.

Clottey, cool, calm, calculated and softly spoken, admits the street fight was the moment his life changed. He started training, strengthening his arms by weight training with bags of bricks and rocks and running twice a day.

But he also started going to one of the renowned Jamestown gyms. And then he went back and got his revenge.

"I beat him and I became a boxer. It was a simple as that, and from that, here I am today, at the point where I am facing the No 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world."

There are those who believe Manny Pacquiao's relentless attacks will prove too much for Clottey when the two powerful welterweights collide in front of the newly built $1.2 billion (£800 million) Dallas Cowboys Stadium on Saturday night, in front of a capacity crowd of 50,000, but Clottey shakes a finger slowly.

"He is showing you that he cannot be discouraged," one of his entourage said.

Clottey and his brother, Emmanuel, set out to make their fortunes in boxing in Europe just over a decade ago. They alighted at the Lennox Lewis Centre, in Hackney, where promoter Frank Maloney housed fighters from Africa and Eastern Europe, a spartan environment where fighters ran in the morning, slept in miniature dormitories, showered and sparred, repeating the process daily.

Clottey, now 33, made New York his base after that, and has a nine-year-old daughter in Ghana, whom he cites as his "inspiration". He has clawed his way through the welterweight division, having lost only twice to world champions Antonio Margarito and Miguel Cotto, and the second of those was close.

Clottey has never been stopped nor been knocked out. He has a reputation for being a dirty fighter, probably because he has a very hard head and has led with it at times. But if the battler from Bukom has his way, the form book will be overturned on Saturday night.


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