Boxing

Can Pac Man Chomp Through Clottey’s Defense?

By John G. Thompson: When Manny “Pac Man” Pacquiao 50-3-2 (38 KO’s) meets Joshua “The Grand Master” Clottey 35-3 (20 KO’s) at Cowboys Stadium in Texas on Saturday night, this great matchup will come down to one issue – whether or not Pac Man can break through the tough shell defense of the Grand Master. Though on paper this appears to be one of the toughest fights of Pacquiao’s career, if the Filipino superstar can overcome the one obstacle of Clottey’s defense he will make this fight look similar to his one-sided win over Oscar De La Hoya..

Some would argue that size will present the greatest determining factor, and for good reason. At When the 5’6½” Pacquiao fought the 5’10½” Oscar De La Hoya, this was a case of a great fighter fighting a great promoter. Oscar had seen better days, spent more time in the office than the ring, dropped too much weight to make the limit, and should not have been fighting a hungry world champion. In short, his height advantage meant nothing. The Oscar who fought Shane Mosley or Felix Trinidad might have at least had a chance.

Much was made about the size advantage of Ricky Hatton and Miguel Cotto prior to their bouts with Pacquiao, when in fact Hatton stood only one inch taller than Pacquiao, who actually possessed a two inch reach advantage over Hatton! Miguel Cotto stood only half an inch taller than Pacquiao with an identical reach. Clearly the topic of sized advantage was only smoke and mirrors to make these fights seem more impressive for the seven division champion. Against Clottey, however, Pacquiao faces a fighter with a one and a half to two inch height advantage and a three inch reach advantage.

That being said, a couple of inches will not determine the outcome of a bout between these two superb boxers. After all, Clottey’s no Paul Williams. What will make the difference is whether or not Pacquiao can hit the man formerly known as “The Hitter,” who hides behind a Winky Wright or Arthur Abraham like “peek-a-boo” defense. A key moment occurred in the second round of Clottey’s fight with Miguel Cotto. Cotto had just thrown a variety of punches, with both the right and left, both to the body and head. All of those punches were blocked by the forearms of Clottey as he hid behind his very tight, classical upright guard. Cotto paused for a moment after throwing these blocked punches, as if he were perplexed on how to proceed. Clottey noticed this and began to press forward. If Pacquiao falls into this trap, Clottey will again press forward.

There is a blueprint for defeating Manny Pacquiao, designed by Juan Manuel Marquez, after being knocked down three times in the first round of the first of their two epic battles. Erik “El Terrible” Morales followed this blueprint to the letter with great success in his first bout of three with Pacquiao (Erik stated that he had watched the Marquez fight eight times prior to fighting Manny). What these great Mexican warriors did was to move backwards, away from Pacquiao’s left, and always work behind the jab. Ricky Hatton came straight forward and barely made it through the first round. Cotto chose to exchange and paid dearly. De La Hoya stood still and was humiliated. Marquez and Morales (in each fighter’s first bout with Pacquiao) moved, used the jab, and tried their best to nullify Pacquiao’s arsenal. Certainly there were times Marquez and Morales went on the attack, however, only after first making Pacquiao miss with their ring generalship.

Joshua Clottey will not adhere to this blueprint. As hard as it was for “El Terrible” to restrain himself and box, it will be nearly impossible for Clottey whose defense relies more on blocking than ring movement. Clottey will go defensive, but standing still and absorbing blows with his forearms, then look to counter. Styles make fights, and this may be Clottey’s stylistic weakness against Pacquiao and the reason Pac Man’s trainer Freddie Roach sees an easy victory over such a challenging opponent. Clottey’s best asset, his defense, will work against him. Unlike Cotto, who stood there to absorb the counter punches of Clottey, Pacquiao will throw and then move away, and then come back with angles. Clottey will attempt to counter, but miss, and Pacquiao will pick him apart. In a recent interview with Max Kellman where he spoke to both fighters as they faced one another, Clottey said that the best thing against a fighter like Pacquiao was “Double-guard. Both hands up.” While he said this, Pacquiao smiled.

There are always intangibles and Joshua Clottey’s head is one. Cotto was cut above the eye by an “accidental” head but in the third round of their contest. Zab Judah was essentially stopped by the cut over his eye caused by Clottey’s head. Clottey was even disqualified in a title shot against Carlos Baldomir for head butts, even though he was winning the fight. And as long time Manny Pacquiao fans know well, Pac Man does bleed.

The beginning of the fight will tell everything. After the first combination of Pacquiao is blocked, Clottey’s response will dictate the outcome of the fight. If he is able to counter with the straight right or left hook, he will walk away with a career defining upset victory. If on the other hand Pacquiao moves well and Clottey’s counters meet only air, it is a certainty that Pac Man will earn another impressive victory in an already legendary career.


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Article posted on 11.03.2010



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