Pacquiao-Clottey: Easy Win or Upset?

March 11, 2010 in Boxing by pacejmiller

[For the results of the fight and analysis, click here]

I know a lot of people are still up in arms over the failed Mayweather-Pacquiao fight which would have taken place on Saturday, 13 March 2010, had the two sides not lost the plot over drug testing procedures.

Instead, we now have pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao taking on Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas (capacity 45,000) on the same day, and undefeated Floyd Mayweather Jr taking on Shane Mosley on 1 May 2010.

To be honest, the hype for the Pacquiao-Clottey fight has been relatively low.  And it’s perfectly understandable.

Fist of all, there is the disappointment over the Mayweather fallout.  Secondly, there is the related fury over Pacquiao’s refusal to accept blood testing.  Thirdly, many simply think Clottey is not a worthy opponent.  Clottey’s most recent bout (13 June 2009) was a split decision loss to Miguel Cotto, the man Pacquiao destroyed over 12 rounds on 14 November 2009.

However, there are plenty of factors at play in this bout, most of which have been ignored or downplayed.  Clottey is a much more dangerous opponent than most people give him credit for.

So is this going to be just another easy win for Pacquiao?  Or will Clottey pull off the stunning upset?

(Click on ‘more…’ for the analysis)

Tale of the Tape

Pacquiao
Age: 31
Record: 50W (38 KO) – 3L (2 KO) – 2D
Rounds Boxed: 305
KO: 69.09%
Stance: Southpaw
Height: 5′6 1/2 / 169cm
Reach: 67″ / 170cm

Clottey
Age: 32
Record: 35W (20 KO) – 3L (0 KO) – 0D
Rounds Boxed: 248
KO: 51.28%
Stance: Orthodox
Height: 5′8″ / 173cm
Reach: 70″ / 178cm

Easy Win for Pacquiao?

On paper, everything points to another stunning Pacquiao victory.

Clottey is considered a solid, but plodding and sometimes one-dimensional fighter.  A good defensive fighter who doesn’t throw enough punches.

On the other hand, Pacquiao is an offensive dynamo who continues to improve and astound with his unorthodox punching angles, relentless punching, and explosive knockout power.  Against Miguel Cotto, Pacquiao also proved he could take a punch.

If you want to break it down, Pacquiao has the advantage in almost every department.

In my view, Pacquiao has the edge in power.  As a rock-hard welterweight, Clottey has decent punching power, with 20 knockouts in 35 fights, though this is a little misleading considering he has only recorded one KO in his last 11 bouts.  His punches are more thudding than explosive.  Pacquiao, however, has sawed his last four opponents (Cotto, Hatton, De La Hoya, David Diaz), all men supposedly bigger and stronger than him, and notching a KO in each one.  Only De La Hoya was not knocked down.

Pacquiao also has a significant edge in both hand speed and foot speed.  Clottey is not slow, but watching tapes of both fighters made me feel like Clottey’s fights were in slow motion.  Clottey can be a little flat-footed at times, whereas Pacquiao loves to go in and out and turn his opponents after every offensive onslaught.

Pacquiao also has the advantage in stamina.  As a man who churns through three-hour, high intensive workouts with regularity, Pacquiao will have no problem going all out for 12 rounds.  Clottey, however, has shown signs of fading late in fights, like his last two rounds against Cotto.

In addition, Pacquiao has the edge in experience 50 fights to 35), in trainers (Pacquiao has Freddie Roach, whereas Clottey’s original trainer couldn’t get a visa, so he has gone with Lenny De Jesus, who is a locksmith by trade), and in form (Pacquiao is coming off four straight KO victories, whereas Clottey is coming off a technical decision win against Zab Judah and a loss against Cotto).  The only clear advantage Clottey has over Pacquiao is his defense and chin, but these are heavily mitigated due to the speed gap; if Clottey can’t hit Pacquiao, then what difference does it make?

Freddie Roach has been inconsistent in his predictions for this fight.  He’s not predicting a knockout, but thinks Pacquiao could be the first man to stop Clottey in the later rounds.  And Freddie has been pretty spot on with his predictions lately.

The logical progression for this fight would probably involve Pacquiao overwhelming Clottey with his speed, peppering Clottey with rapid combinations all night, en route to either a late stoppage or a clear unanimous decision.

Upset for Clottey?

There are quite a few people out there that aren’t prepared to write Joshua Clottey off in this one.

Clottey is as tough as nails, has a body like a brick house, an iron chin, and one of the most solid defenses in boxing.  His arms are incredibly long and thick, and when he puts himself in that turtle shell defensive stance, there’s virtually no gap to penetrate.  On top of that, he has underrated skills, speed and footwork.  He doesn’t have the one-punch knockout power of Pacquiao, but over the course of 12 rounds, he can easily break the Filipino down, especially with his thudding body shots and uppercuts.

Plenty of ringsiders believed Clottey was robbed against Cotto, and with good reason too.  Take a look at the Compubox stats.  Clottey landed 222 punches at 36%, while Cotto only landed 179 punches at 25%.  To put this in perspective, Cotto was clobbered by Pacquiao for the last six rounds or so, and he still landed 172 punches at 29%.  Cotto just couldn’t get through to him.

While we’re at it, I’d like to point out that Clottey has only lost three fights, all close ones, against Baldomir (by disqualification), Antonio Margarito (loaded gloves), and Cotto (arguably robbed).  Clottey is clearly an elite fighter.

Clottey’s trainer De Jesus, while not the original choice, could potentially be a wildcard in this fight.  De Jesus worked in Pacquiao’s corner for five fights in two years (even though this was six years ago), so there is some familiarity, and possibly even knowledge of weaknesses or bad habits.  I’m talking this one up a bit because as we all know, Pacquiao is a completely different boxer now.  Back when De Jesus was in his corner, Pacquiao was just 124 pounds (whereas he will fight Clottey at the welterweight limit of 147).

However, it takes two to pull off an upset, and if Pacquiao overlooks Clottey or doesn’t come in fully focused, I think Clottey could do it.  There was, of course, such talk leading up to Pacquiao’s fight with Cotto.  Pacquiao was pre-occupied with making movies and albums, his training camp was interrupted by storms, and there was a rift between members of his staff.  He even showed a bit of overconfidence by planning an after-fight party in which he would perform live on stage.  None of these concerns mattered in the end.

Nevertheless, no one stays on top forever.  Pacquiao has once again planned another after-fight party followed the bout with Clottey, and again, the question has to be asked: is Pacquiao getting ahead of himself?  Furthermore, Pacquiao is also going to be running for Congress in the Philippines shortly – could this be a bigger distraction that will keep his mind off the game?

I don’t know, but I have an eerie feeling for this fight.  When all signs are pointing to a particular result, things out of the ordinary usually happen.  Pacquiao has been on top of his sport for quite some time now, and all it takes is one slip for everything to come tumbling down.

And let’s not forget two key factors.

One, Clottey has never been knocked out.  The knockdown he suffered against Cotto was due more to him being off-balanced than hurt.  Clottey himself has said that he has never been hurt in a fight.  If Pacquiao is frustrated by his inability to get through to Clottey, that could throw Manny off his game plan and give Clottey a chance to hurt him.

Two, Clottey is going to have a big weight advantage over Pacquiao.  The Cotto fight was at a catch weight of 145 pounds, which would have drained Cotto just that little bit.  Against Clottey, it will be at 147, and while Pacquiao is likely to step into the ring at around 148 pounds or so, Clottey could be tipping the scales on fight night at close to 160 pounds.  With that, Clottey’s durability will be enhanced further, and the power might tip in his favour.

Prediction

I am itching to go out on a limb for once and predict an upset, but unless something totally unpredictable happens (like a bad cut or other unexpected injury), I just can’t see Clottey winning this fight.

If Pacquiao fights smart and doesn’t go for the knockout, he can cruise his way to a decision victory, stepping in and out, throwing lightning combos and never giving the Ghanaian a chance to unload.  Clottey’s decision to not ‘waste punches’ will hurt him here, I think.  Pacquiao never stays still long enough to allow opponents to calculate punches.  But conversely, if Pacquiao decides to fight risky and open himself up to Clottey’s jolting uppercut or debilitating body shots, then anything is possible.

With Freddie Roach in his corner, I envisage Pacquiao fighting another disciplined fight and sticking to the meticulous game plan Roach has designed for him.  Accordingly, Pacquiao by KO, between rounds 7 and 10.  Yes, I am predicting that Pacquiao will be the first to knock Clottey out.  He may not knock the man down, but I think the fight will be stopped.

So what do you think?  To help, check out the video below which includes highlights from both Pacquiao and Clottey against common foe Miguel Cotto.