Boxing News Sat, 20 Jun 2009

Clottey versus Cotto: Anatomy of a Lost Chance

Ghana’s Joshua Clottey went into the ring on the night of June 13 primarily to wrestle away the latter’s WBO welterweight championship belt from its holder Miguel Cotto of Puerto Rico. If he did, it will stand out as something no one has been able to do in boxing history – defeat a Puerto Rican on the eve of Puerto Rican Day in New York where some 800,000 Puerto Ricans live. During pre-fight press meetings with the boxers, Clottey was asked repeatedly if he believed he could win a decision if the fight went the distance. It is not clear if the questioners were hinting at the prowess of Cotto or reflecting on the integrity, or lack thereof, of “Madison Square Garden” decisions.

Clottey did not take this fight to prove how good a boxer he is. That is a well established fact that no one questions. After all he just vacated the IBF welterweight world title. He was forced to do this just so he could take on Miguel Cotto and earn the highest purse he’s ever made in his distinguished career. He ranks up there with the best in a division that experts believe spots the most talent in all boxing. Talk about decency and comportment both in and out of the ring and he scores high points. Doesn’t drink alcohol, doesn’t brag, is modest and respects those to whom respect is due.

Whatever fanfare accompanying Joshua into the ring was instantly and soundly drowned out by the deafening boos and jeers of packed house in the Empire Arena of the iconic Madison Square Gardens. I am not sure anybody heard the Ghanaian national anthem sang by the beautiful Olivia Obuabang wearing gorgeous attire that sported the Ghanaian colors of red, yellow and green. In contrast, the blood-churning renditions of the Puerto Rican and American anthems were undoubtedly crafted to intimidate and drive home the point that the night belonged to them.

Urged on this way, Cotto opened up aggressively and scored what the referee called a knockdown in the very first round. To me, this was caused more by a combination of a misstep and a soft jab rather than by any fiery punching attack by Cotto. Be it as it may, the arena exploded in reaction to what would perhaps win the fight for Cotto.

Clottey shook this early misfortune off and methodically worked himself into the fight through a combination of very strong left jabs, a vaunting right hook that forced his opponent to backpedal throughout the entire fight. A nasty cut over Cotto’s left eye early in the third round was ruled as having been caused by an accidental clash of heads.

Coming out of a clinch in the fourth round, Cotto flung Clottey over his shoulders, dropping him facedown in what WWF wrestlers will love to emulate. When he finally got up with the help of the referee, Clottey limped badly on his right leg. He would complain to his trainer that he was having severe pains in his right knee. The referee, Mr. Mercante Jr. would however not permit the ringside doctor to examine him. For a brief moment, it appeared as if Clottey couldn’t continue and would quit on his stool. Trainer Kwame Asante quickly patched him up and pushed him back into battle.

As would be expected, the next round saw Cotto launching a double fisted blistering attack on the wounded Ghanaian. Unable to move around or punch effectively, Clottey found himself pinned in his corner for nearly two minutes. Thanks to his fine defensive skills, Clottey took most of the punches of his arms and gloves and did not appear to have endured any serious beating. From then on, Clottey came back into his own and carried the fight to his opponent, In fact, by the 11th round, he had succeeded in completely marginalizing the incessant cheering and jeering of the home crowd.

Cotto backs away from a Clottey right hook – Credits Ring Magazine Going into the 12th round, the fight was very open and too close to call. It was quite evident that the hungrier, more aggressive and busier of the two, barring a knockout, would win the round and the fight. Admittedly, neither Clottey nor Cotto dominated. Strangely and inexplicably, Clottey chose to float and slide along, and Cotto continued with his lateral movements and backpedaling. The rest is etched in the annals of boxing history as a split win for Cotto and a painful loss to Clottey. Forget the ridiculous score cards of Don Trella (116-111) and John McKaie (115-112) for Cotto. Tom Miller’s 114-113 for Clottey looked more like it. Cotto’s Puerto Rican Day eve invincibility stayed intact. It now stands at 4-0. In the end we enjoyed a night of great entertainment, a rare classic, courtesy of two boxers in peak form and on top of their game. Credit both boxers for excellent conditioning and courage. Clottey overcame a hostile crowd, a knee injury in the fourth round and two “accidental” punches (one to the groin and one to the back of the head all in the 12th round) to give the performance he gave. Cotto battled through a massive eye cut sustained earlier in the third round to secure the win.

We have an idea of what the new stripes on Cotto’s sleeves will bring him. There already are talks of block-busting-bank-breaking match ups with the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Shane Mosley and Floyd Mayweather Jr. What remains to be seen or heard is what is in the works for Joshua. He certainly deserves nothing less.

G. Ofori Anor

HBO Ringside Translator
Source: g. ofori anor