By Lee Payton
Photo © Marty Rosengarten / Ringsidephotos.com
Two of the the world's best welterweights, Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey, will be fighting in Madison Square Garden on June 13th for a chance to remain in the big money sweepstakes that currently surrounds the division. The winner of this intriguing battle will be in an excellent spot to snag a big money fight with Mosley, Pacquaio or Mayweather.
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But all of that stuff is about 500 punches away from happening, right now. He who wins this one will have really earned a shot at the big time. In what should be a bruising affair, who has the edge?
Miguel Cotto can't help but be fun to watch. He's one of the most dynamic offensive fighters in the game, capable of throwing impressive combinations to the head and body. Sometimes he leaves the other guy wincing in agony with his pulverizing left hook downstairs. Other times he creates a grotesque mess where a face used to be.
Like most fan favourites, Cotto has a vulnerable side. We've seen a lot of him over the years, and I think it's safe to say that he can't take what he can dish out. It's not a question of mental weakness, just that his chin isn't going to make anyone forget Marvin Hagler. He can be hurt, and has been more than a handful of times in his career.
And while he's clearly worked on becoming a little slicker in there, his defense is still relatively unreliable. It seems that he'll always get caught with uppercuts inside, and the way he attempts to roll with right hands coming his way is only about half effective. He is usually in proper position to block left hooks, but good fighters have been able to find him with the shot anyway. Some head movement would do him good, but it's probably too late for that. He is what he is.
It's all part of what makes the Puerto Rican star so popular among fans. You never want to miss it when he laces up the gloves.
One area Joshua Clottey is superior to Cotto is in his ability to block and slip punches. He has the classic shell defense that most fighters from Ghana prefer. With hands high, chin low, and elbows tucked, the rock hard Clottey is a tough target. And even if something does get through, chances are, he can take it. So far, he's stood up to everything that has come his way, including Antonio Margarito's heaviest artillery. There is no easy way out against him.
If he has a weakness, some fans will tell you it's stamina. I'm not too sure I buy that one. Wouldn't it have shown up more clearly against Margarito? It's true that he slowed down in the second half, but that was probably because he hurt his left hand, which happens to be his weapon of choice.
I'd say that the main concern for those who are backing him is in his tendency to hold back a little bit in some circumstances. Because he is so responsible on defense, sometimes his offense suffers. When a fighter's hands are as high as Clottey's, he can be beaten to the punch by a quicker fighter, and he's facing one this time around. So while you can expect the majority of Cotto's punches to bounce off forearms and elbows, the judges may give him the benefit on effort alone.
It's a very tough fight to pick. Let's try to find an edge...
Speed- When a punch is launched from point A to point B, I think Clottey's shots get there just a little bit faster.
Quickness- Cotto is quicker to pull the trigger. I expect him to get off first more often.
Defense- Clottey has a big advantage here.
Jab- Neither guy really relies on it, though I think Josh has a longer, stronger, faster stick. Especially coming forward.
Right hand- Clottey again. Not his favourite shot, but he's sharp with it.
Left hook- Most people would give this to Cotto easy because his is harder and shorter. Clottey has a very good hook himself that he works more than any other punch. He's quite accurate and sneaky with it. I'll give it to Cotto because of his nasty hook to the body.
Uppercut- Clottey for sure.
Counterpunching- Both are solid in this department. I think Cotto is easier to counter because he is on the offensive more often.
Physical strength- Clottey is a hunk of granite. Cotto is a bull. Take your pick. I assume the African fighter will be stronger down the stretch.
Footwork- Cotto is much lighter on his feet.
Chin- Clottey, without a doubt. We've yet to see him hurt.
Joshua Clottey is definitely worth a look if you're thinking of laying some money down, considering all of his tools and the fact that he's +250 at the sports book. Doesn't seem right on paper, does it?
This has been one of the most difficult fights for me to handicap in quite awhile because there are so many unknowns going in. Cotto is basically training himself and will be without a boxing mind in the corner. What's going to happen if it gets rough? Will Clottey let his hands go enough in the biggest fight of his career? Will the pro-Cotto crowd influence the judges in close rounds? What fight plan will Miguel use this time around? Are there any lingering effects from the Margarito fight?
One thing I am sure of though is the entertainment value of this fight. If you're into watching two skilled fighters swap left hooks, don't miss it.
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