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Friday, March 12, 2010

Matthew Aguilar: Joshua Clottey's great but Manny 'Pac-Man' Pacquiao is greater

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By Matthew Aguilar / Special to the Times

Joshua Clottey is as tough and dangerous a welterweight as there is in boxing.

He has cut his teeth against the world's best 147-pounders; he has an aggressive, straight-forward style that makes him fun to watch and easy to root for. He is gutsy, determined and skillful, and two of his three losses have come via decision to a pair of boxing's elite fighters.

Those who think the native of Ghana is a mere replacement for Floyd Mayweather Jr. don't know boxing.

Unfortunately for "Grandmaster," he is fighting the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world -- a superstar who is in his prime and considered not only the best fighter of the last decade, but one of the greatest warriors to ever lace up the gloves.

Yes, even for highly-qualified, deserving, former world champions like Clottey, facing Manny Pacquiao is a daunting task. And the challenger will need a superhuman effort to come out victorious when the duo meets for "Pac-Man's" WBO welterweight title at Cowboys Stadium (7 p.m. today, HBO pay-per-view).

Matchup problems

Clottey, 35-3 (20 knockouts), nearly hit the jackpot in his last fight, a razor-close 12-round decision loss to Miguel Cotto last June. He rebounded from a flash knockdown in the first round to punish Cotto down the stretch, turning the Puerto Rican's face into a bloody mess.

Cotto got the disputed decision, with that knockdown playing a vital role in the outcome. Afterward, Clottey -- painfully close to a career-defining victory -- pleaded for a rematch.

It is ironic then that, nine months later, Clottey is getting an opportunity against the guy who beat Cotto. It goes without saying that he matched up better with Cotto. Because nobody matches up well with Pacquiao, 50-3-2 (38 KOs).

The Filipino mega-star not only fires lightning-quick punches out of a southpaw stance -- making him one of the most technically-difficult fighters in the world -- he also is among the hardest punchers in boxing.

He caught Oscar De La Hoya with a stiff, jarring left hand in the first round of their December 2008 fight, and the bigger, taller De La Hoya never fully recovered.

From there, it was a massacre, with the 5-foot-6 Pacquaio registering a ninth-round TKO over the 5-10 De La Hoya. That was the start of an all-time great stretch for Pacquiao, who since then has knocked out Ricky Hatton (KO 2) and Cotto (TKO 12) in spectacular fashion.

Pacquiao is at the top of his game. But, at age 31, you have to wonder how much longer the joy ride will last.

A tough one

The first six rounds will be key for Clottey.

If the Ghanian can survive Pacquiao's speed, accuracy and crunching power for 18 minutes, his physical strength and bigger frame could have an effect on the Filipino. And, since Pac-Man hasn't been shy lately about engaging in toe-to-toe slugfests -- especially against fighters to which he feels superior -- a bonafide war could ensue.

That would be Clottey's best chance at victory.

But, even then, the challenger would be outgunned -- and getting beat three punches to one. At least. Every round will be exciting, and the Texas crowd will be treated to an action-packed, historic fight.

But, at the end of the day, the champ is just too good.

Pac-Man will use his amazing speed and power to wear Clottey down, who will be badly beaten and swollen at the end -- but gallant and still standing.

Pacquiao by 12th round TKO.


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