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Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Clottey-Judah Teaches Us About Pacquiao-Clottey

Pacquiao vs Clottey
Thursday, March 04, 2010
Posted By Avi "Shoefly" Korine 3:00 PM

There is not another fighter in the sport like Manny Pacquiao. His stamina, power, speed, southpaw style, and sheer vitality are impossible to match. Still, if one were to pick a fighter with the most in common with Manny in a nearby weight class, you could do worse than Zab Judah. Judah is a hot head and prone to wearing down, but he has similar athletic gifts and is left-handed.

Fortunately for those of us trying to get some insight into how Pacquiao-Clottey will play out, Clottey has fought Zab Judah. It is probably Clottey's biggest win and it displays many of his greatest strengths and weaknesses. Clottey managed to pressure Judah and wear him down after a competitive first few rounds, eventually getting a technical decision following a headbutt. The flow of the fight was actually quite similar to the fight Pacquiao's previous opponent, Miguel Cotto, had when he faced Zab Judah.

The Clottey-Judah fight is available on HBO On Demand and Youtube. I recently watched it again and here are some impressions on the fight and what it might tell us about Pacquiao-Clottey.

* Judah is roughly the same size as Pacquiao, though I think he lacks the same natural strength. Judah weighed in at 143 lbs for the Clottey fight, and his weight that night was probably pretty close to Pacquiao's anticipated weight. Clottey was noticeably bigger and seemed to be able to move Judah at will once the fighters got on the inside. It will be important for Pacquiao to keep his legs moving and anticipate Clottey's occasionally lunging attacks.

* This was perhaps the quietest crowd I've ever heard for an HBO main event fight.

* Judah seemed to have more success with the right hook to both the body and the head than he did with the left hand. Judah was often able to land the lead hook behind Clottey's high guard and land to the ribs. Pacquiao's best punch is still clearly that electric lead left, but his right hand has improved tremendously over the years. He landed quite a few hooks to the body against Cotto and I think that was an important element to the fight.

* Judah doesn't have great footwork, and Clottey was able to close distance effectively. While Judah is fast, he lacks the darting rhythm of Pacquiao. In the Cotto fight Manny occasionally seemed to stop his movement in a display of machismo and to entertain the fans. While Clottey doesn't have devastating power, Pacquiao would be wise to keep those sorts of antics to a minimum.

* The announcers talked about Clottey being a counterpuncher in this fight, but that's not really the case. Clottey is a guy who takes turns. You get to punch, then he'll punch back. Clottey rarely punches with his opponent, rather he hides behind his very effective high guard. This gives Pacquiao two options; he can try to punch through the guard or use his footwork to create angles and go around the guard to both the body and the head. I think both will have a place in the fight.

* One of Clottey's best punches is his lead right hand. He shoots it straight and often jumps when he throws it. Clottey has long arms and the punch is deceptive, Judah seemed to think he was out of range at several points and still got caught with the punch. While it's a weapon, it will also provide an opportunity for Pacquiao. Clottey's punch is fast, but Manny is much faster. Judah had superior speed to Clottey but was unable to time him effectively. If Pacquiao is able to counter Clottey that will be his best chance to hurt the bigger man. Cotto was able to score a flash knockdown on Clottey in just such a situation.

* The fourth round shows Clottey's strengths and flaws. For the first thirty seconds Judah opens up with punches and is able to score effectively. Clottey does nothing but cover up. Once Judah stops Clottey takes his turn and lands with big right hands and some uppercuts, his best punch. Now, this works against Judah, but will it work against the indefatigable Pacquiao?

* This brings me to my final point. After the fourth round Clottey was clearly in control. Judah had some moments, but Clottey was the stronger and more dominant man. There were points where Clottey landed to the body and hurt Judah badly but refused to jump on him. It's basically the story of his career, but Clottey has always been a fighter that has refused to seize his opportunity when it arrived. Yes, Clottey won this fight, but he should have gotten a legitimate stoppage. If he really went for it, he would have been able to do so.

In his fight against Miguel Cotto many people felt Clottey deserved the decision. It's arguable, but it felt as though he could have done more to make that fact clear. If he gets Pacquiao is a similar situation will he be able to seize the moment? I doubt it.

Manny has never had a problem with stamina, and if he is unable to frequently find the target against Clottey I expect him to simply keep throwing and outwork the larger man. Does Clottey have what it takes to bring more than he has ever shown himself willing to bring?

We won't know until next Saturday, but a look at his fight with Zab Judah shows that he has tools, but he might not have the desire.


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