So continues our marathon coverage of one of the biggest fights of 2010, Manny Pacquiao versus Joshua Clottey on Saturday. Previously: why and how Pacquiao-Clottey matters; how good is Clottey? Next: Keys to the fight, part II.
How Pacquiao (above left) and Clottey (above right) match up could be more telling than who’s the overall better fighter. Today, we’ll look at how they stack up physically, as well as how they stack up in the more mental aspects of boxing. First up: The physical.
Size. Both men will weigh 147 pounds or less the day before the fight. But by the next day, Clottey will have transformed into the physically largest opponent Pacquiao has ever fought. For his bout against Diego Corrales, Clottey weighed a whopping 170 pounds the night of the fight due to rehydration. He’s a bulky, muscular specimen, Clottey, who’s prone to having to fight to get down to 147. And he’ll have a height and reach advantage, too, at 5’8” and 70” to 5’6 ½” and 67”.
It gets more pronounced still. Pacquiao’s team frequently notes that he’s a natural 140-pounder, and that he has to almost be force-fed an absurdly calorie-rich diet to keep any weight on him above that. This size gap didn’t prove determinative for Pacquiao against the other welterweights he’s fought, Oscar De La Hoya, who was taller and had a longer reach than Clottey, or against Cotto, who had some of Pacquiao’s same physical dimensions but was a natural 147-pounder. But it could be a bigger factor here than in those fights for several reasons, besides Clottey’s ridiculous rehydration.There is less risk of Clottey draining himself the way there was in the case of De La Hoya or Cotto, with De La Hoya fighting at 147 for the first time in years and Cotto having to shave off an extra two pounds for a 145-pound catchweight. The size differential is the most thorough edge for Clottey in this fight. Advantage: Clottey
Speed. Until the day Pacquiao fights Floyd Mayweather, if it ever happens, there’s just not going to be anyone in his league in the speed department. He is quick-fisted and nimble of foot to the degree that everyone who faces him complains later that his speed is the one of the two most difficult aspects of facing him (see “offense,” in keys to the fight part II).
Clottey’s not slow of hand, but he’s not particularly quick either. I’d give him about a B, B- for a welter. Quick hands bother him, too – Zab Judah and Miguel Cotto both had success by being faster and beating him to the punch, which forced him into the defensive shell (see “defense,” in keys to the fight part II) for spells. Where Clottey really suffers is in his movement around the ring. He’s a plodder. He makes up for some of his handspeed problems with excellent timing, and he makes up for some of his footspeed problems by cutting off the ring well. But in both speed categories, Clottey is going to be so much slower than Pacquiao that Clottey will make the U.S. Senate seem jumpy and hyperactive by comparison. Advantage: Pacquiao
Power. Pacquiao demolished Cotto, knocking him down hard twice and stopping him in the 12th round of a prolonged beating that should have ended at least three rounds earlier. Clottey rocked Cotto here and there, but never had him in any serious trouble.
Let’s say the respective handling of Cotto is not a fair measure by itself. For nearly two years, moving up in weight from 135 to 147, Pacquiao has either pounded the stuffing out of his man until someone saves him or knocked him out with shocking cleanliness. Over that same period, Clottey has one knockout. In his last 10 fights, that’s his only knockout. If you saw it, it was a b.s. stoppage over Jose Luis Cruz, a decent fighter. Clottey was probably cruising to a knockout of Judah before a head butt ended matters, but he’s a strong puncher at best, not at all as powerful as his physique suggets. Even at 147, Pacquiao is the true puncher here. Advantage: Pacquiao
Stamina. Time and again, stamina is far and away the most underrated quality of Pacquiao’s game. He’s hyperkinetic and he expends a lot of energy, but from the 1st to the 12th, he never once looks any worse for the wear. His speed and power wow you, but his athleticism manifests itself equally in his non-stop, ceaseless motor.
Clottey never seems to wear down, either, but he usually starts fights so slow and his punch output is so economical as to make you wonder whether stamina factors into it. Somehow, perhaps, his struggles to get to 147 could drain him. I’d be more inclined to think it’s a stylistic question (see “offense,” in keys to the fight part II), but that’s enough for me to give the edge to the other guy. Advantage: Pacquiao
Chin. We’ve got some real iron men here. Both stood toe-to-toe with Cotto, a very powerful hitter. Clottey went down in the 1st round, but it was from a jab and probably had more to do with balance. Cotto rocked Pacquiao a little, and Pacquiao acknowledged later that Cotto had hurt him, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t handle.
Elsewhere, I’ve never seen Clottey even remotely hurt. Big-punching Antonio Margarito pounded away at him (maybe with loaded gloves if Margarito’s cheating went back that far) to no avail. Pacquiao got wobbled by Juan Manuel Marquez in 2008, but he hasn’t been in that bad a shape since. Ultimately, Clottey’s chin is more proven overall, and more proven in particular against bigger men. Advantage: Clottey
[Please note: I’ve decided against doing a live blog Saturday night, as originally planned.]