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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Manny Pacquiao's Secret Weapon for Joshua Clottey: Abdullai Amidu

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- For Manny Pacquiao, the secret to beating Joshua Clottey is no longer that.

The Filipino superstar's trainer, Freddie Roach, revealed a source of his supreme confidence that has resulted in what what they consider to be a perfect strategy during a press conference at Cowboys' Stadium on Wednesday, where Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 knockouts) will defend his WBO welterweight (147 pounds) title against Clottey (35-3, 20 KOs) on Saturday night on HBO pay-per-view.

His name, said Roach, is Abdullai Amidu.

"[Amidu] was our best sparring partner because he fights a lot like his teammate at one time, Joshua Clottey," said Roach. "They know each other very well. And they have the same style."

Like Clottey, Amidu is a native of Accra, Ghana. Amidu has been a childhood friend of Clottey's who has been commissioned by the 31-year-old Pacquiao's camp to emulate the 32-year-old Clottey in sparring.

"I didn't even have to ask Amidu to be like Joshua Clottey, he is like Joshua anyway," said Roach. "He's a very good sparring partner and he was the main sparring partner for the camps."

Pacquiao certainly seemed confident that his efforts with Amidu had paid off.

"Joshua Clottey is a very good defensive fight, but we're going to adjust right away," said Pacquiao. "We studied, like what I said. We a lot of different techniques for this fight. Whatever happens, we're going to adjust right away."

A long, rangy fighter, Amidu is 18-0 record and 17 knockouts competing as a welterweight.

Amidu recently spoke with Elie Seckbach of FanHouse concerning his contributions to the Pacquiao cause.

"It's been very, very good. We could learn a few things from each other. He's [Pacquiao] good, he's fast, and he's always in condition," said Amidu, who also has sparred with wBA junior welterweight (140 pounds) king, Amir Khan, of England.

"Amir Khan is a very good friend of mine. And he's also good. He's also the best," said Amidu. "They're [Pacquiao and Khan] all good. They're both good."

Roach called Amidu Pacquiao's best of six sparring partners in a well-balanced group.

"We had six sparring partners altogether, just in case Joshua tries to switch up on us. So we're ready for boxers, punchers, and we have all of the bases covered," said Roach. "We'll make the adjustments if we have to, but that's what it takes to get ready for a fight at this level."

At this point, Roach knows Pacquiao better than anyone.

Pacquiao is 18-1-2, with 15 knockouts under Roach, a four-time Trainer Of The Year who has guided him to an 11-0 record since his last loss to Erik Morales in March of 2005.

That run includes eight knockouts, with those in his past foru bouts coming over David Diaz, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto -- the last being in the 12th round in November, dethroning Cotto as WBO king.

Clottey's defense is his forte, holding his fists high up around his ears, as his long, muscular arms extend down to his hips, allowing him to block punches in an amazing way.

"But blocking punches doesn't win fights," said Roach. "And Joshua blocks punches in a method that I feel can broken down. I feel that we can break that defense."

The problem, for Clottey, has been punch output.

And even though Clottey's trainer, Lenny DeJesus, has indicated that Clottey will throw punches more frequently, Roach believes that the speedy Pacquiao can tag Clottey while the challenger is in transition from blocking to punching.

"I think that we can stop him in the late rounds. I didn't say knockout, but I think that we can stop him," said Roach. "The accumulation of punches that he's going to be taking in this fight, he's never seen before. He's never been attacked like he will by a guy like Manny Pacquiao before, and I don't think that he'll be able to handle it."

One concern Roach said that he has against Clottey is the head-butt, something the fighter was disqualified for in a loss to Carlos Baldomir even as he was winning.

"It [head butt] does happen in boxing, expecially when a left-handed fighter fights a right-handed fighter," said Roach, referring to the fact that Pacquiao is a southpaw, and Clottey, a right-handed boxer.

"I'm not saying that he's a dirty fighter, but the thing is, he clashed heads quite a bit with Zab Judah in the same scenario -- with a southpaw and a right-handed fighter," said Roach, referring to a technical decision win for Clottey that earned the IBF crown. "So, the thing is, we're not going to put ourselves in those positions."

One other thing that concerns Roach, just a little bit, is Pacquiao's tendency toward freelancing.

Take, for example, his bout with Cotto.

Roach wanted to avoid being on the ropes at all costs, but Pacquiao, early in the fight, decided to stay on the ropes and test Cotto's best punch -- a digging, hybrid uppercut-left hook.

Pacquiao survived, but Roach could really do without that -- even as he expects that his fighter may be tempted to engage in such behavior, yet again, opposite Clottey.

"That's a part of Manny, and if he sees something in there and wants to test something at times, that's fine. We will take Clottey to the ropes at times, and we're prepared for that and we've worked on that. We've worked on that, and we're prepared for that because Joshua Clottey is a big, strong guy," said Roach.

"If Clottey does choose to come forward, we know that he can come forward, but he doesn't always choose to of course," said Roach. "When Clottey lays on the ropes, he's defensive when he's there. But then, when you finish a combination, he will throw back of course. We know his characteristics very well."

In the end, however, Roach believes that Pacquiao's training, in general, and his workouts with Amidu, in particular, will win the fight.

"I think that Joshua Clottey will bring out the best in Manny. He's a big, strong guy. Does he bring more to the table than Cotto? I don't know. Cotto beat him in a close fight. That's up to you guys to decide after watching his performance," said Roach, speaking of Clottey's disputed, 12-round, split-decision loss to Cotto in June.

"It's hard to compare Manny to other people. You had Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran. You had all kinds of talent. But Manny Pacqauiao is a one-of-a-kind person who can compete in any era," said Roach. "I think the notion that Manny's too small, that's starting to go away. I think after seeing him against a big guy like Joshua, you won't be calling him too small anymore."


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