Late last night news broke via Top Rank’s facebook page that the next opponent for Manny Pacquiao would be former IBF Welterweight champion Joshua Clottey. Upon hearing the news I was quite surprised, as I didn’t expect Pacquiao to face off with such a formidable challenge following the Mayweather fallout. I have to tip my hat to Manny; if the Clottey fight goes through I think he deserves credit for not opting for a safer touch. Joshua Clottey is no pushover.
It’s somewhat fascinating to me when I analyze a Pacquiao-Clottey matchup. There is a lot to take in because of the contrast in styles. While Pacquiao relies on his work rate, endurance, and placing his power punches from a variety of angles, Clottey is a completely different mold of fighter. The Accra, Ghana native is as strong and sturdy as they come and he possesses excellent stamina, a compact defense, a menacing jab, and a physical nature that has lead him to having a 35-3 record while being regarded as one of the top five or six Welterweights in the world.
When thinking of the matchup further, here is my take on Clottey and how he matches up against his Filipino foe.
Making Ghana proud
Hailing from Accra, Ghana, Clottey comes from a country known producing gritty, tough, and proven combatants. In somewhat recent years Azumah ‘The Professor’ Nelson and Ike ‘Bazooka’ Quartey have represented the country proud by becoming quality champions inside of the ring.
Nelson had great longevity and was a threat in the lower weight classes from the early 80’s to mid 90’s. He fist broke on the scene as a newcomer in 1982, losing a tremendous battle to the late Salvador Sanchez. When it was all said and done Nelson won titles at 126 and 130 pounds, defeating the likes of Wilfredo Gomez, Juan La Porte, Jeff Fenech, Gabriel Ruelas, and Jesse James Leija. Nelson was crafty, durable and extremely consistent throughout his hall of fame career.
Ike Quartey won the WBA Welterweight title in June of 1994 by stopping Crisanto Espana in the 11th round. Quartey was known best for his tremendous physical strength, his potent and deadly jab, and stout chin. He bested the likes of Vince Phillips and Oba Carr while losing a close and some say controversial decision to Oscar De La Hoya in February of 1999 after a 16 month layoff. Quartey would return well over a year later and lose a clear but competitive decision to Fernando Vargas in April of 2000 after moving up in weight.
Quartey disappeared from the scene after that before returning in 2005. He finished his career by defeating Verno Phillips and Carlos Bojorquez while losing a disputed match to Vernon Forrest and a lopsided decision to good friend Winky Wright. While some say that Quartey’s true potential was never realized, as he was the victim of repeated spells of inactivity, he certainly was regarded as one of the world’s top three Welterweights in the late 90’s alongside De La Hoya and Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad.
In seeing Clottey in the ring you can see shades of both Quartey and Nelson, as he attacks with a high and tight guard while always pressing forward and looking to force the action. As was the case with Quartey, Clottey is a physical powerhouse on the inside and his tight-knit defense makes it extremely hard for opponents to break through.
Clottey’s early 2010 gift
2009 must certainly have been considered a downer for Clottey. He only fought once the entire year, suffering a very close split decision to Miguel Cotto. It was a very eventful bout, as Clottey was dropped early before regrouping and working his way back into the fight. Cotto suffered a huge gash above his left eye from an accidental head butt in the third and showed his warrior’s spirit, fighting Clottey tit for tat as the middle rounds approached.
Just when it looked at those Joshua was running out of steam he would regroup, as was the case in the seventh round when he unloaded on Cotto to turn the tide of the fight. The fight was back and forth from that point forward. In the twelfth round Clottey was grazed with a punch behind the head and seemed to overact to the punch, turning around as though he was in severe pain. Cotto would close the show strong and go on to win a split decision, with 116-111 and 115-112 tallies going in favor of the Puerto Rican while Judge Tom Miller sided with the Ghanaian fighter 114-113.
The loss to Cotto didn’t drop Clottey’s stock tremendously because he fought on nearly even terms with a fighter of Cotto’s class. The remaining months of the year had to be terribly frustrating, however, as proposed bouts with Carlos Quintana and Sergio Martinez never came to fruition. Clottey was recently scheduled for a January 16th appearance at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas against Michael Rosales and apparently turned the fight down due to his desires for a bigger fight. It doesn’t getting any bigger than facing Pacquiao and right now Joshua Clottey must be happy with the new opportunity on his horizon. This is the exact opportunity he was looking for.
Clottey at his best
When looking at Clottey’s career in recent years there are several fights and moments that stand out where the former champion was at his best.
In July of 2006 he showed tremendous stamina and a great work rate in winning a convincing and entertaining decision over then-undefeated Richard Gutierrez. Clottey’s air-tight defense negated anything that the Columbian had to offer as he pulled away late in the fight.
Clottey was also impressive against both Zab Judah and Diego Corrales. Against Corrales, who was moving up two weight classes for the bout, Clottey was too strong and efficient for the late Diego to handle, dropping him twice late in the fight on his way to a near shutout win. Clottey defeated Judah in August of 2008 by simply applying pressure and staying consistent. Clottey wasn’t fazed by Judah’s speed and had great success working the body and using his physical strength on the inside as he walked away with a nine round technical decision win.
Even in losing to Cotto and Antonio Margarito, Clottey more than held his own during long periods in each fight. Both of those contests were nip and tuck affairs in which Clottey showed much worth while falling just short. Against Cotto he seemed to ease off the gas pedal when having his best moments and that came back to hurt him. He started strong against Margarito but a reported injury to his left hand in the 4th round lulled his momentum.
Sizing up Pacquiao vs. Clottey
For as much success as Pacquiao has had in recent years I personally feel that Clottey is a tremendous and underrated threat to him. The matchup in styles pretty contrasting and it will be interesting to see whether Pacquiao’s speed and power or Clottey’s aggression and physical strength prove to be the key factors.
One thing I notice is that while both Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto were physically imposing opponents, they both had suspect defense, as seen in previous fights. Clottey’s defense is very sound and it will be interesting seeing how exactly Pacquiao goes about trying to break him down. If Clottey can find a way to get on the inside consistently and force the action he could have great success.
If I had to pick a winner right now I would side with Pacquiao because it’s hard to deny the success he has had. Blowout wins over Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, and Miguel Cotto in succession don’t come around too often and Pacquiao is a primed and well oiled machine at the moment. Clottey will definitely come into the fight with high hopes but he has shown in the past that he can be complacent and inactive during key stretches of a fight. I think Pacquiao’s speed and activity will be the key factors on his way towards winning a competitive but clear decision win.