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Monday, March 8, 2010

Manny Pacquiao will not take Joshua Clottey lightly

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Pacquiao vs Clottey
By Lance Pugmire

It's not the fight most wanted to see, and many casual sports fans probably don't know much about this guy who's stepped into Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s void to fight Manny Pacquiao.

Understandable. So much about why that mega-bout crashed over a drug-testing dispute, with $25-million guarantees to each fighter, is head-scratching.

Time, then, to bring some simple reasoning to the sport now as fight week arrives for Pacquiao vs. Joshua Clottey on Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The soundest logic says the man considered the best boxer in the world will have his way against the African challenger.

Any reason to think differently? A letdown? A visit to Pacquiao's Hollywood gym brings an onslaught of rebuttals from those asked if the Filipino superstar has shown any sign he's blowing off the threat of this lesser-known opponent.

"I wish we were fighting Mayweather this time, the way Manny has worked," Pacquiao's conditioning trainer, Alex Ariza, said.

A gym regular said he saw Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 knockouts) unleash a barrage of two dozen unanswered blows to respected veteran sparring partner Steve Forbes.

"I hear Vegas has the over/under for rounds at 10," said Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, who has been so sharp in projecting his prodigy's latest conquests of Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto. "I'll take the under. We've watched a lot of tapes on Clottey. He's predictable. Manny will be the first to stop him."

Clottey, a 32-year-old native of Ghana and current resident of the Bronx, is 35-3 with 21 knockouts, and his lone losses have come to world champions: Carlos Baldomir in 1999 (controversial disqualification); Antonio Margarito in 2006 (close decision); and Miguel Cotto (close decision) in in June, his most recent bout.

Pacquiao watched Cotto-Clottey from ringside, scouting Cotto before beating him by 12th-round TKO in November. In Clottey, Pacquiao will be fighting a second consecutive true welterweight who has victories over the accomplished Zab Judah (a world title fight) and the late Diego Corrales on his resume. Clottey performed strongly against Cotto, but oddly stopped asserting himself in the final rounds.

"Clottey, he's a good defensive fighter," Pacquiao said. "He's bigger than me [by 2½ inches, with a three-inch reach advantage], so I've had to study his style and maybe he's trying to learn some new techniques. But from what I've studied so far, I think he's a good formula for me. I'm still sure he's studying different techniques he can try against me."

And how's that going?

"It is not easy. [Pacquiao's] good, but I tell people I'm going to beat him," Clottey said. "They don't believe me, but I'm a confident guy and I will keep my word. I will make him think a lot in the ring because of my defense. … I believe in my defense. He's going to throw a lot of punches. I'll block nine out of 10."

Clottey has been groomed in Ghana by impressive countrymen, including the tough Ike Quartey. Like Pacquiao, he came from a poor family and hawked goods on the street, including fish, oranges and bananas.

So is Clottey bound to frequently go into a self-made shell, stalling as he did late against Cotto? Clottey says he won't, wanting Pacquiao to stay cautious of the size advantage and punching power that is considered by some to be suspect. Clottey's last true knockout was in 2004, at a club show in Laughlin, Nev.

"What about mine?" Clottey asked of his punches.

Roach has openly said, "We don't know what Clottey has. We're concerned with his uppercut and hook, but we'll keep Manny out of that pocket."

Pacquiao, guaranteed $12 million plus a pay-per-view cut for this fight, has some bigger days ahead of him this year, including his campaign for a congressional seat in the Philippines, along with the expected resumption of talks with Mayweather.

Clottey, meanwhile, wants to keep logic thrown out the window. He never expected to get this fight and was negotiating for a bout against 154-pound champion Yuri Foreman when notified that Mayweather was out and he was in.

"I'd like to think good things come to good people," Clottey said. "We'll see. I know he's a good fighter. If he hits me, and I don't feel his punches, I'll jump on him. If I do feel them, I'll just have to hit him more."


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