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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Can Joshua Clottey Find a Way to Beat Manny Pacquiao?

The upcoming fight between Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey promises to be exciting. Why?

Because Manny Pacquiao is fighting.

The dynamic Filipino could be in the ring with a miniature version of John Ruiz (the most boring fighter in recent history) and it would still make for compelling viewing. Pacquiao’s relentless aggression, speed, power and movement are enough to crack most defensive fighter’s shells, and his ability to knock an opponent out with one punch guarantees an action packed bout.

And in his fight with Joshua Clottey we can probably expect even more.

The teak-tough Ghanaian is not afraid to mix it up and has good power, particularly with his left hand. Despite being somewhat defensively minded, Clottey can switch to outright aggression instantaneously, and has a very keen sense of territory in the ring. Clottey likes to intimidate his opponents physically, and his frame is abnormally dense for 147lbs. Clottey could easily compete at 154lbs and be just as effective, and he will be the biggest, strongest fighter Pacquiao has ever faced.

Stylistically speaking, Clottey has perhaps one of the better ones for facing the Pac Man. He has no problems with south paws (see his performance over Zab Judah), and loves to go toe to toe with aggressive fighters (see his bout with Antonio Margarito). Clottey throws very fast lead right hands that bother southpaws, and his left hook and left uppercut are feared weapons in the division. Clottey also jabs southpaws very well, a very difficult thing to do, particularly against elite level fighters.

Pacquiao has ironed out most of his technical flaws and presents a very difficult challenge for any fighter in the sport. His jab and right hook are now just as potent as his lethal left, and his lateral movement has improved almost beyond recognition. Pacquiao doesn’t just move in and out like he used to, he side steps, pivots and turns as well as any of the greats. But Pacquiao is often a victim of his own extraordinary fighting heart and tends to go toe to toe when he doesn’t have to, and can sometimes get caught while unloading his power shots. Juan Manuel Marquez and Miguel Cotto both caught Pacquiao with well timed hooks and uppercuts while Pacquiao steamed in with his trademark aggression.

If Clottey can keep Pacquiao on the end of his jab and fire out consistent lead right hands, he may be able to control the action for good parts of the bout. Clottey may also find success if he bulls Pacquiao to the ropes and unleashes his uppercuts and hooks. He must be careful to stop him from ducking and swiveling out (a trick Pacquiao has learned extremely well over the years), but Clottey’s wide frame and unusual physical strength will give him a better chance than most.

It is hard to see Clottey effectively catching Pacquiao between punches because the African fighter tends to cover up while his opponents are punching and wait for his turn to start his own offense.

And this is why Clottey probably doesn’t have what it takes to dethrone the pound for pound king.

While Clottey may be able to control the pace for portions of the bout, Pacquiao’s incredible speed and movement will force Clottey into his shell. When he does that, Pacquiao will begin to step around and attack Clottey’s body to bring his hands down. Pacquiao’s unorthodox punches will begin to find their target, and Clottey will either have to blend offensive punching with his defense, or lose more rounds than he wins. Freddy Roach will insist that Pacquiao doesn’t stand infront of Clottey for too long, and by the time the Filipino is done punching, Clottey will be swiping at thin air.

Fighters who have mastered the art of counter punching have a chance of beating Pacquiao, and as it stands, only Floyd Mayweather and Shane Mosley operate at a high enough level to make it work (and maybe Juan Manuel Marquez at a much lower weight). Miguel Cotto fought on even terms for three rounds with the Pac Man due to his effective counter punching, but his chin wasn’t good enough to keep him competitive throughout. Clottey’s chin is world class, but his counter punching isn’t, and for those reasons he won’t be the pick this Saturday.

It is difficult to see Pacquiao scoring a knockout over Clottey, but it might start to look pretty bad for the Ghanaian in the later rounds as Pacquiao’s speed and rhythm take over.

My prediction: Pacquiao via unanimous decision.

Author: Ben Cohen

Source: trueslant.com

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