Monday, March 15, 2010

Musings on Joshua Clottey

There's really not much else to be said for the fight itself. Manny showed up to win, Joshua Clottey did not. For twelve rounds, Pacquiao chased his opponent around the ring at a measured pace, throwing a constant stream of punches. The fighting pride of the Philippines threw more jabs than he has ever done in a single fight, leading into combinations to the body and head, against and through the tight defense that Clottey is famous for. The Ghanaian opened up his shell just enough to throw a strong right cross on a number of occasions, creating a welt under Manny's right eye. However, without the power to knock the champion out with one punch, he was unable or unwilling to capitalize on this very limited success.

It has been said of Joshua Clottey many times before that he simply does not have the hunger necessary to become champion. Against Miguel Cotto, he lost a competitive decision to the more aggressive fighter. Against Pacquiao, he barely managed to keep the fight competitive at all. But the bigger question is, what does it take to get that sort of hunger?

From an objective point of view, Clottey is a very good boxer. He is strong and balanced in his skill set, and fights conservatively against boxers who with real knockout power. A more risky fighter would probably have been knocked out against both Pacquiao and Cotto, but Clottey chose to absorb less punishment, thereby preserving his career and his health. Are these not desirable traits for fighters?

In the end, it boils down to finding your place on the totem pole. While Joshua Clottey is clearly a good boxer, with his fighting style he has to be willing to concede the superiority of top-level contenders. It's even possible that it works the other way around, that he gave up dreams of the highest echelons long ago, and thus developed this very conservative style. In either case, this will forever remand him to the position as a gatekeeper in the boxing world: someone to test hungry young fighters who are looking for a shot at true greatness. Maybe Clottey is a aware of this, maybe he isn't. While it is easy to criticize him for not wanting it enough, it's possible that he doesn't want it in the first place. I'm sure he makes a very comfortable living for him and his family, and will probably be able to keep doing so with his approach to combat. Although we fans love fighters with that all-or-nothing attitude, I must respect Joshua Clottey's decision for taking a safe route when looking at the bigger picture.

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