When Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley both announced their return to the welterweight division, fight fans began to buzz about the newfound potential in the weight class. Having dried up ever since the departure of the aforementioned, as well as Vernon Forrest and Ricardo Mayorga, the division once again returned to primetime status as fight fans around the globe rattled off potential matchups among the division’s elite.
Many clamored for a Zab Judah title defense against De La Hoya. Perhaps he could secure a superfight with Mosley, as the two have been exchanging insults. Antonio Margarito became a major player when he forced Kermit Cintron into submission in the fifth round of their April showdown.
Former junior welterweight champion Sharmba Mitchell threw his hat into the ring as well, announcing a move up from 140. Some even hoped Forrest and Cory Spinks would stick around, and perhaps Mayorga would find a way to return to the division that made him famous.
One name that seems to be left out of the mix is Joshua “Satan” Clottey. The top fighters don’t mention him, and even several hardcore fans barely recognize his name. What he should be known as is the division’s greatest threat. Instead, he is currently best known as “the better Clottey,” as his brother Emmanuel is also a prizefighter. So far, the accolades have been of the “seen but not heard” variety.
Simply put, his American dream has been nothing but a hellish nightmare to date.
Having followed in the footsteps of his older brother Emmanuel, who arrived in the states three years prior, Joshua believed that joining his brother would result in more exposure for his career. At the time, he was 23-1 (16 KOs), the lone loss being the result of a disqualification against Carlos Baldomir in 1999.
Six years later, Baldomir now serves as mandatory challenger to Judah’s WBC title. The closest Joshua has come to any world champion is crossing paths with Zab while training at the famed Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, NY.
Clottey patiently waits for a world title shot. The problem is getting there. So far, very few welterweights have been cooperative. Joshua remains anonymous as a result. The difference now is that he refuses to remain silent.
“I don’t understand why my promoter (DiBella Entertainment) can’t get me any fights,” vents a discouraged Clottey (26-1, 1 NC, 18 KOs), wondering when his next fight will happen. “They tell me that nobody wants to fight me, but the problem is nobody knows me. All I do is go to the gym, train, and then listen to different excuses for why I’m constantly avoided.”
The most recent example occurred two weeks ago. Clottey was promised a slot on the Kevin McBride – Mike Tyson June 11 pay-per-view card in Washington D.C. His role was to welcome Mitchell to the welterweight division. It didn’t matter that he had to accept short money to secure the fight; all he wanted was the opportunity.
“My man Jose (Nunez, Joshua’s manager) worked very hard to secure that fight,” says Clottey. “The moment I signed a contract with Jose, he did everything he could to get me a big time date. He told me I would either fight on July 16 (on the Bernard Hopkins-Jermain Taylor PPV card) or on the Tyson card. He kept his word, because he got me a contract to fight Sharmba.”
He would also secure Joshua his highest payday to date, $20,000. Sharmba stood to make much more, but Clottey understood why he had to accept less; the risk had to be worth the reward.
Clottey then signed the bout agreement, accepting the date and the purse. All that was left was for Mitchell to sign the bout agreement, and the fight was on. Instead, Mitchell backed out of the deal and decided Joshua “wasn’t worth his time.” Most in the industry translate such a phrase as “he’s too big of a risk for my first fight in a new weight.”
In a perfect world, Mitchell would be shown the door, and a new opponent would be sought for Clottey. With the boxing world being anything but perfect, Sharmba remained on the card. For the promoter (Raging Promotions), it was all about geography and notoriety. Sharmba is a former world champion from the D.C. area, therefore more “deserving” of a slot on the card. Clottey understood that part, even if he didn’t agree with it. What he doesn’t understand to this day is why his promoter remained a part of the card once Joshua was dropped.
“I’m saying, that’s why I don’t respect (DiBella). His job as a promoter is to get me fights. When one guy ducks me, he should have been in there demanding that I stay on the card for the money I agreed to. Instead, I get offered nothing, and Lou still gets paid. That’s not right.”
To his credit, Lou called Mitchell on his actions the moment the bout was scrapped. Never one to shy away from speaking his mind, DiBella blasted Mitchell for his cowardly act and for going back on his word. Where he went wrong, in the opinion of Team Clottey (and this writer), is when he accepted a consolation prize and asked Joshua to do the same.
DiBella’s consolation prize would come when Chris Smith was named as the substitute opponent of choice for Mitchell. Smith had entered 2005 as a highly touted undefeated welterweight prospect. He managed to remain unbeaten for an entire month, before getting exposed against David Estrada on ShoBox. Barely winning a round before suffering an eleventh-round stoppage, most began to write-off Smith as yet another never-will-be. Apparently, he looked bad enough to gain approval as an opponent on a high-profile pay-per-view card.
What Clottey was asked to accept paled in comparison.
“I signed to fight Sharmba for $20,000,” explains Clottey. “I wasn’t even happy with the money, but Jose told me that it was a wise investment. Being that I was willing to accept the fight, Lou should have at least offered me the same money to fight on another card. Instead he comes at me with some bull about fighting in the city for nothing and no TV. What kind of cr** is that?”
The card to which he refers was a slot on DiBella’s June 9 “Broadway Boxing” show in New York City. Clottey made his stateside debut in that series, stopping Jeffrey Hill in six rounds in November 2003. He has a hard time accepting the fact that his career has not progressed since then. An offer of $5,000 and no television (aside from a delayed broadcast on MSG Network) didn’t help much. Frustrated, Clottey declined, instead demanding DiBella Entertainment to release him from his contract.
As this goes to print, such a move is being negotiated between DiBella and Nunez. Both want what’s best for Joshua and also understand why he is constantly avoided by boxing’s best.
“If Joshua wants to leave, that’s up to him, and I won’t hold him back,” says DiBella. “But I’m not giving him up for free, and I also won’t accept his claim that I’ve done nothing for his career. When he came to the states, nobody ever heard of this kid. I was able to secure him a top five ranking (in the WBC) in only four fights. Considering who and where he’s fought, I’d say that I did my job. Of course I’d love to get him bigger fights, and it bothers me that nobody wants to fight him. But Joshua also needs to understand his worth.”
Nunez agrees … to an extent.
“I’ve made it clear to Lou, and want it stated for the record, that I like doing business with him,” insists Nunez. “I was hoping that we can all work something out and Joshua stays with DiBella. But Josh doesn’t want that, and I can’t blame him. I respect the fact that he has a world ranking and Lou was a big help in getting him there. But Joshua hasn’t been very active since signing with DiBella. Not saying that it’s Lou’s fault, but let’s be honest. It’s been almost two years and Joshua is still best-known as Emmanuel’s younger brother. We need a big fight to change that, and that just doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon.”
DiBella tried, as he secured Clottey a slot on a February ESPN2 show. The timing appeared to be a stroke of luck. The card was originally intended as a showcase for Kermit Cintron and Antonio Margarito, who were taking on separate tune-ups in anticipation of their April pay-per-view showdown. When Cintron suffered an injury, Margarito was promoted to the main event. Clottey received an upgrade to televised co-feature against Steve Martinez.
Unfortunately, Joshua’s fifteen minutes of fame didn’t even last that long. An inadvertent headbutt in round two produced a cut over Martinez’s eye. The ringside physician ruled the cut too severe for the action to continue, and the bout was declared a no-contest. The brief encounter remains the only action Clottey has seen in the ring in this calendar year. Unless you train in Gleason’s Gym, or live in Clottey’s neighborhood, chances are you won’t be seeing him anytime soon.
“This is what makes it hard for me to respect someone like DiBella” Clottey insists. “I stay in the gym because I want to stay in shape. I love training; I train every day, whether I’m fighting or not. Lately, all I’ve been doing is train. I need to fight, but not for him. Hopefully Jose can buy me out of my contract and we can go to a promoter who will handle my career the right way.”
If DiBella gets his way, he will receive a handsome ransom for Clottey’s release. Otherwise, Joshua’s career will remain stuck in neutral.
“I don’t want to make this personal. I like Joshua, and his brother, and only want what’s best for his career,” says DiBella. “But if he’s going to turn down fights, then he’s going to be on the sidelines for a long time. Jose and I discussed the numbers, so the ball is in his court. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help Joshua’s career move along. If he will accept the fights I can offer him until something big comes along, then great. Otherwise, he can sit on the sideline as long as he wants for all I care. He’s only hurting himself in the long run.”
Out of respect for all parties, the financial terms of the promotional contract between Clottey and DBE will remain undisclosed. What can be revealed is that Joshua has five fights left, as DiBella is to deliver three fights per year until October 2006. All were hoping that Clottey would be in contention for a world title by then, if not already a world champion. Lately, Clottey just wants to know that he can support his family.
“Right now, we’re starving,” exclaims Clottey. “I’m tired of knowing that my training sessions are the only action I get to see in the ring. I’m tired of leaving the gym every day wondering how I can afford to keep supporting my family. There’s so much going on at welterweight right now, and I’m not a part of it. There are fighters in the division who have made $20 million and more for one fight. I was willing to accept $20,000 just to get my name out there. All I ask is for the opportunity now to make money later. Without one, the other can’t happen. I don’t want to sound greedy, but I know I deserve better.”