Pacquiao vs Clottey: Keys to Victory, Four to Explore, Official Prediction
By Vivek Wallace - In just a few hours the collective attention of fight fans around the world will be locked on Dallas Cowboys Stadium to witness a spectacle that may serve as a chief catalyst in bringing the sport back to a global forefront. The date of March 13th was initially reserved for something even more grand, yet fate decided to shuffle the deck, removing one key component and instead inserting a very unlikely one, turning a lifelong dream into a 'sudden-death' styled date with destiny. Sudden-death is the operative term, as this is now a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but after failed chances in the past, it may also serve as the final one if his bid for success fails. As we prepare for this amazing spectacle, we now take a moment to analyze the two men involved:
MANNY PACQUIAO: KEYS TO VICTORY - For Manny Pacquiao, this fight has 'trap' written all over it. In the minds of some, Pacquiao wasn't supposed to defeat his last four opponents so easily, yet he walked through each of them with little resistance. With easy success in his head, the world in his ear, and the wind at his back, it would seem natural to think his forecast calls for smooth sailing.......but it doesn't. Joshua Clottey will be the firmest test of his entire career - both literally and figuratively. The biggest key for Pacquiao will be CONTROLLED AGGRESSION. Clottey is very deft at timing his jab with precision. Pacquiao's fairly short arm length prevents him from settling for outside shots, therefore he has a tendency to blitz an opponent by jumping in and swarming.
If these blitz attempts are met with a thunderous jab, his momentum would be stunted, and Clottey will achieve his ultimate goal of "making Pacquiao think more than he has ever had to in the ring before". Pacquiao will have to exercise great patience, realizing that he isn't facing a fighter who will wilt under the pressure of a few well-placed shots. Pacquiao's plan (as stated by camp insiders) is to come out and take it to the Ghanaian native from the opening bell. While that worked with many in the past, it would be ill-advised, and could result in alot of misses, and subsequently have him wearing down late in the fight. Patience, power and execution will be Pacquiao's critical recipe if he is to find success.
JOSHUA CLOTTEY: KEYS TO VICTORY
For Joshua Clottey, this fight will be leveled on several building blocks, but all will hinge on one thing. That one thing is motivation. Injury prevented him from defeating Margarito, but his lost to Cotto came ONLY as a result of his failure to keep his foot to the gas. The HBO "Road to Dallas" segment showed us that even his daughter was prompted to ask him "what happened" in his failed bid to defeat a dead man walking? Considering that he has the God-given attributes necessary to find success, that attribute of motivation could be the final piece to complete the puzzle. Another key for Clottey is to use a stiff jab - early and often. Both Marquez and Morales found success against Pacquiao using it, and neither had the power found in Clottey's.
Pacquiao has a tendency to 'reset' every time he's met with a stiff jab, so that would serve as the perfect appetizer before Clottey unloads the main course. Finally, Clottey must remember that no fighter - not Tyson, Duran, or any other power puncher in history - has ever demonstrated the art of mastering true power from their back foot. Clottey must keep this in mind and not only keep Pacquiao going backwards, but force him to stand his ground and engage in in-fighting, which Pacquiao has never been too skilled at. This blueprint holds the key for a Clottey victory.
FOUR TO EXPLORE
'5th DIMENSION': Pacquiao's last four opponents were all men who were left-hand dominant. While only Diaz was a true southpaw, the left-hand dominant Oscar, Hatton, and Cotto were all far less than threatening with the right hand - which happens to be the weapon of choice against a southpaw. In Clottey, Pacquiao will be facing a man who not only packs adequate power with the right hand, but often leads with it. For the first time in a long time Pacqiuao won't be facing a man who's left-hand dominant, he'll just be facing one who has seemed to master those who are. How will he handle that?
'TEXAS TAKE-AWAY': Trainer Freddie Roach has recently gone on record stating that he has "never lost a fight in Texas". This streak is said to go back as far as his very own professional career inside the ropes. The old adage states that "every thing's bigger in Texas", and as Team Pacquiao gets prepared to take on its biggest opponent to date, they very much understand that the agony of defeat would be bigger than any pain ever experienced in the past. Will the streak live to die another day?
ONE & ONLY - Joshua Clottey has never been stopped in his entire career, and only floored once. Considering that he has already faced Margarito, Cotto, and others, it's safe to say that the only man in this neck of the woods with the ability to stop him is the one he will now face. Could Pacquiao be the one and only to give Clottey his one and only (KO loss)? Stay tuned.
MARQUEZ ON THE MIND - The last time Pacquiao fought in March he fought the one man who many feel he still doesn't own a definitive victory over (Juan Manuel Marquez - 03/15/08). Marquez was also the last right-hand dominant person that Pacquiao fought before immediately going into a string of four left-hand dominant fighters. Many things about Clottey parallel Marquez, from the strong right (hand) to the never-back-down warrior mentality. Will the end be controversial too? Should be interesting to find out.
OFFICIAL PREDICTION/UPSET BAROMETER (RATING 1 thru 5)
Official prediction for the fight is Manny Pacquiao on close points - split decision. That being said, ladies and gents, the black crow is circling the building, and the upset barometer has peaked at a solid 5 out of 5. Meaning, if there's anyone in the sport who can come in as an underdog, yet be skilled enough to pull off an upset over Pacquiao, it's Joshua Clottey. Many say Pacquiao's work rate will be too strong. Well......Remember that guy named Antonio Margarito? He just happened to set a compubox record for punches thrown against Clottey that I don't expect Pacquiao to beat (1,675). Do you know what Clottey did in return? He set a compubox record of his own - by blocking/avoiding 1,338 punches, which no one has come close to in the history of the sport. If Clottey is able to fatigue Pacquiao a bit and is fresh himself past the 9th round, the crow will squawk loud and the eventual outcome could be clear.
Secondly, many continue to cite Pacquiao's strength, but few have stopped to consider what the effects will be of a thunderous puncher like Clottey in a pair of 8oz gloves. This will be the first time that Pacquiao absorbs that shock from a full blown welter and it will come against arguably the most solid one in the talent pool. Somehow I think this could play a very intricate role in the outcome of this fight. Tune in to HBO PPV Saturday night at 9pm eastern time to watch it all unfold.
(Vivek Wallace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook, and Myspace)