Home Boxing Joshua Clottey reveals why he didn’t throw punches against Manny Pacquiao

Joshua Clottey reveals why he didn’t throw punches against Manny Pacquiao

by Alice
Joshua Clottey reveals why he didn’t throw punches against Manny Pacquiao

There are times when Joshua Clottey regrets his actions on March 13, 2010; moments when he wonders what could’ve been.

That night, Clottey and Manny Pacquiao faced off in front of 41,843 at newly-built Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium) in Dallas. It was the opportunity of the lifetime. Rather than seizing the moment, Clottey did nothing.

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As a turtle withdraws into its shell when attacked, so too did Clottey behind his vaunted high guard defense — for virtually every second of all 12 frames. Afterward, his face was clean; not the visage of a warrior who laid it on the line or taken a risk. No shame in getting dominated by that version of Pacquiao. But Clottey could have done way more. He didn’t try, puzzling many and infuriating even more.

Then there are other times when Clottey is content with what transpired. Today is one of those days. His makeshift soccer team just blew out another local team in Bukom, a small town in Ghana’s capital city of Accra, where Clottey grew up. Bukom is considered the breadbasket of boxing in Africa. Azumah Nelson, Ike Quartey, Joseph Agbeko and Richard Commey were all born and raised there.

Clottey, 39, spends most days in the old neighborhood. At night, he retreats to East Legon, a high-end district where he owns several properties. The former IBF world welterweight champion is a family man now. His voice rings with pride as he discusses his daughter’s enrollment in college — the first family member to do so — at Ghana’s University of Legon.

Last year, Clottey and his wife traveled to the U.S., where she gave birth to his son. Returning to the States, where most of his high-profile bouts occurred, brought back memories. And that’s when the itch began. Here, Sporting News speaks with Clottey about his desire to return to the ring, what made him quit the Sweet Science in the first place, his wild history with Zab Judah and more.

Why do you want to come back? 

I’m still in good shape. I fought good fighters, but I wasn’t really in a war. So, I can still put on a good show and I have a couple more years left in me. I’m not ready to hang up the gloves. I’m weighing 169 right now. I will return to the junior middleweight division. I want to be a world champion again and I want to face Jarrett Hurd. He is a young hungry champion, but he can’t stand with me.

What made you step away?

You know, it was hard to get fights. In 2014, I went to Australia and beat the s— out of Anthony Mundine. I was supposed to fight Canelo [Alvarez] after that, but they don’t really want to fight me because they feel it’s a dangerous fight. We signed contracts. They gave me money for training. Then, they came back and said they don’t want to fight.

I was supposed to fight Erislandy Lara too. We spoke for a bit and waited for the contract. I think [Lara’s trainer] Ronnie Shields told them it was a dangerous fight. So, although my age is up there, they still feel like I’m dangerous. The younger ones should be using me as a gatekeeper. But they’re all scared to do that.

What have you been doing these past couple years?

I’m managing my properties and working with some of these young boys in Bukom. I feel it’s my duty to advise them. I want them to do well. Some of the fighters here in Ghana, I believe they don’t learn enough here. So, I work with them, spar with them so they can understand what it’s like at the international level.

Your first big international fight was against Antonio Margarito in 2006. You lost by decision.

When we were in camp for Margarito, I was in high spirits. People were talking about how [Floyd] Mayweather didn’t want to fight him and he was the most feared boxer. But a week before we broke camp, I hurt my hand. I did not see any swelling so I figured maybe my hand was just tired. I decided I wasn’t going to punch anything with that hand until fight night.

I was winning the fight but in the fifth [round] my hand started paining me like hell. That was my first world title shot. I told myself, I hang in there and do what you can. I stood with him and fought with that hurt hand. It was a close fight.

You didn’t get another world title shot until August 2008 versus Zab Judah. You guys share a wild history.

Yes, we both used to train at Gleason’s. I was asked after a fight who I wanted next and I mentioned his name. The following week I went to the gym. As soon as he saw me, he started yelling at me. He said, ‘So, you said you want to fight me?’

I told him, ‘Yes — aren’t you a boxer, aren’t I a boxer?’

Then he says, ‘I was going to pay you to spar with me.’

I told him I wanted to fight for real. So, he was like, ‘Are you trying to get loud with me?’

I said, ‘Come on, man, I don’t have time for this.’

And he went to his bag and got a gun. A gun! Other people in the gym came in to stop the commotion. I walked out. But before I left, I told him, one day we will meet in the ring.

You did and won via ninth-round technical decision. How did it feel to become a world champion?

I was so happy. In Ghana, you can count the number of world champions using your hands. I just wanted to be counted among that group. I wanted to be a part of the history books. I always thank God that at the end of the day, I fulfilled my dream and became a world champion. It’s like a tattoo on my body: It will always be with me. When you say my name, you have to mention that I was a world champion.

In June 2009, you lost a split decision to Miguel Cotto.

I thought I won that fight. I remember it took them like 10 minutes to bring the scorecards out. So, I knew what was going to happen. I’m in Madison Square Garden and everybody there was Puerto Rican like Cotto. I think even the Puerto Rican Day parade was that weekend. When they said split decision, I thought damn, they are going to rob me. They already had an agreement to fight Manny Pacquiao next. So, if the fight was close, they were going to give it to him.

But you got a chance to fight Pacquiao, too. What happened?

Looking back, I feel like I made a mistake with the Pacquiao fight by not throwing punches. But sometimes, to tell you the truth, I feel like it’s OK. I had a lot of issues with my manager at the time, Vincent Scolpino. He took advantage of me. Our agreement said that he would help financially until I reached $70,000 a fight. He was taking 33 percent of my money. But once I started making over $70,000, he just disappeared. He wasn’t doing anything a manager should do. He wasn’t providing any financial help. Not even encouragement. Meanwhile, my promoter is the one getting me fights. Vinny wouldn’t even come see me in camp. He would show up fight week, collect his money after the fight and that was it.

I don’t think people understand how much that can weaken a fighter’s spirit. I didn’t see Vinny until the week of the Pacquiao fight. So, after the weigh-in, I went to his hotel room. I told him how unhappy I was. I said, drop the 33 percent down to 27 percent. He refused. When I fought Pacquiao, I decided I was just going to defend myself. I wasn’t going to put my life on the line for people who did nothing, but take from me. It was all about business for Vinny. And I’m going in there taking punches so that he can take a big portion even though you don’t speak to me.

But there is a part of you that regrets what you did.

I give it to Almighty Allah at the end. I can feed my family. So, I thank God for what he has given me. Has it left a bitter taste in my mouth? Yes, but a lot of things in boxing did that. That’s why I want to come back. I want it to be over on my terms. I still have a lot to offer.

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