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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pacquiao's Final Fight?

Pacquiao vs Clottey, Pacquiao vs Clottey News, Pacquiao vs Clottey Online Live Streaming, Pacquiao vs Clottey Updates, Road to Dallas Pacquiao vs Clottey by HBO
Pacquiao vs Clottey

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

After Manny Pacquiao's dramatic stoppage of Miguel Cotto in November 2009, the scribes of the sweet science proclaimed that boxing had peeled itself off the canvas. Once again, there was a boxer who, like Mike Tyson and Oscar De La Hoya, could command the interest of the general sports fan.

Soon after the Filipino sensation's victory over Mr. Cotto, the public was clamoring to see Mr. Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 knockouts) and the undefeated, recently unretired Floyd Mayweather Jr. (40-0, 25 knockouts) battle for the unofficial title of best pound-for-pound pugilist on the planet. But boxing has a knack of clobbering itself on the chin.

A couple of months ago, Messrs. Mayweather and Pacquiao were poised to ink contracts when Mr. Mayweather insisted on Olympic-style drug testing. Mr. Pacquiao took umbrage and sued Mr. Mayweather and his promoters for defamation of character. When attempts at mediation failed, the two welterweight giants stomped away from what could have been the biggest payday in boxing history.

Still, Mr. Pacquiao, who has garnered titles in a record seven different weight divisions, was intent on fighting in March, as he is set to begin campaigning for Congress in the Philippines in April. Instead of facing Mr. Mayweather, Mr. Pacquiao will be tapping gloves with Joshua Clottey (35-3, 21 knockouts), the No. 1 welterweight contender from Ghana. The fight, which has already sold more than 38,000 tickets, will take place on Saturday at the new Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Mr. Clottey, who now in lives in New York, began boxing on the streets at age 6 in his hometown of Accra, Ghana. He made it to the quarterfinals of the Commonwealth Games in 1994 and turned professional in 1995. A broad-shouldered man with an endearing smile and laid-back body language, Mr. Clottey is a rugged and highly competent combatant who has the respect of his peers and the boxing press. But the 32-year-old former world champion has yet to win a mega pay-per-view fight. He came close in June 2009, losing a split decision to Mr. Cotto. Many observers believed that Mr. Clottey should have had his hand raised after that bloody 12-round contest, but virtually everyone agreed that he would have won the fight had he brawled with less caution.

After a brisk workout at his Florida gym, the soft-spoken Mr. Clottey gushed: "This fight is a dream come true, I can hardly believe it. I'm so excited. Right now, Manny is the best of the best. He is the man. I know that I can beat him, but I have to fight the whole time. I have to keep busy. But unlike some of the other guys that he has fought, I will not underestimate his power. One punch from him can take you out. So I also have to stay calm and think in there as well as fight." While reasonable enough, that note of caution would land like a punch on elements of Mr. Clottey's boxing braintrust.

In this pivotal contest, Mr. Clottey will be without his trainer, Godwin Dzanie Kotey, who could not get a visa to come to the U.S. Mr. Clottey's veteran cutman, Lenny De Jesus, will work the corner instead and told me: "You have to take risks in there to be a great champion, and that is what Joshua has to learn to do in this fight. I used to work with Manny, and he is not afraid of losing."

While the elite of the elite in boxing have very special powers of concentration and reservoirs of motivation, Mr. Clottey, for all his virtues, has yet to show that he can hit the internal switch, turn his tempo up a notch, and take over a close fight.

Mr. Clottey is quick, coordinated, strong and gritty. While not an overpowering puncher, his blows are fast, direct and flinty. He boasts a solid straight right, which he likes to chase with a left hook to the body. The combination of right uppercut and left hook is also essential to his slugging syntax. Watching Mr. Clottey work out, one gets the impression that his camp believes their man needs to make the Pac Man pay for his hyperaggressive tendencies with hooks to the body.

Freddie Roach, Mr. Pacquiao's famous trainer, assessed his antagonist: "Clottey is a big welterweight [5 feet 8 inches, compared with 5 feet 6½ inches for Mr. Pacquiao]. He is a great fighter. He has good skills. He has some power. He can take a punch. But I have watched a lot of films of him and he is not versatile. He does not move his head. He is easy to hit." For weeks now, Mr. Roach has been saying that "Manny will be the first one to knock Joshua out."

For his part, Mr. Pacquiao says: "The victory is always the most important thing to me. If I get a knockout, it's a bonus. But a knockout has never been a goal for me for any fight." But then he adds, "Freddie has his own opinion on the outcome of the fight with Clottey, and I will try not to disappoint him."

The diminutive dynamo with the impish smile unleashes hellfire in the ring. He seems to delight in the utter destruction of the opponent whom he will hug and praise after the fight.

Mr. Pacquiao, recently voted the Fighter of the Decade by the Boxing Writers Association of America, is still improving. In boxing, he who is not busy learning will soon be busy losing. When I asked Mr. Pacquiao what lessons he was working on for this fight, his maestro, Mr. Roach, was quick to answer for him: "Manny has to stay off the ropes and continue to work from his strengths—and that is throwing punches from different angles and to keep moving. . . . Manny's speed is the key to winning any fight. People think I mean the speed of his hands, but what I really mean is the speed of Manny's feet. He has the best footwork in the game."

Mr. Roach, who has Parkinson's probably brought on by too many bouts during his own boxing days, warned that this might be the last time we see his champion in the ring, especially if Mr. Pacquiao wins a seat in Congress. His stellar charge has had a long, tough career. And if Mr. Pacquiao wins and Mr. Mayweather does not quickly agree to terms, Mr. Roach says, "there will be nothing left for Manny to prove." There will only be bales of money.

Mr. Marino writes about boxing for the Journal.


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