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Friday, March 5, 2010

One for the Fans: Manny Pacquiao’s Interesting Choice

By Jeff Stoyanoff

One of the perks of being a superstar in boxing is that you no longer have to take fights against the likes of Joshua Clottey. Floyd Mayweather, JR., is well aware of the rule no doubt. It is beyond unlikely that Mayweather would ever choose to fight Clottey. Not because Mayweather doesn’t believe he would win, one can be sure he does. But rather because Clottey is the ultimate high risk/ low reward opponent. Pacquiao has clearly ascended beyond the point where he needs to take on a Clottey, realistically it could easily be argued that Pac could fight anyone he wanted up to and including a walkover and it would still be hard to question his willingness to meet the best in the ring. So, why fight Joshua Clottey? And, why do it now when the stakes are still so very high?

The potential fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather turned into a savage PR war with Mayweather openly calling into question the legitimacy of Pacquiao’s recent wins and Pacquiao responding with legal action himself. Perhaps the choice of Clottey was a PR punch by team Pacquiao. After all, fair or not, there are many out there who now wonder if Pacquiao has something to hide in the wake of his refusal to submit to random blood test any time up until two weeks before their proposed fight. As has been covered Ad nausea, Pacquiao is not required to undergo such testing and has never tested positive, but that won’t stop those who question his motivation in refusing the terms offered and walking away from tens of millions of dollars. The reality is, Pacquiao couldn’t take on just any fighter; he needed an opponent that left no doubt of his continued willingness to meet literally anybody in the ring. If ever there was a fighter who fit under that banner, it’s Joshua Clottey.

The Dangers of Clottey

Clottey has a long, heavy jab and he uses it relentlessly as he presses forward behind a solid defense. Moreover, Clottey certainly seems to take a punch well. The flash knockdown he suffered in the first round with Miguel Cotto was the first of his outstanding career. Clottey is not possessed of sensational power; his knockout percentage of just 51% aptly demonstrates his relatively average power. Yet, the KO percentage only tells part of the story. What Clottey does have is sufficient power to slow opponents down and earn their respect and that is often all one needs. Despite his excellent jab, Clottey appears to prefer fighting at a fairly measured pace. Clottey often dominated the action against Cotto when he took the time to engage. However, all too often, Clottey seem to take time off and wait on Cotto. That was just the opening that Cotto needed to steal that fight. Yet, Clottey is a solid fighter, with an excellent chin and an outstanding jab. And, he is fighting a smaller man whose one weakness, it would seem, is that he is not a defensive wizard. All in all, Clottey has to like his position as he attempts what would have to be considered a titanic upset.

Amazingly, the news gets better for Clottey. Pacquiao has forced himself into a quick turnaround after dispatching Cotto only last November. Freddie Roach has suggested that the quick turnaround will be good for Pacquiao as down time is generally bad for a fighter. Still, it was a physical fight against a tough opponent and now another durable and talented opponent follows right behind. But, the situation is potentially even more dangerous. Pacquiao was close to getting THE mega fight with Floyd Mayweather JR.; the fight that was to represent the pinnacle of his career. Instead, he gets Clottey; a letdown has to be considered a possibility. Of course Pac will arrive in great shape and ready to fight, but what if he is just the tiniest bit flat? This seems like exactly the kind of scenario that produces major upsets; a hungry and talented underdog and a huge talent whose mind just might be somewhere else. It is hard to envision that Pacquiao can lose right now, but some of the ingredients for an unexpected result are present and that should make for high drama on March 13th.

Story and Opportunity

It would appear that Clottey was a risky and therefore bad choice for Pacquiao, but that would be missing what might just be a great decision. Clottey comes into this fight with only three losses on his ledger. Clottey suffered his first loss losing by 11th round DQ against Carlos Baldomir in 1999; it was a fight that he was winning fairly easily. Clottey took his second loss against Antonio Margarito in 2006. Clottey came out fast and won the first few rounds against Margarito before encountering hand problems on his way to eventually dropping a unanimous decision. Whether Clottey hurt his hands or whether he was bedeviled by his own complacency in the ring is hard to ever know definitively. However, his punch output did taper off in the fight and that did allow Margarito to step up his offense and take the fight. Although, even in losing, Clottey was certainly not overmatched that night. Rather, he demonstrated quite clearly that he was a worthy opponent for any welterweight.

Clottey’s only other loss came in June of 2009 against Miguel Cotto. Once again, Clottey acquitted himself quite well in the fight. Despite going down in the first round, it was Clottey who controlled much of the action in the fight consistently landing shots on an all too often beleaguered Miguel Cotto. Of course Cotto is a tremendous fighter with a heart that is every bit the equal of his unquestionable acumen. As such, Cotto was able to fight on relatively even terms for much of the bout. Yet, one had the distinct feeling that when Clottey set his mind to fighting, it was Cotto who was struggling to keep pace. Going into the final round it was an extraordinarily close fight; the type of fight in which a single point seemed destined to make the difference. Inexplicably, Clottey came out passively and simply allowed the incredibly game Cotto to take the final round and a split decision victory. As it turned out, Clottey would have needed to score at least a knockdown in the last round to secure even a draw, but there simply would have been no way to know that before the cards were read. At the time, it appeared as though the 12th and final round could have easily determined the winner of the fight. Cotto fought as if it did; for whatever reason, Clottey did not.

It was only at this point perhaps that an ethos for the career of Clottey finally began to materialize; Clottey as an unquestionably talented fighter who somehow finds a way to come up just the tiniest bit short in the biggest fights of his life. Where the hand problems slowed him down against Margarito, the fall and subsequent knee problems perhaps derailed him against Cotto always something keeping him from the victory he seemed so destined to obtain. Or, perhaps the answer is not so easy to define. Clottey came out fast against Margarito and then seemed to take a step back and let Margarito back into the fight. Similarly, he came out fast with Cotto and then seemed to find a way to allow Cotto to do just enough to win. Clottey appears to have solid endurance, so one is left to wonder why he has been unable to close the deal in what have often appeared to be imminently winnable fights. Clottey is the boxing equivalent of the athlete in any sport that is clearly talented enough, but has yet to find a way to win the big one. Until he does, that will be the story of his career.

On the other hand, there is a definite positive aspect to the career of Joshua Clottey; even including the losses. While he has yet to capture his white whale, he has also never been overmatched. Even in his three losses; Clottey not only wasn’t clearly defeated, he left viewers with the unmistakable sensation that the better fighter lost. If the mysterious inability to capture a career defining win encapsulates the ring saga of Joshua Clottey than the inability of any opponent to dominate him in the ring nonetheless represents a seminal truth. Every vice becomes a virtue; did his hands betray him against Margarito? It doesn’t matter because we all saw that Clottey could more than handle himself in the fight. What was behind his inability to sustain his effort against Cotto? It doesn’t matter as he shocked audiences once again by demonstrating for much of that fight that it was Cotto who had to find a way to deal with him. His losses in those fights only seem to underscore how good he is as we wonder to ourselves over and over, how did he let it get away? In this dynamic wins and losses are no longer significant. Setting a ring record aside, to date no fighter has ever been able to reduce Clottey to being just an opponent; and that is where Pacquiao comes in.

The genius of Pacquiao

The differences between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather are readily apparent. Ring styles and personalities aside, there is one difference that is perhaps most telling. Pacquiao seems to capture the imagination of fight fans to a much greater degree than Floyd Mayweather. Make no mistake, they are both outstanding fighters and Floyd Mayweather is a colorful personality who brings far more excitement to the fight game than he is often given credit for. Still, the difference in the feeling one has when they watch either man fight is palpable. Mayweather’s genius is subtle as he methodically stifles his opponent slowly constricting his man until his opportunity to finish things invariably appears. Conversely, Pacquiao strikes from the outset with an awe inspiring fury. The level of genius is comparable, but one leaves you feeling almost sedate as you appreciate the brilliance, while in the other case a dumbstruck feeling washes over you as you ponder how anyone can withstand such a precise and vicious assault. There can be no difference greater between the two than how they are often perceived by those who watch them in the ring.

Oddly enough, Clottey is an ideal choice as an opponent for Manny Pacquiao. Not because he matches up in a particular way or because the timing is somehow right for this or that to take place. Clottey is the perfect choice for the opportunities that are woven into this fight. Perhaps Clottey can find a way to secure one of the biggest upsets in recent boxing history. It would complete a story that sports fans have seen many times before as a talented man finally finds a way to accomplish that which he always seemed destined to do. Clottey has been close and now he faces another great fighter, perhaps the tiniest bit distracted and perhaps not completely ready for the grueling twelve rounds that Clottey has always delivered…regardless of opponent.

On the other hand, the genius might just have another object lesson in store for his voracious audience. If Pacquiao is able to dominate Clottey and perhaps even knock him out he will have continued constructing his own tale of shocking brilliance in the ring. What Pacquiao is able to deliver, unlike even many other great fighters, is the sensation that you can’t believe what you just saw. Nobody has ever been able to dominate Joshua Clottey in the ring and that is the challenge that awaits Pacquiao. If he can go out and do just that he will once again invoke the sense of awe that has come to define the rapidly hardening ring legacy of Manny Pacquiao. Who would have thought that a tough and talented Joshua Clottey; a man nobody wanted to fight, would have ever represented the perfect opponent?

Best Round by Round Coverage of Manny Pacquiao – Joshua Clottey PPV: Only at RSR

March 13th, Manny Pacquiao and Joshua Clottey will collide for the WBO Welterweight Title. For those of you not getting the Pay Per View, tune into RSR for the round by round coverage, including the fights leading up to the main event. The fans have demanded it and we are happy to oblige. Don’t miss the round by round coverage on March 13th of the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey Pay Per View!

Source: ringsidereport.com

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