(Joshua Clottey, photographed by Howard Schatz)
Now that we’re done with the autopsy of Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao, it’s worth glancing forward to the separate ways each of them are going. These are, after all, the two top fighters in the world, and while I’m still scrunching up my nose in revulsion at both welterweights for not fighting one another, it’s big news whomever they fight next instead.
Pacquiao is set to fight Joshua Clottey March 13. Mayweather is set to fight somebody March 13 — yes, these goofballs are threatening to hold fights on the same day even though it would undercut everyone’s pay-per-view buys, once again proving that pride can trump greed in boxing — and there’s a list of people under consideration. How do all these combinations match up?
This isn’t a bad fight, on its own. It’s a good one, even. I think it’s a notch below Pacquiao’s last opponent, Miguel Cotto, who I believe would have beaten Clottey more easily than he did last summer if not for a horrible cut that clearly blinded Cotto to Clottey’s right hand, his best weapon. It’s a good two notches below a hypothetical Shane Mosley fight, and a good three notches below a Mayweather fight, but it’s a good fight, a legitimate fight.
If you don’t know Clottey, here’s the deal: Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. He’s good enough to be the #5 ranked welterweight in what is a very top-heavy division, ranking behind Pacquiao, Mayweather, Mosley and Cotto, in that order. In his two most important bouts, against Antonio Margarito and Cotto, he came up just short, losing decisions that could have gone his way with slightly different circumstances. He had hand injuries against Margarito that slowed him after he was pwning Tony early, while Cotto took advantage of his stylistic deficiencies late in the fight to pull out a close decision that some believed Clottey deserved. The good-to-OK things about Clottey include his stellar defense; an iron jaw; passable speed and power; physical strength and size; and sharp, accurate punching, particularly when he counters. The problems include a low work rate; a flat-footedness; and, some might argue, a lack of urgency in the clutch. Unlike some, I don’t think he threw away the Cotto fight in the late rounds. I think Cotto moved well enough to prevent Clottey from planting his feet the way he wants to, and countered just enough to force Clottey to go into that defensive shell he goes into when under attack. That’s Clottey’s style. Unless he changes that style, which he might because he has a new trainer, he’s going to be vulnerable to movement and counters.
Clottey’s proven good enough to hang with elite welterweights and good enough to beat those below that level pretty definitively, like with the whuppin’ he put on Zab Judah. The bad news for Clottey is that Pacquiao just ripped through an elite welterweight, Cotto, like tissue paper. Stylistically, Pacquiao’s speed and movement would appear to present the difficulties Cotto did, multiplied by a factor of five. I think Clottey can conceivably beat Pacquiao, especially if he can stick around late in the fight and wear Pacquiao down the way Clottey has shown himself capable of doing, but I don’t think it likely. I’ll save my fuller preview for the week of the fight itself. I’ll say this: It stacks up as a fight that offers a pretty good chance of producing action. Clottey doesn’t dance — he will stand and fight — and we know what kind of action Pacquiao produces. It’ll probably be a better fight from that standpoint than Mayweather-Pacquiao would have been.
From the standpoint of an attraction, Clottey is a nonentity. He’s a Ghanian with no ethnic fan base in the United States and the grudging respect of many hardcore followers of the sport, but I’m not sure I personally know anyone who would consider Clottey his favorite fighter or even one of his 10 favorite fighters. Just the other week, I was saying Clottey had gotten too big an ego for considering himself an “HBO fighter,” but here he is, getting the payday of a lifetime. Some of it has to do with the fact that he shares a promoter with Pacquiao, and that promoter, Bob Arum, prefers to keep things in house when he can.
Could Pacquiao have done better? Junior welterweight Paulie Malignaggi was discussed. He’s probably a slightly bigger star than Clottey, but he’s nowhere near as good, and also he was part of the “Pacquiao is on ‘roids” crowd led by the Mayweather clan. Also, he can be a “stinker,” someone who occasionally makes fights look ugly and unexciting. Advantage: Clottey. Yuri Foreman was discussed, and the junior middleweight has a decent Jewish following and an alphabet title belt in what would be an eighth division for Pacquiao. But he’s got his own “stinker” credentials, and while he’s an Arum favorite, Pacquiao’s side decided he was too tall, as if that’s a good reason not to fight someone. Advantage: Clottey. There was talk of a third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez, but Marquez clearly shouldn’t be fighting above lightweight and has aged immensely since the Pacquiao-Marquez II. Pacquiao also would have been widely mocked for fighting someone Mayweather had just throttled. Advantage: Clottey.
There are three better names than Clottey outside Mayweather. One of them, Mosley — the consensus #3 fighter in the world behind Pacquiao and Mayweather — wasn’t an option, since Mosley’s tied up Jan. 30 with another welterweight fight against Andre Berto and fighters in this era don’t take fights within three months of one another. It’s bad timing that put Mosley in this position; he was set to fight Clottey Dec. 5, but HBO asked to bump the fight to closer to Christmas, then changed its mind about that, too. If Mosley had fought in December, he might have been poised for a bigger fight in March, but he couldn’t wait around for that possibility after waiting around a whole year for a quality paycheck, which Berto will give him. Another was Timothy Bradley, the #1 junior welterweight in the division where Pacquiao is still lineal champion; Pacquiao’s a legit welter, but he could go back down to junior welter if he wanted. Bradley would have produced a great style match-up, with his speed and volume and toughness, and Bradley’s gotten credit for being top-10 pound-for-pound from some people; I see no evidence he was ever considered, though, and I can’t say I know why. It’s arguable whether Bradley is a tougher fight for Pacquiao than Clottey, because of size, but I would say Bradley would have been a slightly better choice. Another was Paul Williams, the #4 pound-for-pound fighter in the world on my list, who would have been available by March, I bet. If Foreman is too tall, Williams is WAY too tall, given that his last fight was at middleweight. He’s a bigger star than Clottey, a better fighter than Clottey and a better action fighter than Clottey, but I bet Arum and the whole Pacquiao team probably never even wrote his name down on a list of possible opponents.
Pacquiao’s replacement opponent ends up with a grade of about a “B” from me. It’s definitely no joke fight, but there were better options — not that I’m looking to be overly critical given the 2008 and 2009 Pacquiao had, and his overall tendency to face the best available opponent in his division. (And just so I don’t have to keep loading things up with caveats — I’m making all of my remarks with an “given how things have played out” asterisk, since I’m deeply dissatisfied with the state of affairs.)
Of course, the repulsive idea Arum has for the undercard detracts from the overall event; Scott Kraus delved into that on this site here.
We’ll go one at a time here, talking about people that have been discussed and haven’t for Mayweather’s next fight after beating Marquez in September, excluding Pacquiao.
Saul Alvarez: Golden Boy actually raised the possibility of Mayweather fighting this very, very, very green 19-year-old welterweight prospect. Everyone had trouble believing it was a real option; many proposed Golden Boy was just trying to get Alvarez’ name in the news. I think they were actually considering it. Mayweather fancies himself a globe-trotter, and had spoken of a desire to fight in Mexico, where Alvarez is popular. If Alvarez ever was a sincere option, Mayweather should be ashamed of himself, but I doubt he is. It would have been a mismatch, a fight between a man and a child.
Matthew Hatton: Golden Boy recently rejected the notion that Hatton — Matthew, not Ricky, the significantly lesser talented of the brotherly British duo — ever was in the running. But his name had been reported far and wide for months, going back to the time when Mayweather was daydreaming bout fighting in the U.K., and Hatton doesn’t seem like the kind that would just make up and keep repeating lies about being contacted by the Mayweather team. Anyway, this would have been nearly as shameful as Mayweather-Alvarez. At least Alvarez is thought to have potential. Hatton tries, bless his heart, but he’s really about a “C” fighter if I’m being kind.
Malignaggi: See above. He and the next three men were recently mentioned by ESPN’s Dan Rafael as potential Mayweather opponents, according to Rafael’s sources. Malignaggi is just like Mayweather only not anywhere as good, and a fight between them would almost certainly have involved a ton of posing and feinting. Malignaggi and Mayweather can both be exciting when faced with someone who comes straight at them, but neither would do the other that favor. Also, he would be the third straight sub-welterweight for the welterweight Mayweather. But wait, it gets worse.
Nate Campbell: Yeah, that Nate Campbell. You might scoff if you didn’t know Mayweather’s style; last fight out, Mayweather beat an over-the-hill lightweight, which is what Campbell appears to be at this point in his career. It’s hard to imagine why Campbell would even be in the running, other than that he recently signed with Golden Boy. Wait, I need to listen to myself — that, plus Mayweather’s favorite kind of opponent is apparently over-the-hill lightweights.
Bradley: Of the smaller opponents Mayweather could face, Bradley is the most legit. I gave his credentials above. He’s about the only one on the list so far whom I’d give a chance to land much of anything on the defensively-gifted Mayweather; Bradley’s speed and volume would offer a better chance than Malignaggi’s speed alone. It’s unclear if he could be stolen away from Showtime for a fight. And unlike Pacquiao, Mayweather wouldn’t go down to junior welter for the fight, so Pacquiao-Bradley would have been more legit than Mayweather-Bradley might be if it’s made.
Kermit Cintron: What th’! A top-10 level welterweight? Huh? Heck, Cintron even fights sometimes at junior middleweight! Cintron hits extremely hard at 147, he’s faster than he looks and his skills have shown some improvement of late, but he’s a notch below Clottey and I have a tough time imagining Cintron laying any leather on Mayweather. Still, of opponents discussed, he and Bradley are the top two.
Mosley: If Mayweather wants to make a major statement, he’ll abandon the March 13 date and set up an April or May date with Mosley, then beat him. Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer recently said Mayweather was willing to fight Mosley, but he mentioned no time frame, so it was kind of confusing. This all assumes Mosley beats Berto in January, by the way, which is no given. There’s a school of thought that Mosley is the most dangerous potential opponent for Mayweather, since Mosley is fast, is stronger than Mayweather and is technically skilled and tough. There are some who think the notion of Mayweather and Pacquiao fighting on the same day is a marketing ploy that looks forward to an eventual Mayweather-Pacquiao showdown, or a way for one side or the other to gain the upper hand by claiming better pay-per-view sales. But Mayweather-Mosley would kill Pacquiao-Clottey in PPV buys, so it’s a good fight and a good business move.
Williams: Another way Mayweather could make a major statement is to fight Williams, ever. I tend to lean toward thinking Pacquiao is the fighter with the best chance of beating Mayweather, but the predominant school, at least until Williams struggled in a December win over Sergio Martinez, was that Williams’ length, southpaw stance and volume would be the key to unlocking Mayweather’s defense. (Mayweather-Williams, by the way, is the only fight I can see beating Pacquiao-Clottey on PPV if both go March 13.)
I have no guess whom Mayweather will end up fighting. If it’s Williams or Mosley, I’ll be mega-surprised, and maybe even a little excited. If it’s Cintron or Bradley, it’ll be close to acceptable. If it’s Malignaggi or Campbell, it will be hideous. If it’s Hatton or Alvarez, we should probably go ahead and lock Mayweather up right now for fraud and attempted murder.