On a night when the HBO broadcast crew of Max Kellerman, Emanuel Steward and especially Jim Lampley were even harder to stomach than usual, the network’s marquee fighter, Manny Pacquiao, bailed them out. He fought the most complete fight of his career, and cemented his claim as boxing’s pound for pound best fighter. This past weekend WBO welterweight champ Manny Pacquiao outclassed Joshua Clottey like he's never been outclassed before in his long career.
For 12-rounds Pacquiao took whatever Clottey gave him and then some. Clottey, who had to weigh as much as a full fledged middleweight on fight night, didn’t benefit in any way from his advantage in size, and had no answer for anything Pacquiao did strategically. As it was said here before the fight, Clottey was in a Catch-22 fighting Pacquiao, simply because anything he tried to do, Manny had an answer for. Manny was faster and better outside, while picking his spots in trying to lure Clottey's hands down. When he chose to push the action, he was just too fast and sharp for his befuddled opponent.
It’s well established that Clottey always stays tight defensively, waits out his opponent’s aggression, and then looks to counter with one or two hard shots after his opponent unloads. And that's what he basically tried to do for 12-rounds Saturday night. For that reason Pacquiao wasn't afforded the chance to get the stoppage win, although he never gave up on looking for a way to get Clottey out of there. But sometimes it's even more impressive and conclusive when a fighter doesn't even have to knock the opponent out, once the opponent submits and can no longer even fathom trying to win.
And that's what happened to Joshua Clottey on March 13th. After sharing the ring with the champion for a few rounds, Clottey realized that he just wasn't good enough, and instead of getting embarrassed, he fought just hard enough to stabilize the fight and not leave himself vulnerable to getting humiliated. Within three or four rounds, Clottey was so intimidated that he had reservations about opening up at all. Even when Manny stood in front of him and gave him his body in an attempt to coax him into an error, Clottey still refused to commit because he was so leery and in awe of the return. Every time he’d venture a single punch, Pacquiao would answer back with half dozen or more dizzyingly fast shots to the ribs. There was simply no way for Clottey to deal with the speed and unpredictability of Pacquiao’s flurries. Additionally, almost everything Manny threw was hard. If there was ever a doubt as to whether Pacquiao had the power to hurt a big, strong welterweight, those doubts have been silenced. I don’t care whether or not Manny Pacquiao is a full-fledged welterweight; he punches as hard as anyone in the division.
Clottey’s refusal to cut loose except when it was 100% safe, with absolutely no chance to get caught, was the utmost compliment he could have paid Pacquiao. He recognized that he was in with his superior, and he didn’t want to get slaughtered. I'm sure Clottey's passive style is getting him killed in the media as of this moment, and to a large degree it should. But that's not the story. Instead of ripping Clottey like a lot of tough guy fans, broadcasters and writers will feast on doing, I'm marveling at how good Pacquiao must've been while he was in front of Clottey for 12-rounds. So much so that he broke the guy's will. And please… that stuff about Clottey never finishing is old news. He was never dominated like he was by Pacquiao. He’d be the first to admit it.
There's not one welterweight on the planet who could've reduced Clottey into just being happy to get through the fight like he was against Pacquiao. Granted, everybody would be lauding Clottey to the nth degree if he had gone for broke and tried to get Pacquiao out thus setting himself up to get taken out. But on this night, the performance was even more impressive than getting the knockout. Knockouts happen all the time in professional boxing, however, how many times have we seen a fighter get to his opponent who was considered one of the most dangerous fighters in the division before the fight, so much mentally and physically and to the point he was too awed to fight and try to win the title and set himself up for the rest of his life.
When all was said and done, Clottey's actions said, “Pacquiao, you don't have to knock me out, I know I can't beat you nor will I try.” If there's another active welterweight who could've defeated and shut down Clottey so easily, out-boxing and out-punching him so completely and thoroughly, I don't know of him.
What I do know is, he's not fighting on May 1st 2010.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com