MANILA, MARCH 13, 2010
(STAR) THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco - Manny Pacquiao is a ridiculously prohibitive favorite to retain his WBO welterweight title against Joshua Clottey tomorrow. The odds are so heavily stacked in the Filipino champ’s favor that it isn’t practical to bet big money on him. It’s akin to betting just to win interest on your investment.

It will be Clottey’s second attempt to annex the WBO welterweight title. On December 2, 2006, Clottey lost his first-ever world title bout via unanimous decision to Antonio Margarito, having trouble with his taller opponent’s reach and power. Margarito also gave the same fits to Miguel Cotto, changing the scenario planned by Oscar dela Hoya at the time. Against Pacquiao, he will be facing a smaller but quicker and vastly more skilled opponent, who has stopped a veritable Hall of Fame list over the last five years.

“Manny is the heavy favorite because of his skills, and the names of those he has beaten,” says Dennis Principe, producer and host of the daily program “Sports Chat” over DZSR. And in all of those fights, they all said he was going to lose. He proved himself not just once or twice, but several times, convincingly.”

More and more, it is starting to come out that Clottey is not a dirty fighter, just an awkward one. He doesn’t consciously have a black bag of tricks, but probably doesn’t know any better, having come from a desperate, dirt-poor family headed by a father who works on street construction in a lower-class community in Ghana.

“The perception is that Clottey is a defense-first fighter,” says Ed Tolentino, who will be covering the Pacquiao-Clottey fight with this writer for The Filipino Channel’s global audience. “That’s because of his posture, he throws less punches, has an awkward defensive stance, and has a limited offensive repertoire.”

“Clottey is not a dirty fighter, he just has an awkward style,” Principe explains. “Even against Cotto, Cotto was the one who threw him, and the head butt happened only once. It’s an exaggeration to say he’s a dirty fighter.”

Against a fighter of Pacquiao’s stature, Clottey will be befuddled by the variety and speed of the WBO champ’s punches. He will not really take the initiative, except perhaps out of desperation.

“Clottey has many problems coming into this fight,” Tolentino elaborates. “He’s showing up with a new trainer, because his real trainer couldn’t get a US visa. His new trainer, Lenny de Jesus, was just a cutman of Pacquiao. That’s like Tiger Woods showing up at the Masters with a set of kiddie golf clubs. And Clottey will not chase fighters. He will put his hands up, and wait for you to get close.

When you do get close, that is when he gets very dangerous. And if he does chase a fighter, he will lead with his head, to cover up his defensive weaknesses. But Pacquiao can find the angles against him.”

Much prognostication has been done about which round Pacquiao will fell the challenger, as it seems to be a given that Pacquiao will win by knockout. Principe, who is in constant contact will the trainers of both boxers, has a contrary opinion.

“Pacquiao doesn’t need to knock him out,” Principe believes. “Why would he make it hard for himself, when he can outbox him? He’s exciting to watch, anyway. He can do what he did to Hatton and dela Hoya, and keep going until the corner of Clottey or the referee steps in to stop the fight. He doesn’t need to purposely go for the knockout.”

“I think he will go in eight rounds,” Tolentino predicts. “Against a Manny Pacquiao, you cannot be a defensive fighter; you have to throw a lot of punches. I think Pacquiao will start slow, and his combinations will gradually wear down Clottey. Manny just has too many combinations and so much speed that Clottey will not be able to match him.” Since everything seems to be going for Pacquiao, what does he have to look out for?

“This is Manny’s first fight against a legitimate welterweight,” Ed points out. “He fought dela Hoya at 147, but Oscar was no longer fighting at that weight. Against Cotto, they fought at a catchweight of 145. So the upper body strength and endurance was affected. Now, he is fighting someone who is a natural welterweight. And if you’re looking for something to Clottey’s advantage, perhaps hunger would be a great motivator, because he really came from nothing.”

“The concern actually is how to keep Manny heavy enough for a welterweight,” Principe reveals. “The statements of his trainer Alex Ariza reveal that, even when he can’t really eat anymore, they feed him to keep the weight up. Remember, he came up from 106 when he started.”

But there seems to be very little Joshua Clottey can do to keep Manny Pacquiao from using him as a human stepping stone to a possible megabuck fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., assuming Mayweather gets past Shane Mosley.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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