Fighter Profile: Joshua Clottey
Clottey is a longtime standout in the talent-rich welterweight division. In March, he will receive the biggest opportunity of his career as he faces the top fighter in the sport—Manny Pacquiao. Clottey will be a decided underdog, but if his career up to this point has shown us anything, it’s that you shouldn’t count out this veteran battler. The 32 year-old is 35-3 (20 KOs).
Clottey turned pro in his native Ghana, an African nation rich in boxing history, with Azumah Nelson and Ike Quartey hailing from there. Fighting exclusively in Ghana and England, Clottey ran off to 20 straight victories over the course of the next 4 years. In 1999, he battled Carlos Baldomir in Wembley Stadium in London. Clottey was getting the better of this fight between future welterweight champions before getting disqualified in the 11th round for repeatedly leading with his head.
Coming to America
Clottey toiled in Ghana for a few more years after the Baldomir loss. At one point, he had only one fight in two years, and his career appeared to stall out after early promise. He moved to New York to seek further opportunities. He slowly began to work his way into contention. In 2006, he would fight 21-0 Richard Gutierrez in a title eliminator, winning a majority decision.
The win earned him an opportunity to face top welterweight and WBO titlist Antonio Margarito. The longtime division standout Margarito was on a little bit of a roll and was expected to dominate the anonymous Clottey in a high-profile HBO fight. While Margarito won a unanimous decision, it wasn’t at all easy for Margarito who was forced to call on all his mettle to repel the challenge of the skillful and dogged Clottey. Joshua jumped out to an early lead, but was not able to maintain his offensive output. He later claimed to have hurt his hands, which would explain why he took his foot off the gas.
Clottey’s Rise to the Top
In April of 2007, Clottey secured another HBO date in a fight with Diego Corrales. Clottey dished out a beating to the post-peak Corrales who was two divisions over his best weight. Still, winning a fight on HBO against a big name was just what Clottey needed at this point in his career. After a dozen years in the game, it was no longer enough to merely be a good “diamond in the rough” kind of fighter. He needed to make his move. Sadly, this would be Corrales’ last fight, as he passed away exactly one month later.
Clottey closed out 2007 with an easy decision over decent Felix Flores and a more competitive decision over fringe contender Shamone Alvarez. He then stopped 34-3-2 Jose Luis Cruz in the 5th round. Finally, Clottey was on a roll and had built some confidence. He would need it for his next fight.
The Zab Judah Fight
In August of 2008, Clottey met Judah in a big HBO fight for the vacant IBF Welterweight strap. The erratic, but immensely talented Judah opened by flashing fast hands. Clottey showed his defensive prowess by deflecting most of Judah’s offerings. As the rounds mounted, Clottey began to get his offense going with body shots and right hands that unsettled the former World Welterweight Champion. The fight was stopped in the 9th round due to a cut over Judah’s eye. The referee ruled it was caused by a clash, though replays showed a punch opened the cut. At any rate, the cards had Clottey ahead and he had notched his biggest win, stamping his ticket into the welterweight elite.
The Miguel Cotto Fight
Ten months later in June of 2009, Clottey met Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden. The crowd, prepping for the Puerto Rican Day Parade scheduled for the following day, was rabidly pro-Cotto. They were sent into frenzy when Cotto knocked Clottey down with a power jab in the 1st round. Clottey fell behind early, but cut Cotto badly with an accidental head butt in the 3rd round.
Cotto stayed steady and after 6 rounds, head a slight lead. Clottey began to walk through Cotto a bit in the middle rounds and won several stanzas with his right hands, uppercuts, and bodywork. He had a lot of momentum going into the championship rounds. Whether it was Cotto’s heart and determination or Clottey letting his foot off the gas (a little bit of both, perhaps), Cotto put the 11th and 12th in the bag to take a close split decision that could have gone either way.
Clottey may have lost the fight, but showed he is equal to the task against the best welterweights in the world.
A March 13 date with Manny Pacquiao in Dallas will at least earn Clottey a large payday, but also give him the opportunity to beat the best fighter in the sport and make a case for his own greatness. The odds will be resoundingly against him, but Clottey has the self-belief that he can win. We’ll soon see.