By Chris Robinson
On March 13th, 2010, Accra, Ghana’s Joshua Clottey put forth an effort against Manny Pacquiao that was excruciatingly hard to stomach. Fighting against one of the world’s premier fighters and with a chance to regain his championship status, you would have expected some definite spirit from Clottey but instead all we saw from him was posturing and covering up as he was practically blanked for twelve rounds in a decision loss.
Following that humbling defeat Clottey has been flying under the radar, only coming to the surface on rare occasions to discuss his performance that night and what lies ahead for his career. It now appears that the former IBF welterweight titlist will be making a return to the ring nearly one year after his debacle against Pacquiao as he could be seeing time on the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga undercard at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Time is of the essence for Clottey, who will be nearing 34 years of age next time he sets foot into the ring as a professional. Continue reading for Clottey's story while in boxing’s spotlight…
Clottey chosen to face Pacquiao
When negotiations broke down the first time between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. nearly a year ago, each man went their separate ways and Clottey was deemed as somewhat of a ‘late replacement’ to face off with the Filipino star. Clottey was coming off of a June 2009 split decision loss to Miguel Cotto in Madison Square Garden, the same man who Pacquiao stopped to win the WBO belt months later, and a shot such as this was one that could rejuvenate his career.
Lost in the fallout with Mayweather was just how solid of a fill-in that Clottey was, given his physical strength, experience against world-class foes, and tricky defense.
Clottey had garnered a respected reputation in the sport, with his performances against Antonio Margarito, the late Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales, and Zab Judah standing out.
In December of 2006 he started strong against Tijuana’s Margarito before injuring his left hand in the 4th round and losing a decision. In his next fight he dominated a weight-rising Corrales, flooring the Sacramento fighter in rounds nine and ten. He got his first and only taste of championship glory in the summer of 2008 when he out hustled Zab Judah on his way to claiming a technical decision victory due to the fight being stopped because of a gash on the Brooklyn fighter’s right eye.
Not enough for Cotto
Heading into his June 2009 bout with Cotto, Clottey was deemed a very live opponent to upend Cotto, who still had question marks swirling around him after his devastating TKO loss to Antonio Margarito one year prior. While the fight was very competitive, you came away with the feeling that Clottey let one slip through his fingers.
The two men took turns trading rounds early on in a frenetic, bloody, foul-plagued clash. Clottey was dropped in the first round by a Cotto jab but regrouped and worked his way back into a fight. Blood began streaming down Cotto’s face in the third round, adding to the suspense. Clottey appeared to be in a position late in the fight to capture the victory but he eased up on the gas pedal late and let Cotto take the momentum down the stretch.
Scores of 114-113 for Clottey and 116-111 and 115-112 for Cotto were read in a fight that showed both Clottey’s strengths and limitations as a fighter.
Clottey trains at Contender’s in South Florida for Pacquiao clash
Shortly after the fight with Pacquiao was signed, Clottey would break camp and begin training at Contender’s Gym in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The facility is ran by former champion John David Jackson and has seen such figures as Nate Campbell, Allan Green, Glen Johnson, Arthur Abraham and others walk through the doors.
Jackson told me that Clottey was looking sharp in camp but that there were still lingering issues regarding his training for that particular clash, as trainer Godwin Kotey was denied a working visa to come to the States. New York’s Lenny De Jesus would later get the nod to oversee Clottey's duties.
Devo and Trouble speak on Clottey
I reached out to two men who had been in camp with Clottey to get a better gauge of his then-upcoming chances. Damian ‘Devo’ Frias, a Cuban southpaw now living out of Miami, was serving as Clottey’s chief sparring partner for the Pacquiao fight and spoke of their bond with one another and the chances that his newfound gym mate possessed.
“He’s got my respect and I have his respect,” Frias noted. “It’s a special bond. I want to see him win. We’re working together and he’s also helping me. As a person from what I can see he is a humble, quiet guy. He’s a strong soldier but he’s humble at the same time. If he comes to the fight with the right mindset he can be victorious and upset a lot of people. He’s not going to be a pushover for Pacquiao.”
Joseph ‘Trouble’ Figueroa had also spent time with Clottey at John’s Gym in the Bronx and felt that his pristine work ethic and all around skills would give him a great shot against Pacquiao.
“He trains like a gladiator and then runs back home. I was definitely impressed with his dedication and work ethic. Even in between fights you’ll never catch him out of shape. He has good defense, good hand speed and decent power. He has never turned down a challenge that I know of. I don’t think that you can name one guy that he isn’t willing to fight. It is not beyond the realm of comprehension to think that Josh could win this one.”
An underwhelming effort against Pacquiao
Expectations were high but Clottey’s effort against Pacquiao left much to be desired. Clottey fought behind his typical turtle shell-like defense and while he did a good job of fending off many of Pacquiao’s incoming bombs, he never mounted a serious offensive attack of his own. It was painfully frustrating to watch, as it seemed as though Clottey was practically conceding defeat.
Pacquiao threw over 1200 punches on his way to a convincing victory, capturing a decision by scores of 120-108 and 119-109 twice. After the bout Clottey pointed to having diarrhea symptoms prior to the fight for his lackluster effort but his explanation didn’t go over too well.
The road to redemption
One year later it looks as though Clottey will likely step back into the ring, as it has been reported by Rick Reeno of BoxingScene.com that he will likely see time on the undercard of one of his previous conqueror’s next fights when Cotto defends his WBA junior middleweight crown against Nicaragua’s Ricardo Mayorga. Now campaigning at 154 pounds himself, Clottey has a long ways to go towards restoring the luster on his career but there are plenty of challenges for him in his new weight class.