There will be no histrionics, staged or otherwise, to beef up the gate, not between these two humble, unassuming warriors. Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey, two of the five best welterweights in the world, will clash in New York’s Madison Square Garden on Saturday evening, in front of an expected sell-out crowd and on Wednesday afternoon, they gathered at MSG for the final press conference to hype the scrap which pits the WBO champ Cotto against the ex IBF champ Clottey.
Both fighters are currently toiling as two of the most underrated fighters in the game. Cotto has a lone, most assuredly disputed loss on his ledger, while Clottey has two losses, also disputed, on his resume. Yet Cotto finds himself on the outside looking in on too many pound for pound top five lists, and Clottey finds himself in the same situation on P4P top 20 lists.
Fight fans are in for a treat on Saturday, with two rock-solid pugilists butting heads in a building that figures to be freakishly abuzz with anticipation, as Cotto’s massive Puerto Rican fanbase shows their love for the Caguas Kid, who’ll draw adoring crowds at the Sunday Puerto Rican Day Parade in NYC.
The 31-year-old Joshua Clottey, who has lost only to Carlos Baldomir and Antonio Margarito and can with a victory leap from the ranks of the highly regarded but unspectacularly compensated hitters, showed ample class and dignity at MSG.
“Cotto is really giving me a big opportunity,” he said. “I will always respect Miguel Cotto. All of the top welterweights never mention my name and Cotto has mentioned me for a long time. I respect that. He gave me the chance when others wouldn’t.”
Clottey’s loss to Baldomir came in a fight he was winning, but he was DQ’d in the 11th round for a head butt. (Watch the YouTube video and determine for yourself if this was a DQ level offense). He was also doing well in his 2005 beef with Margarito, but he hurt his hands, he said, and then lost some zest, allowing Margarito to take a UD12. He doesn’t foresee anything getting in his way on Saturday. “I prepared very well,” said the Bronx resident, who will make about $550,000 for the fight, but could jump into another tax bracket with a win. “I worked hard and have done every possible thing to win. This won’t be an easy fight at all. We’re going to leave everything in the ring. It’s all about respect. I’m going to give a very good, clean fight and win.”
No one is eager to go on the record, but there are those that question Clottey’s heart; this is a rough charge for someone who has never been stopped, but some whisper that his injured hands against Margarito were more mental than physical, that he couldn’t handle the heat when Margarito got cooking later on in the bout. TSS is inclined to give Clottey the benefit of the doubt. Speaking of heat, you should know that his real nickname is “Heater,” not “Hitter” as his trunks indicate. He was a fiery presence against foes as a young ‘un, and an impressed person likened him to a “heater.”
Miguel Cotto's demeanor was his regulation moderated mood. That blowout and split with Uncle/trainer Evangelista seems to comfortably behind him, and TSS tends to think that it will be a plus to have the uneasiness that developed between the two men absent come Saturday. Yes, trainer Joe Santiago is untested on the big stage, and has functioned as an assistant, and nutrition consultant prior to his upgrade, but you can argue Cotto made some tactical mistakes while Evangelista oversaw him in recent years, and some change might do him good.
“There’s just three more days until the fight,” said the 28-year-old fighter, who as usual wasn’t about to break into anything resembling a grin so close to the bout. “Like Joshua said before, he’s going to leave everything in the ring and I am going to do the same to be the winner and retain my title. But the real winner will be all of the fans. I’m ready to go and I know he’s ready too. Let’s go to it on Saturday.”
Promoter Bob Arum told TSS he expects a sellout, and HBO is showing the bout for those who can’t attend. HBO’s Kery Davis told the media that HBO is doing a free preview weekend, so perhaps a few non fight fans will get a taste of the sweet science and some new fans will be born. Arum touched on this theme with an impassioned and humorous rant against the New York Times, the newspaper he termed “elitist” for their lack of boxing coverage in the last year or so. They devoted a few pages to a Manchester United/Barcelona soccer match, but can’t muster any ink for boxing, Arum thundered. “Boxing dead? I hear that and I’ve been incredulous,” he said. “I don’t know what anyone’s talking about.” He cited Mosley/Margarito in January, Kelly Pavlik’s showing in February against Rubio, and Hatton/Pacquiao as examples of a healthy sport. Arum slapped at the Times for having to accept a cash infusion from Mexican magnate Carlos Slim to stay afloat. “They’ve lost touch completely with the people,” said Arum. “We have to be less defensive,” and talk up the sport, Arum advised. Wise words. Think about this as you soak up the atmosphere in MSG on Saturday. Just because fewer fans are Caucasian Americans, this doesn’t mean interest in the sport is ultra-feeble. Aren’t we citizens of the world, not just the United States of America?
SPEEDBAG NY Giants running back Brandon Jacobs was in attendance. A fight fan forever, he manages Kendall Holt and is looking to add some more boxers to his stable. The 26-year-old Louisiana native got a shoutout from Arum, who promised a boxing promotion to piggyback with a Giants Super Bowl appearance this season.
–L’il but bad Ivan Calderon (age 34; 32-0, just 6 KOs) is fighting on the undercard, against 25-3, with 19 KOs Rodel Mayol of the Philippines. Calderon suffers from the Dangerfield Complex; despite his undefeated record, and the fact that he’s been the WBO light flyweight (108 pounds) champ since 2007, he can’t get much respect. “I know one of these days I’m going to be on TV, “ he said, throwing a grin at HBO’s Kery Davis. Mayol is 0-for-2 in title challenges and will emerge 0-for-3 come Saturday, though he will force Calderon to work.
—TSS had a nice chat with Cameron Dunkin, who manages middleweight Matt Korobov (5-0, 5 KOs; age 26; from Russia), who fights at MSG Saturday. Dunkin helms Kelly Pavlik as well. He told TSS that Pavlik is coming to NY on Thursday and will attend the Boxing Writers dinner on Friday night. Pavlik will fight again in September or October, he said; Sergio Mora, Felix Sturm, Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham are in the mix. Pavlik had a staph infection which prevented him from fighting Mora later this month. Dunkin, who actually looks out for his fighters, in that he likes them to enjoy the most revenue they can with the least amount of risk, says Pavlik was keen on fighting Paul Williams. But Dunkin said Dan Goossen, Williams’ promoter, then asked for too much money, and the deal went kaput. Dunkin is a bit perturbed that obvious challengers haven’t emerged for Pavlik, and that he had to roll the dice and go up in weight to tangle with Hopkins. What say you, TSS U? Who would you like to see Pavlik scrap with? Give Dunkin and Arum your two cents…. “I think the fans would like to see Kelly fight Abraham,” Dunkin said. “But maybe we have to fight Winky Wright.” Dunkin told TSS that anyone who busts on Pavlik for fighting gimmes (like Gary Lockett) should direct their criticism at him, not the Youngstowner. “For people to say he’s dodging people, that pisses me off. If anyone is dodging anyone, it’s me! Anyway, Kelly is mad and hungry now back like he was when he started, and that’s good. I think he’s ready to make another run like that.” I like Williams/Pavlik, but Dunkin worries that Williams isn’t marketable. “He has no fanbase,” he said. “I was at his fight with Winky, Winky had the crowd.”
—It’s looking like Manny Pacquiao will fly to New York to pick up his BWAA Fighter of the Year Award after all.