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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Joshua Clottey Working His Butt Off For 'A Miracle' Against Manny Pacquiao

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A native of Ghana who is preparing for a March 13 challenge for the WBO welterweight (147 pounds) crown held by seven-division champion, Manny Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs), Joshua Clottey (35-3, 20 knockouts) of the Bronx, N.Y., spoke to FanHouse recently from his sleeping quarters near his training facility at Fort Lauderdale's Contender Gym in Florida.

This is the third of four diaries for Clottey that will appear regularly on FanHouse as the 32-year-old Clottey enters the most lucrative and biggest fight of his career, one that will be aired live on HBO pay per view.

Diary No. 1

Diary No. 2

Training videos

Fight of Joshua Clottey's Life

Bad things just kept happening to one of boxing's good guys.

The initial thing was Joshua Clottey's first major fight against future world champion, Carlos Baldomir, in November of 10 years ago, when he was disqualified for head-butting in the 11th-round of a matchup he needed only to stay on his feet to win.

Clottey, to this day, believes he was the victim of foul play against Baldomir, but he never thought that it would be the story of his career.

"That was a very, very, big frustration for me. We were dealing with two promoters. Frank Maloney, he was the one who had the money. The other promoter, Panos Eliadis, loved us African guys. Too much for Maloney's tastes, in seemed like.

So Maloney was jealous because we always surprised him by winning. He didn't like that," said Clottey, who is 32.

"The day of the fight, I went to the bathroom, and I saw Maloney, and Baldomir's managers and trainers talking. Then and there, I thought to myself, 'Something bad's going to happen,'" said Clottey. "I think they did something to the referee, because he was all over me. You know, everything that I'd do, he warned me too much. It was painful to me."

Next up was his December, 2006 loss to Antonio Margarito, during which he led early before his two, injured hands betrayed him over the course of a unanimous decision loss and his bid to win the vacant WBO welterweight (147 pounds) title.

"I had planned out a good gameplan for Margarito, and it was working so perfectly. You could see the surprise in the place and in his face when I was winning, because nobody knew me. They didn't know me as a big fish. They were like,

'Wow,' where is this guy from?" recalled Clottey.

"But the first hand, my left, one, just went out on me. The knuckle in my left hand was experiencing a sharp pain," said Clottey. "And then I started to throw the right hand, and I was really trying to throw, but the pain was just too much in that one also."

Clottey rebounded, however, earning the IBF crown over southpaw, former world champion, Zab Judah via ninth-round technical decision stoppage in August of 2008.

Clottey was then informed that he would get a break against WBO king, Miguel Cotto, but the IBF would force him to give up the belt if he took the challenge rather than facing an organization mandatory.

With Cotto being his largest, career pay day, and a shot at seemingly endless possibilities in victory, Clottey bit the bullet and bagged the IBF crown.

Then, Clottey lost June's disputed, split-decision to Cotto (34-2, 27 KOs), against whom he suffered a flash knockdown from a first-round left hook.

"After the fight with Cotto, I was shocked, and I was so, so, so sad. Because I felt like what they did to me was something," said Clottey. "I thought that I won the fight, and that they just took the fight away from me. I was really
tired of these things happening to me in championship fights."

But it only got worse after the fight, when Clottey split with trainer, Kwame Assante, over money.

"On Sunday or Monday, I was having a discussion with the trainer [Assante,] and he just came out and started talking and telling me things [about paying him] that I don't even know anything about," said Clottey. "It's great in that he's the trainer, and that he's going to make so much money. But now, it's not going to go to him, because of his selfishness. Now, he's gone."

Adding to the problems, however, was the fact that two successive opportunities -- one against WBA welterweight super champion, Shane Mosley, and another opposite former titlist, Carlos Quintana -- fell through.

"You know, about that, there was yet another very big frustration. But I kept thinking to myself, 'One thing about life is that good things always come to good people,'" said Clottey.

"All of those fights that we talked about where they said I lost, and the fights that fell through, I figured that it had to end sometime. You never know what is going to happen," said Clottey.

"When they called off the fights, I just kept on training, and was continuing to think about the next option," said Clottey. "I'm patient, I'm very respectful to everybody, I'm very nice to everybody. I push myself. So, you know, I thought, 'Good things happen to good people."

This time, Clottey was right.

For in early January, things began to look up for a dejected Clottey, who received an offer from Top Rank Promotions' CEO, Bob Arum, to face seven-division champion, Manny Pacquiao, for anotther chance to earn the WBO crown.

More than that, the 31-year-old Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 knockouts) represented the largest career payday for Clottey (35-3, 20 KOs), who arrived from his Ghana in New York in mid-January and informed FanHouse that he had signed the contract for the fight an hour earlier.

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

But there still would be hurdles for Clottey, who was in need of a new trainer.

Clottey thought that for sure that he had had the perfect one in Godwin Nii Dzanie Kotey, a legendary father figure to his fighters who had worked with Clottey's countryman and former welterweight star, Ike Quartey.

But Clottey would receive yet another blow when Kotey was denied a work Visa to the U.S.

"That was very disappointing," said Clottey, who wept openly about the decision, "because I have my trainer in Ghana, and he doesn't get a Visa to come, that was unexpected."

Manager, Vinnie Scolpino, suggested Lenny DeJesus, who had worked as Clottey's cut man and an assistant to Assante during Clottey's loss to Cotto.

They had known of each other from John's Gym in the Bronx, where Clottey has trained, and DeJesus, worked with other fighters.

"That's why I chose Lenny. The training is going fine, because it's easy with me to connect with anybody. Lenny, he's a nice person. He talks to me. Lenny talks to me about boxing. Whenever your manager or your trainer feels for you, it's good. It's not like they just want money," said Clottey.

"Lenny's the guy who in it for me. So I love it that he's there for me, because I can go into the ring and fight. I'm okay with him, I'm nice with him," said Clottey.

"Lenny can tell me things like, 'Go into the ring, go to his body.' If I go to the body, and it doesn't work, I have to change my whole plan in the ring," said Clottey. "So sometimes, the trainers talk, and they work good the way they're talking, they become heroes."

Clottey said that he and DeJesus are on the same page.

"Everything is fine with me and Lenny," said Clottey. "We're nice, we're cool. I'm so happy with him."

And since he first received the call from Top Rank offering the bout with Pacquiao, Clottey has been looking for, and, finding positive signs.

The first one, said Clottey, is the fact that Pacquiao did not request a catchweight of 145 pounds, something that is a big help since Clottey has fought several times at weights higher than 147.

"They never talked about me moving to a catchweight. We're fighting at the welterwelterweight limit, so it's like, a miracle," said Clottey, who can concentrate more on technique than simply wearing himself down cutting weight.

"But you can't just be there and pray to God, 'Oh, God, I want money to buy food and eat,' and God will come from heaven and give you money," said Clottey. "No, have got to continue to work your a** off and go to work. So I know that I'm going to go there and that I'm going to be in a fight."

In Pacquiao, Clottey is facing a man who simply seems to have forgotten how to lose, and whose focus is unflappable.

He is running for congress, has made a movie, been the focus of features in major, crossover magazines, and even delivered food to his native Filipinos during a typhoon -- a move that briefly interrupted his training only days prior, but, nevertheless, did not affect his performance in his 12th-round knockout of that dethroned Puerto Rico's Cotto as WBO champ.

Pacquiao has been named Fighter Of The Year for the past three, and was recently honored as The Fighter Of The Decade, owing largely to an 11-0 record that includes eight knockouts since a March, 2005 loss to Erik Morales at super featherweight (130 pounds).

Pacquiao is in his 22nd, consecutive bout under Freddie Roach, who has been named a Four-Time Trainer Of The Year, and under whom Pacquiao is is 19-1-1, with 15 knockouts since June of 2001.

But for Clottey, there are just too many things that are positive for the Grand Master not to believe that this is not part of the grand, master plan.

"I never expected for me to be fighting on pay per view this early, and I never expected to be fighting with Manny Pacquiao this early, and I never expected to be fighting in March this early in the year," said Clottey.

"And you know one thing, I don't like any thing being around me when I'm training. That's the only thing I think about is the training. Nothing makes me happier now than thinking about the training and the fight, and believe me, I've trained so, so, so, so hard," said Clottey.

"When I'm in the gym, that's the time I fight more. My mind has always told me that "Everything is going to be fine,' and it might not work out the way that I want it to," said Clottey. "But I never expected to be in such a huge fight like this, which is the biggest pay day of the year. It's like a miracle, like something is being worked out. It's like a miracle, something is coming, and I'm so happy."


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