When Freddie Roach speaks people listen.
The four-time Trainer of the Year is one of the brightest people in the sport of boxing and has an uncanny ability to see into the future. The last few times his star pupil Manny Pacquiao has laced up the gloves to fight, Roach has accurately predicted the outcome.
Unfortunately Joshua Clottey was hell-bent on proving him wrong this time, and he did.
In front of 50,000 fans at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex., last night, the Ghanaian pugilist decided the most exciting thing anyone would see was his pre-fight shimmy from the locker room to the ring—a sultry performance that would have made the dance's originator Prince Naseem Hamed blush. After that, the former world champion locked himself into an Everlast closet and threw away the key.
Heading into the WBO welterweight title bout as a 7-1 underdog, Clottey had never been kayoed. His three professional losses to Carlos Baldomir, Antonio Margarito, and Miguel Cotto all went the distance. Nonetheless, Roach was so confident in Pacquiao's ability that he went on record with every publication that listened the past few weeks and predicted that Clottey would be stopped before the end of the match.
A prediction that the proud boxer must have heard and figured he could do something about—if nothing else. A theory that resounded through the press conference after the fight.
"There was no way Clottey was going to beat [Pacquiao], even if he took off his gloves and fought him bare-fisted," Bob Arum, the bout's promoter said. "If he played offense [tonight] he would've been knocked out."
But he didn't.
Clottey rarely threw punches and spent the vast majority of the fight standing still with his chin down, his Everlast gloves up, and his muscular arms protecting his midsection. Pacquiao, the epitome of a prizefighter, did everything he could to make the contest exciting, throwing an astounding 1,231 punches to Clottey's 399.
Pacquiao "Bang Bang Banged!" and "Banged!" some more, but Clottey wasn't going to open the closet door.
If you watched the HBO Pay-Per-View telecast last night, you know just what I'm talking about. With 30 seconds remaining in the eighth round, long-time HBO commentator Jim Lampley went on a broadcasting rant for the ages.
"There you go, four-punch, five-punch, six-punch combination. Body shot, body shot, bang bang bang, BANG BANG BANG! Try and stop it, BANG BANG! Here I come, BANG! Do you wanna throw sometime? BANG! This is the Manny Pacquiao who has DOMINATED boxing for the past three years. BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG! Do you wanna throw back? BANG! Keep coming!"
It was a priceless call that added some much-needed excitement to a match that Clottey practically refused to participate in. Pacquiao went on to win unanimously, 120-108 119-109 119-109, taking 34 out of 36 rounds on the three judges scorecards.
"Manny fought a good fight," Roach said. "He pitched a shutout against a middleweight (Clottey weighed nearly 160 lbs. at the time of the fight). But that middleweight should've used his [expletive] power."
He probably should have, Freddie. But it seemed that Clottey was focused more on proving you wrong, than risking enough to prove you right.
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Photo: Joshua Clottey (L) and Manny Pacquiao (R) courtesy of The Associated Press/Phillip