Clottey can’t catch a break
Joshua Clottey, on his hands and knees after taking a punch to the back of the head from Miguel Cotto in the 12th round of their welterweight title bout Saturday, was so upset with the scoring and officiating of his split decision loss that he momentarily considered retirement immediately after the fight. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Fightwireimages.com
NEW YORK — Joshua Clottey’s streak of bad luck in major fights continued with his split-decision loss to Miguel Cotto on Saturday night.
In the first significant bout of his career, Clottey dominated Carlos Baldomir but wound up losing an 11th-round disqualification.
Clottey, then an undefeated prospect, would have earned a top-two ranking in the WBC had he beaten the future welterweight champ in their 1999 bout. The loss, which was the result of questionable head butts, set the Ghanaian fighter back a few years in his world title quest.
When Clottey did get a shot at a major belt, against Antonio Margarito 10 victories and 6¾ years later, his hands let him down against the relentless Mexican titleholder.
Clottey clearly outclassed Margarito for four rounds but injured both of his hands and was outworked by the mauling pressure fighter over the second half of the bout.
However, the loss to Margarito established Clottey as a Top 10 contender. Victories over the late Diego Corrales and Zab Judah advanced him into THE RING’s top five.
To Cotto’s credit he took on Clottey and the two 147-pound contenders put on a show for the overwhelmingly pro-Cotto Puerto Rican crowd that packed Madison Square Garden’s arena.
Cotto dropped Clottey in the first round, suffered a nasty cut over his left eye in the third, and went tit for tat with the slightly more active and accurate Clottey until seemingly running out of steam in the late rounds.
The fight could have gone either way in the eyes of most of the ringside press — in fact, a surprising number of boxing writers from Puerto Rico scored the bout for Clottey — but the dangerous Ghanaian couldn’t catch a break on two of the three official scorecards.
Don Trella scored the bout 116-111 (eight rounds to four) for Cotto. John McKaie scored a more reasonable 115-112 (seven rounds to five) for Cotto, but Tom Miller’s 114-113 score for Clottey was probably the most-accurate tally for either fighter.
Clottey didn’t find any solace in winning on one scorecard, or earning respect from the Puerto Rican media. He was so hurt by the loss he told his promoter that he was quitting the sport immediately after the verdict was announced.
“He really thought he won the fight,” said Lee Samuels, publicist for Top Rank Inc., the promoter of both Cotto and Clottey. “He was happy and dancing in his corner after the fight, but when he heard the decision, he said ‘Oh no! That’s it. I’m done with boxing.'”
Clottey was so upset he tried to leave the ring without doing post-fight interviews with the commentators of HBO, which televised the fight live in the U.S., and international broadcast team. HBO production assistant Tammy Cotel and journalist Wallace Matthews, a commentator on the international broadcast, had to plead with Clottey to come back into the ring.
Once in the ring, Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank, calmed Clottey down.
“Bob told him that he fought a magnificent fight and shouldn’t talk about retirement,” Samuels said. “He told Clottey that he would put him in with a top fighter in his next fight.”
Clottey’s emotions settled down enough to do the post-fight interviews but he was still bitter about the scoring and officiating of the bout.
In the fifth round the fighters fell into a clinch and Cotto hip-tossed Clottey hard to the canvas. Clottey appeared to be injured and hobbled around the ring for a few minutes to work the cramp out of his leg before the bout resumed. He was surprised that referee Arthur Mercante Jr. didn’t dock Cotto a point for the infraction.
In the 12th round, Cotto landed a shot to the back of Clottey’s head. Mercante reacted as though he was upset with Cotto’s foul blow, but he then took both fighters to the center of the ring and warned them to clean it up without penalizing the Puerto Rican star.
“He threw me to the canvas, he hit me low and he landed a punch to the back of my head,” Clottey told the media at the post-fight press conference. “I think the referee should do something.”
However, even if Mercante took a point from Cotto in the fifth and 12th rounds, Clottey still would have lost a split decision; it just would have been a little closer on the scorecards.
Clottey, who finished the fight stronger than Cotto, will likely win a few more fans with his bold stand against the current WBO beltholder.
“Most of the Puerto Rican press scored the fight for Clottey because of the way he ended the fight,” said Jose A. Sanchez of El Nuevo Dia, who scored the bout 115-113 for the Ghanaian.
“Who looks more like the winner after those 12 rounds, Cotto or Clottey?” asked Gerardo Fernando of Primera Hora.
However, there are plenty of hardcore fight fans who still believe Clottey makes his own bad luck.
He does lunge in with his head, a tactic that caused the awful cut that Cotto had to deal with and led to the his DQ against Baldomir. And his punch output tends to fade considerably over the second half of his fights, a habit that helped him lose to Margarito and Cotto and made many of his bouts closer than they probably should have been.
“(What) was (Clottey) complaining about?” emailed one hardcore fan immediately after the fight. “He didn't throw enough punches, period! It seemed like every time he took the momentum he gave it right back. You don't do that when you aren't the crowd favorite.”
Although many fans and boxing writers agree with this sentiment, many more were upset with the scoring of the bout.
Some sympathetic fans wouldn’t blame Clottey for walking away from the sport they find hard to follow at times.
Luckily that won’t happen.
Whether or not you think he deserved to win his fights with Cotto and Baldomir, or could have won his bout with Margarito had he been healthy, one thing cannot be disputed: Clottey is a bona fide Top 5 welterweight contender who can compete with any 147 pounder in the world.
Clottey knows this, and so does Arum.
Thankfully, Arum’s words to Clottey, and perhaps the fighter’s post-fight TV interviews, mellowed him out before he addressed the media at the post-fight press conference.
Clottey was upbeat and philosophical about his future.
“Cotto won the decision, but I think I won the fight,” Clottey said. “That’s life. I have to keep moving. The best thing for me is to get a rematch.
“I don’t think (WBC titleholder Andre) Berto wants to fight me, but I would like to fight him. After tonight’s fight, I feel that I’m one of the best welterweights in the world. I’m motivated again. I think I deserve to fight the best.”
Hopefully, Clottey catches a break and gets his wish.
Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]