Cotto-Clottey Fight Preview

June 13, 2009

In tonight's much-anticipated welterweight title fight at New York's Madison Square Garden, former undisputed welterweight champion Miguel Cotto (33-1, 27 KOs) will take on tough Joshua Clottey (35-2, 21 KOs) of Ghana. Cotto, the latest in a long line of proud Puerto Rican boxers, will enjoy plenty of Boricua support inside the arena, as the fight will occur on eve of the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade.

In fact, a June Cotto fight in the Garden has become somewhat of a recent tradition, with Cotto fighting four times in the past five years on this particular Parade weekend.

On this occasion, however, Cotto will enter the ring with a significantly different corner, as he will be listening to his new head trainer, Joe Santiago. Previously an assistant trainer, Santiago was promoted following the departure of head trainer Evangelista Cotto.

Make no mistake, this change could become an issue in the fight.

From the outset of his career, Cotto essentially has heard only one voice in his corner, that of his uncle, Evangelista.

However, the pair's family ties did not equate to harmony in the gym, as the Miguel-Evangelista relationship has reportedly been a strained one for years. That strain finally came to a head this past spring when the two allegedly had a pair of run-ins that turned ugly and physical. Following those two confrontations, Cotto immediately relieved his uncle of training duties, and put Joe Santiago in charge.

According to Cotto, the change produced a relatively uneventful and drama-free training camp. Perhaps that is just the atmosphere Cotto needed, since he is still trying to make his way back from last summer's brutal TKO loss to Antonio Margarito.

Cotto's first fight after the Margarito defeat came in February, when he stopped the outclassed and overmatched Michael Jennings of England in five lopsided rounds. With the win, Cotto was able to claim a vacant welterweight belt.

The durable and battle-tested Clottey however, figures to be a much stiffer test. In his most recent match, Clottey won a vacant belt via a ninth-round technical decision against former undisputed welterweight champ Zab Judah. Clottey never got the opportunity to defend that title, as he gave it up in order to make this big money fight with Cotto.

Clottey is no stranger to fighting in hostile environments, having fought regularly outside of his native Ghana. He relocated to the Bronx in late 2003, and has fought exclusively in the States ever since. Hence, he is not likely to be intimidated by the Garden crowd.

When Bob Arum's Top Rank purchased the rights to Clottey's contract from promoter Lou DiBella in December of 2006, Arum instantly put Clottey in a tough fight with then-titleholder Antonio Margarito. Although Clottey started strong and controlled the fight early, he eventually lost a unanimous decision after suffering injuries to both hands.

After that tough loss, Clottey has reeled off four wins, including convincing victories over former world champions Judah and the late Diego Corrales. However, since his impressive win over Judah, Clottey has failed to land a fight, as a number of proposed matchups have fallen out for one reason or another. Ultimately, Clottey and his team of advisors made the wise decision to give up his belt and get a crack at the popular Cotto, rather than wasting time with a less-lucrative mandatory opponent.

What Clottey Must Do to Win

Clottey is the latest in a long line of tough, hard-nosed, and fundamentally sound Ghanaian fighters. Far from flashy, Clottey subtly mixes into his game the styles of countrymen Azumah "The Professor" Nelson and Ike "Bazooka" Quartey, while also incorporating the trademark "earmuffs" defense employed by Ronald "Winky" Wright.

Clottey will be the bigger, stronger fighter come fight night, as he has previously gone up as much as 20 pounds between the pre-fight weigh-in and his ring entrance. Therefore, he must use this factor to his advantage by staying right on top of Cotto, stalking his opponent and sapping his energy. Such tactics have proven effective against Cotto in the past, most notably by Margarito.

In fact, Clottey will likely find Cotto to be a willing co-conspirator should he elect to use this strategy, as Cotto's ring generalship and ability to shift strategy on the fly has, at times, left something to be desired.

Clottey's best bet will be to stay true to form, taking the straight-forward approach and stalking Cotto. When he catches Cotto, Clottey must attack the body in order to slow Cotto's movement and angling around the ring. Clottey should throw as many punches as his conditioning will allow, making an effort to whack away at Cotto's forearms, shoulders, ribs, hips, and gut. Once this pounding begins to wear on the Puerto Rican, we will see if he still has the heart to gut out a victory when faced with intense pressure from an unrelenting, hungry, and determined opponent.

What Cotto Must Do to Win

Despite all the questions regarding Cotto's mental fortitude following his brutal TKO loss, Cotto has demonstrated in the past that he is a tough and fearless fighter willing to mix it up and wage war.

Moreover, throughout his career, Cotto has flashed decent handspeed and underestimated boxing skills, including the ability to effectively switch to a southpaw stance.

However, as is so often the case with exciting, all-action pugilists, Cotto has been plagued by having a suspect defense and penetrable chin. These shortcomings are compounded by recent concerns over Cotto's resiliency and commitment to conditioning.

Although there were certainly suspicions and unanswered questions regarding Cotto's defeat to Margarito, the true toll of that fight on Miguel's psyche might not be known for years. A bounce-back Cotto performance against a legitimate foe such as Clottey would go a long way towards seeing if Cotto has finally put the past behind him.

If Cotto is able box effectively while circling away from Clottey's dangerous straight right hand, hooks to the body, and inside uppercuts, then he should be able to win on points. Since it isn't likely that he will be able to overwhelm and stop the tough-as-nails Ghanaian by an early KO, look for Cotto to instead "put money in the bank" by boxing and circling. If so, Clottey could eat leather from Cotto's jabs and hooks while fruitlessly following him around the ring.

When Clottey does get inside, Cotto must show that he has learned his lesson from the Margarito fight by either: A) tying him up and holding, or B) counter-punching effectively in combinations.

The counterpunching will be particularly important for Cotto, as he notoriously retaliated with only single-punch shots against Margarito. With the iron-jawed Clottey, such one-punch shots will not be enough.

In addition, by throwing his punches in bunches, Cotto will also cause Clottey to stop moving his hands and feet, effectively throwing him off his rhythm.


Clottey by Round 11 TKO stoppage in a candidate for 2009 Fight of the Year.

Cotto starts fast, carrying the early rounds by boxing beautifully against the hard-charging Clottey, and frustrating Clottey with his high work rate and movement. However, in a rough-and-tumble fight that features several accidental clashes of heads, Cotto suffers a gash that allows Clottey to seize the momentum of the fight around Rounds 5 or 6.

As a result, Clottey ramps up his own punch rate and pressure on Cotto, appearing to hurt Cotto in Round 8. Cotto is still on unsteady legs in the ninth and tenth rounds, and despite fighting valiantly, he eventually gets dropped by the Ghanaian in Round 11. After rising to his feet and trying to continue, Cotto is dropped again, this time from a perfectly-placed hook to the body, and a window-dressing right uppercut for good measure. The Puerto Rican's corner hastily throws in the towel, ending the fight.

Welcome to the Pacquiao sweepstakes, Mr. Clottey.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for

1 comment:

  1. the writer's prediction was dead on except for the end result. but what a bs scorecard from the judge who saw it 8-4 cotto. that fool should be barred from the sport with that type of card.

    cotto's m.o. the last 3 fights is run, run, run in the late rounds. i am sick of his nonsense. if you are gonna run, then do it with some slickness. he looks like he's just trying to survive.


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