The Ship Be Sinking

Mouth Almighty

Paclottey Prediction

Look, the pick is Pacquiao, obviously- he’s reached a plateau of physical and technical excellent so high that, if he’s on his best game, there’s maybe 3 or 4 people in the sport who he could conceivably face who could even be reasonable picks to beat him. I like Clottey, but he’s not one of them.

The thing is, how big of an “if” is that if, these days? Clottey is a complete trap fight for Pacquiao, a double-tough and rugged giant-size man-thing of a welterweight who can walk through sledgehammer shots and has legitimate power, and who is desperate to break through on the big stage. Pacquiao is faster, quicker, more disciplined, might hit harder, has the better gas tank, is a better athlete, has better footwork and a more diverse offensive arsenal, and really surpasses Clottey in every physical and technical facet of the game except defensive use of the gloves and sheer size. But is he up for this one? He’d better be because fighters like Clottey are exactly the worst type of opponent to see if you’ve been half-assing it in training, or don’t really want to be in the ring that night, or are more concerned about hitting the right notes on stage at the after party than you are the man across the ring from you at first bell. Clottey will make you work hard for every minute of every round, and if you get sloppy he hits hard enough to make you pay. Yes, it’s Pacquiao so there have always been distractions; this time he’s running for office and trying to sing, before it’s been money troubles and promoter troubles and trainer troubles and an entire-nation-is-obsessed-with-him troubles and God only knows what else, so why should this be different? It’s a reasonable question, for which there are two possible answers.

The first is that the narrative for Pacquiao is suddenly jumbled. If you look at Pacquiao’s career, the thing which stands out the most (to his credit) is the way he’s always been looking ahead to new challenges. Not every fight he’s had has been against top level opposition, but there’s always been movement towards a goal- a next legend to topple, a new weight class to dominate, a new superfight to make. For the first time, Pacquio is without that- he’s proven what he needs to at 147, Freddie Roach has been clear that this is as high as he’s willing to take Pacquiao on the scales, there’s really only two other guys in the division who would qualify as superfights for Pacquiao, and they’re busy fighting each other soon with real questions as to whether a fight with the winner can be made. So what’s the challenge? It’s hard to say how much having a new object to drive towards has helped keep Pacquiao focused in the past, and it’s possible now that he may even be able to bullshit himself into thinking Clottey is the sort of challenge that Bob Arum is selling him as; but the possibility exists that Pacquiao may not be as mentally into this fight as he has previous encounters, and anytime something changes in a winning formula it’s worth noting. Maybe there’s not as much to distract the man from his distractions anymore. Maybe he’s thinking it’s ok to stay out an hour later at night, quit an hour sooner in the gym, run a mile less because hey- it’s only Josh Clottey. Maybe it’s not ok. Maybe I’m stealing Teddy Atlas’s gimmick.

The second is simply age. Time conquers everything but the pyramids, and Pacquiao is now a 31 year old fighter who relies on his speed- a dangerous combination. He has too many assets as a fighter to ever just plain show up old to a fight and get wiped out like Roy Jones against Antonio Tarver, but then against a solid and rugged fighter like Clottey it probably won’t require that; all he has to be is 5-10% slower, enough so that he catches a few more punches than he’s used to and has that much more trouble finding ways to get off his jab or land hooks around Clottey’s peekaboo high guard. Fighters like Clottey are truth machines, always pressuring like a river on its banks; if there’s a crack they’ll make a fissure, if there’s a fissure they will break you down. Pacquiao has shown no signs of regression so far, but it’s going to be an issue in every fight of his from here on out because eventually it will happen if he keeps fighting the same way it happened to the Sugar Rays and Pernell Whitakers. He’s been in some wars; a body can only take so much.

If this reads like clutching at straws, it should, because it is. The odds are extremely high that Pacquiao will dominate as the superior, more talented, more skilled, more experienced and better trained athlete. It would require the irritatingly proverbial perfect storm for Clottey to win tomorrow, a combination of him fighting the fight of his life, Pacquiao losing his edge to distractions, age finally setting in and possibly the giant foot from Monty Python flying through the open roof of Cowboys stadium and crushing Pacquiao. It’s probably not going to happen. But unlike easy Pacquiao fights in the past against the Oscar Larios’s and Jorge Solis’s of the world, the question is not “will the B side of this fight be recognizable to his mother by round 7?”, but more whether or not Clottey has a chance. He doesn’t, but that we’re asking the question says something about both men.

That said, if you look at this from Clottey’s perspective, Pacquiao is all wrong for him. Clottey plods forwards and has the turning radius of an oil tanker at sea, which is death against a quick fighter with world-class footwork like Pac Man. Clottey’s high guard is a difficult style to deal with, but Pacquiao can throw the punches- hard hooks, body shots, and uppercuts- and use the footwork needed to break the guard and has a trainer who knows exactly what to tell him. Pacquiao can retreat and draw Clottey towards him, then spring off the back foot to get off first with punches around the guard and move off laterally while Clottey is still covering up. Unless Clottey can time him for a preemptive counter that could go on all night. Clottey will certainly try his utmost to pressure Pacquiao and his constant forward motion does wear on many fighters, but he’s frequently a one-punch-at-a-time guy which is useless against an opponent who throws lightning-quick combinations like Pacquiao and who regards getting hit once as an excuse to throw three more back. I’d say Clottey should ugly the fight up, but he may not get close enough to even try it. Clottey is stupid tough and should go all 12, but he may not win a single round.

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It’s not what I’d call a great undercard or anything, but I don’t hate what’s under on this show. David Diaz vs. Humberto Soto to me has the chance to be a sneakily entertaining contest if Diaz has enough left to make a fight of it for awhile, although Soto is clearly a better caliber of fighter and should get rid of Diaz by the middle to late rounds if he’s on point. Diaz tries hard, but he should probably start moving his head now if he wants to get out of the way of any punches tomorrow. John Duddy vs. Michael Medina is supposed to be a mid card actioner I assume since that’s what Duddy’s name is built on. I know nothing about Medina, although I assume if the Top Rank braintrust thought he was any good at all he wouldn’t be in this slot since Duddy is considered both a minor draw and a minor talent. Jose Luis Castillo vs. Fonso Gomez is somewhere between a crossroads fight and Old Timer’s Day, but it’s likely to be entertaining and competitive in a charmingly sloppy way for as long as it lasts. Fonso will win, no one will care, we’ll all use the 5th round to go get a beer. You won’t see anything special before the main event, but you probably won’t be bored either.

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March 12, 2010 - Posted by | Boxing

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