Nothing to lose for Clottey

- Joaquin M. Henson -

MANILA, Philippines - Manny Pacquiao said the other day he’s not taking challenger Joshua Clottey lightly despite being installed a 5-1 favorite in his WBO welterweight title defense at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on March 13. “You don’t underestimate Clottey,” he said. “He’s older and bigger than me and a former world champion.”

But trainer Freddie Roach said Pacquiao’s team has Clottey all figured out.

“We’re not gonna be there when he’s counterpunching because when he throws, we’re not gonna be there,” said Roach. “He’s a big, strong guy but size doesn’t win fights – skill does. Joshua will not be a problem. Manny will overwhelm him with speed and combinations. He will be the first person to stop Clottey.”

The rugged Ghanian has never been halted in a career that started in 1995. His three losses were close, if not disputed –-- to Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and Carlos Baldomir. Clottey’s lack of knockout power is evident in his record of 35-3, with 20 KOs. His knockout rate of 57.1 percent is much lower than Pacquiao’s 76 percent. Clottey has scored only one stoppage in his last 11 outings.

But will Pacquiao be able to overcome Clottey’s strength? Clottey is a natural welterweight and has even entered the ring weighing as much as 170 pounds. He has been a welterweight since 1997. Pacquiao, in contrast, is an evolving welterweight and scaled 144 pounds, three below the welterweight limit, in his last fight against Cotto.

Clottey is close to two inches taller than Pacquiao and has a three-inch reach advantage. What makes Clottey a dangerous opponent for Pacquiao is there’s no pressure on the Ghanaian to win as he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

In fact, the pressure is on Pacquiao to beat Clottey convincingly to keep alive hopes for a megabuck showdown with unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. before the end of the year – assuming Pretty Boy disposes of Sugar Shane Mosley in their own version of an eliminator on May 1.

Clottey, 33, is notorious for his dirty tactics. Headbutting, hitting below the belt and holding are what he resorts to in trying to gain an advantage over an opponent. The fighter known alternatively as “The Hitter” “The Grand Master” and “Satan” has been described as instinctively dirty. In 1999, he led in the three judges’ scorecards but couldn’t stop himself from butting Baldomir and was disqualified in the 11th round to blow a golden chance to win the International Boxing Council (IBC) welterweight crown at the Wembley Arena in London.

Clottey was deducted a point for low blows in a fight against Richard Gutierrez in 2006 and butted Steve Martinez so badly their fight was stopped in the second round a year before. Fans also remember Clottey butting Cotto last June, causing a gaping wound that took 20 stitches to sew up.

Clottey was also accused of butting Zab Judah whom he defeated on a ninth round technical decision to claim the vacant IBF welterweight title in Las Vegas in 2008. Referee Robert Byrd halted the bout after the ringside physician ruled that Judah couldn’t continue because of a bad cut over his right eye. Byrd said the cut was caused by a butt but Clottey insisted a left uppercut did the damage.

Pacquiao, 31, is trained to fight scientifically and may find it difficult to handle an unpredictable fighter who plays dirty. In 2001, Pacquiao couldn’t get untracked in a bout against Dominican Republic roughhouser Agapito Sanchez, one of the dirtiest fighters ever, in San Francisco. Two points were deducted from Sanchez for low blows but it was a headbutt that did the most harm on Pacquiao, ripping his right eyebrow to force a sixth round stoppage. The fight was declared a technical split draw as judge Raul Caiz had it 57-55 for Sanchez, judge Ric Bays 58-54 for Pacquiao and Marshall Walker 56-all. Without the two point deduction on Sanchez, Pacquiao would’ve lost on a technical split decision.

Clottey, who is single (but has a seven-year relationship with Ruth Dunuh) and the father of a 10-year-old daughter Zeenat, grew up in a family of six children. His father Ali, a highway construction worker, influenced his four sons to become fighters as a way out of poverty in Ghana. Only Clottey and older brother Emmanuel became world contenders, keeping alive the tradition of warriors from the Ghanaian tribe Ga which has produced several ring legends including Azumah Nelson. The Clottey brothers used to train in Bukom, a down-trodden suburb of Accra, before plying their trade overseas.

Clottey is trained by Puerto Rican Lenny (The Locksmith) de Jesus who was once Pacquiao’s cutman. De Jesus took over from Kwame Asante who was fired by Clottey after the loss to Cotto. But De Jesus wasn’t Clottey’s original pick. He had tapped Godwin Daznie Kotey to take over the training chores but the Ghanaian couldn’t get a US visa. De Jesus, however, is more than a capable replacement as he has worked with stars like Roberto Duran, Wilfred Benitez, Wilfredo Gomez and Hector Camacho while learning from Angelo Dundee, Eddie Futch and Roach.

If De Jesus is a spy in Clottey’s camp, Argentina’s Miguel Diaz is the “insider” in Pacquiao’s team. Diaz, who joins Roach and conditioning coach Alex Ariza in Pacquiao’s corner as a cutman, used to work with Clottey.

The Ghanaian has reportedly been guaranteed a $1.2 million purse to fight Pacquiao with $900,000 as his share and the balance going to his manager Vinny Scolpino. It’s the biggest prize in Clottey’s career.

In training camp, Clottey employs Cuban Damian Frias as his main sparmate while Pacquiao rotates Raymundo Beltran, Abdullai Amidu, Mike Dallas and Stevie Forbes to keep him sharp. There’s no question Pacquiao’s sparring partners are more competitive and qualified.









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