It has become popular since the collapse of the Floyd Mayweather, Jr.-Manny Pacquiao negotiations to try and turn Joshua Clottey into some kind of King Kong figure. He is not.
Promoter Bob Arum has done his job in the weeks leading up to Saturday night’s welterweight title fight between Clottey and Pacquiao at Cowboys Stadium, just outside of Dallas. Arum has sold the public and a goodly number of writers a storyline that Clottey is bigger than Pacquiao, bigger he seems to want you to believe, than any welterweight that ever roamed the planet. He is bigger than Pacquiao. So am I. It won’t help either of us when a fight breaks out.
Clottey is a solidly built welterweight who has proven he can take a lot of punishment. That will stand him in good stead Saturday night because that is what is going to happen. He is going to get hit more times that night than he’s been hit in his career because while he may be bigger than Pacquiao he is not faster than Pacquiao. He is not as skilled as Pacquiao. Nor does he have the same warrior’s spirit.
That is why he will not prevail Saturday night, although for a time he will very likely make life more difficult for Pacquiao than it has been since he was last in the ring with Juan Manuel Marquez. But making life difficult for your opponent does not mean you are going to beat your opponent.
Clottey (35-3, 20 KO) is a classic loser in this kind of situation. I mean no disrespect when I say this. It is simply a fact. Like Zab Judah, Clottey is a talented fighter who can be in the ring with anybody and acquit himself well. The problem is he can’t beat everybody.
Neither did Judah. When faced with defining moment fights both of them have regularly found ways to lose. Saturday night will be no different even if Clottey’s strength proves daunting for Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KO) at times.
Clottey will not work hard enough late in the fight, when things are being decided, simply because he can’t seem to make himself do it. He failed against Carlos Baldomir in such a fight. He failed worse against Antonio Margarito. And he utterly imploded against a beatable Miguel Cotto. With the fight on the line he simply was unable to push himself the last mile. Why should that change against the best fighter he’s ever faced?
Asked about the loss to Cotto, whom Pacquiao destroyed, Clottey claimed this week that his corner had told him he was winning easily, as if that was an explanation for taking the final rounds off as Cotto pressed him and snatched a victory away from him by sheer force of will.
“They were thinking that I was winning so I was not pushing too much in my mind,’’ he explained.
Not pushing too much in his mind? Whatever became of the long held concept of closing the show? Not "pushing too much in my mind" in the biggest fight of his life? Not pushing too much in my mind against the biggest opponent he’d ever faced?
Had that been a singular occurrence perhaps you could write it off to an ill thought out game plan but it was not. He didn’t push himself against Baldomir either and forget about the Margarito fight, nights that seem to reveal an alarming hole in Joshua Clottey’s makeup. He is a tough, strong, legitimate contender. He belongs in the ring with Manny Pacquiao. But he is unlikely to beat Manny Pacquiao, save a lucky punch, and Bob Arum knows it, which is why he made the fight in the first place.
Not working hard in the ring has long been a part of Clottey’s style. While he has a strong chin and can take a lot of abuse without apparent problems, he also works only sporadically on offense, refusing to open himself up to the risk that comes with throwing punches in bunches.
Pacquiao is the opposite. When Clottey comes forward and tries to impose his will and strength on Pacquiao he will throw punches, not cover up. Because of his superior hand speed, he will also land and Clottey’s response will be what it always has been in such circumstances. He will cover up, take the punches and then shake his head as if to say, ‘’You didn’t hurt me.’’
Perhaps Pacquiao won’t. But he’ll beat him because that’s why he’ll be there – to be edged out. To be outworked. To be nipped at the wire. It’s what he does.
“I’ll have to fight every round more convincingly,’’ Clottey admitted, before in the next breath hinting that he might not.
“I’ll make sure if I throw a few it’s going to connect and I’m going to do damage. Manny is fighting a real welterweight. No catch weight. No nothing. I’ve never felt none of my opponent’s punches. I’m not going to go backward. The fear and pressure will make him think more.’’
It was almost as if Clottey was talking about himself as he spoke about Pacquiao. If there is one thing Pacquiao does not do is waste a lot of time thinking about his opponent pressuring him. He welcomes it. It is Clottey who has cracked under an opponent’s relentless pressure, too often retreating to the ropes with his hands held high by his ears as an opponent throws a barrage of punches.
Worse, even he admits he is not always busy enough, especially in his biggest fights. At the moment of truth in the past against top opponents, Joshua Clottey couldn’t make himself to enough to win. He wouldn’t take the risk required – demanded really – to take a shot at winning.
Why should it be any different Saturday night against the best fighter he’s ever faced?
Could things change? Could he be too big for Pacquiao or too strong? Sure. Will he be?
No he won’t, because Joshua Clottey is not King Kong. He’s Joshua Clottey, a good fighter but when the moment of truth comes, when the demands are highest, one who’s not good enough.