Pacquiao-Clottey Preview & Fearless Prediction

March 13, 2010

Saturday night in Arlington, Texas, Jerry Jones' Cowboys Stadium will play host to the Manny Pacquiao versus Joshua Clottey welterweight title bout, with Pacquaio's WBO championship belt on the line.

Although this fight is seen by most as a letdown after the Pacquiao-Mayweather "SuperFight" fell through, true fight fans know that Pac-Man still faces a very tough test in Ghanaian challenger Clottey.

In fact, a closer look at the two combatants' strengths and weaknesses reveals a number of factors which could make this clash a memorable one.

Pacquiao's Strengths

With Manny Pacquiao, any discussion concerning his abilities begins and ends with speed.

Pac-Man possesses arguably the fastest hands of any boxer in the world today, and it is this blinding speed which presents the greatest problem for his opponents.

Moreover, under the tutelage of four-time Ring Magazine Trainer of the Year Freddie Roach, Pacquaio has drastically improved his footwork and balance in recent years.

As a result, he is able to dart in and out of punching range, while still launching barrages of punches, often from awkward angles. It is this unpredictability, combined with the previously-mentioned blinding speed, that gives Pacquaio his biggest advantage over the slower Clottey.

A closer look at the champion's pedigree also reveals that he has 2 other advantages in his favor. First, his tremendous stamina, as evidenced by his late-round stoppages of Miguel Cotto and Oscar De La Hoya. Second, his big-fight ring experience, as seen by Pacquiao's 26 fights with a legitimate championship belt on the line. Pacquiao is a stellar 23-2-1 in such contests.

In fact, it seems that Pacquiao fights his best under the brightest of lights, as just like all the greats, he appears to ramp up his intensity and tenacity when on a grand stage.

Clottey, in contrast, has came up short in three of his four biggest fights (title-fight losses to Carlos Baldomir, Antonio Margarito, and Cotto).

Finally, Pacquaio holds another advantage in the versatility of his attack. This is a definite byproduct of the bond that he and Roach have fostered. Roach has the complete and unwavering trust of his charge, and such faith makes things go smooth in the corner.

In other words, when Roach sees something that his man can exploit, Pacquiao listens, and more often than not, makes the suggested adjustment. The importance of this advantage cannot be understated.

Clottey's Advantages

The 32 year-old Clottey's most obvious advantages are in the size department. Clottey is about an inch and a half to two inches taller than his 5'6" foe, and come fight night, he will likely take a 10-15 pound weight advantage into the ring as well.

Although Pacquaio supporters are quick to point out that this is nothing new since each of Pacquiao's past four opponents have been naturally bigger, this case is decidedly different.

Much like the recently-vanquished Ricky Hatton, Clottey is said to walk around weighing as much as 175-180 pounds in between fights. However, the main difference between Hatton and Clottey lies in their body composition, and the fact that Clottey is an immensely strong, durable, and supremely-conditioned welterweight.

Although Clottey has three career losses, "The Hitter" has never been convincingly beaten.

His first career loss to Carlos Baldomir was a notoriously bizarre stoppage in which the Ghanaian fighter was disqualified for headbutts in a fight in which he was ahead on all three judges' scorecards.

After ripping off 10 consecutive wins following that loss, Clottey stepped up to challenge Mexico's Antonio Margarito for the same WBO welterweight title belt that will be on the line tonight in Dallas.

Clottey again got the best of his opponent over the bout's first four rounds, but then sustained injuries to both hands, causing him to go into a defensive mode for the rest of the fight. As a result, Margarito was able to take the decision victory. Clottey's supporters often wonder what might have been had Clottey not suffered two busted hands.

Clottey's third loss came in his last fight, a closely-contested loss to Puerto Rico's former two division champ Miguel Cotto. Although the judges' decision was controversial, Clottey did not do himself any favors by coasting and circling Cotto without much offensive output in the final three frames.

That being said, it is easy to see why Clottey honestly believes that he has never been soundly defeated in a boxing ring.

What those three losses have proven is that Clottey is durable. That durability is rooted in three key factors, all of which could affect Saturday's fight: 1) Clottey's hard-to-penetrate defensive shell, 2) his iron chin, and 3) his indomitable fighting spirit.

Clottey effectively employs a high guard similar to his countryman Ike Quartey and American Winky Wright. Fighting out of this high guard, Clottey catches the majority of his opponents' shots on his elbow and arms, before springing into action and unloading combinations of his own. Most lethal is his "double up" left hook to the body and the head.

One of the more interesting subplots in this fight is the contrast in styles with Pacquiao's best defense being his unrelenting offense, while for Clottey, the opposite is true - his best offense will arise from his good defense.

Finally, many have dismissed this fight as a mismatch simply due to the differing results against a common opponent - Cotto. However, one must remember the old boxing axiom that always seems to ring true: Styles make fights.

As evidence, one need look no further than Clottey's fight against Zab Judah.

Judah, an extremely fast southpaw with real punching power (sound familiar?), failed to inflict much damage on Clottey, as Clottey walked through all his shots without so much as a backward step.

Furthermore, Margarito (who may have been fighting with loaded gloves) had nearly eight rounds in which to pound away at an opponent who could not punch back, and yet, he failed to leave so much as a mark on Clottey's face.

In essence, those underestimating Clottey do so at their own peril, as he is a very live underdog.

Clottey's Weaknesses

Clottey's most glaring weakness is that he is quite plodding and predictable. Simply put, he is not very diverse in his offensive attack.

On Saturday night, it is safe to say that Clottey will do what he has most always done in his boxing career: come forward behind his high guard, shielding himself from punches, waiting for the right opportunity to open up with his own offense.

This could prove to be his undoing against Pac-Man's frenetic fighting pace. With his high workrate, Pacquiao will likely pile on points and build a lead on the scorecards, even if all his punches are not actually doing damage. Hence, Clottey will need to open up considerably more if he is to pull off the monumental upset.

Clottey, who by all accounts appears to be in tip-top fighting shape, will need to demonstrate that he has found the killer instinct and go-for-broke fighting tenacity that all great champions possess in spades. Against Cotto, this attribute was noticeably absent.

Then there is the issue of the unsettled situation in Clottey's corner, as he recently fired his longtime trainer, Kwame Asante, following the Cotto fight. To make matters worse, Godwin Kotey, Clottey's choice as Asante's replacement, was denied a visa to enter the United States.

Enter Lenny De Jesus.

De Jesus, a veteran cutman with over 40 years of experience in and around the sweet science, is no stranger to Clottey's corner, having worked as the Ghanaian's cutman for his past few fights. Hence, there is already a comfort level between the two.

That being said, De Jesus may be most valuable for his work done prior to joining Team Clottey, as he served as the cutman in Pacquaio's camp for no less than six years, and therefore, is quite familiar with Pac-Man's tendencies in the ring.

Conversely, the cutman in the other corner, Miguel Diaz, held the same post in Clottey's camp for a number of years as well. Time will tell which side-shifter has the greater influence over the outcome of the fight.

This could be one of the more unusual instances in which the cutmen will have an impact even in the absence of any serious lacerations.

Pacquiao's Weaknesses

For Pacquiao, his main undoing could be what makes him so great and effective in the first place, as his unorthodox and awkward style can often leave him off-balance and susceptible to counter punches.

Although he and Roach have been able to offset this quite well in recent years with improved lateral movement and angles, Clottey could capitalize on Pacquaio's tendency to jump in to get off shots, oftentimes with his chin a high and inviting target for counter uppercuts and hooks on the inside. Such shots happen to be two of Clottey's favorite tools in his arsenal.

Pacquaio may also have to show that he can fight going backwards for one of the first times in his career, as the bigger, stronger and equally determined Clottey is sure to want to pressure and stalk the smaller champion.

Aside from those two issues, there is the legitimate concern that Manny might be distracted, and not properly motivated for this fight.

With all the talk of his upcoming political campaign in his native Philippines, it is quite possible that Pacquiao's focus could be elsewhere.

Moreover, with the massive disappointment resulting from the Mayweather fallout, combined with the fact that Manny appears to genuinely like Clottey as a person, could it be possible that Pac-Man is not "up" for this fight?

If so, it will be at his own peril, as by all accounts, Clottey is hungry as ever, and has looked phenomenal in training camp.

What Clottey Must Do to Win the Fight

Clottey can not just fight "his fight" and expect to win on Saturday night. He is the unheralded challenger and he cannot simply cover up and block shots with his arms and expect to win. He is going to have to truly prove that he deserves the moniker "Grand Master" by showing improved ring generalship.

As simple as it may sound, Clottey has got to throw the jab. This will offset Manny's darting in and out, and will make him think about defense rather than just his own offense.

Clottey cannot simply hope to use his superior size and strength to back the Pac-Man up - that hasn't worked for anyone in the past, save for Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera in stretches, both of whom were considerably smaller, and fought at a higher work rate. When bigger men, such as de la Hoya and Hatton tried to employ this bullying tactic, they failed miserably.

That being said, if Clottey can effectively control the real estate by stepping to his left, he will be in good position to double up and land his left hook to the body and left to the head.

Clottey also must be able to win the battle on the inside and on the ropes by working the body, so that he can slow and breakdown the champion.

What Pacquaio Must Do to Win the Fight

Pac-Man really has to be careful. If he jumps in hands low and head high against the bigger and stronger Clottey, he could easily get caught with a well-placed counter shot.

He also would be wise not to get into too many two-way exchanges on the inside against the Ghanaian. He was famously nearly decapitated once by a Juan Manuel Marquez half uppercut-half hook, and these are probably Clottey's two best punches.

That being said, if Pacquaio fights his fight, he will likely win comfortably.


In a back-and-forth closely contested fight, a reckless and careless Pacquaio is dropped twice by Clottey - once a flash knockdown when Pacquiao gets caught coming in off-balance, and once in round 8 when he is forced to take a knee after being rocked by a Clottey left hook to the ribs while trapped along the ropes.

Clottey himself gets dropped late in the 11th, and with it still anybody's fight going into the final frame, Pacquiao is just a little bit busier in winning a razor-thin split decision.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Writer for

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