On Saturday, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Peter Manfredo will wage war for the WBC middleweight trinket. But on the off-TV undercard, a familiar face returns to the ring — Ghana’s Joshua Clottey.
The 34-year-old veteran will be returning to Texas, the home of his debacle against Manny Pacquiao in March of 2010.
Now, more than 18 months later, Clottey is looking to rejuvenate his career with a return to the ring and a new weight class.
Clottey (35-4, 20 knockouts), a career welterweight and former WBO titleholder, fights Calvin Green at the Reliant Arena in Houston in an eight-round junior middleweight bout, and he says that he is ready for the best at 154 pounds in 2012.
Clottey enters a talent-laden weight class, where attractive bouts can be made with a number of fighters – including rematches with Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito, Saul Alvarez, Pawel Wolak, James Kirkland and Chavez Jr., to name a few.
“The Grand Master”, based out of Bronx, N.Y., by way of Accra, Ghana, is disappointed by his last outing in the ring and hopes to prove to fans that it was an off-night. He points to his crowd-pleasing affairs with Zab Judah, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito and the late Diego Corrales as proof that his bout against Pacquiao was an aberration. Clottey also blames the short amount of time he had to train – three weeks – due to the fight with “Pacman” being put together so late, in addition to other problems.
“It was short notice, but the fans love me, I’m a warrior,” Clottey said. “That’s why I took it. But three weeks was never going to be enough. But I did my best. But people need to forget the Pacquiao fight, it was one fight.”
There were many rumors circulating in regards to Clottey’s lengthy ring absence, chief among them that he was asking for too much money for bouts. Clottey dismisses those rumors.
“It wasn’t true,” Clottey said. “It’s not true. So many things happened after that fight, I have to forget about the past and move on.
And although Clottey doesn’t feel he was his best against Pacquiao, he also realizes that he must throw more punches in future fights. It was a problem that also may have cost him against Cotto, as that could have been the difference in him losing the narrow decision. His new trainer and their work on throwing more punches, coupled with Clottey feeling more comfortable at 154, could result in a dangerous fighter at junior middleweight.
“Right now everything is going good with my new trainer, he’s teaching me a lot about offense,” Clottey said in an interview with BoxingScene.com two months back. “I can’t wait to get to the ring and show the people not to write me off because of the Pacquiao fight. If I’m throwing my hands, nobody’s going to beat me. Me and my trainer are working on that.
“If you look at me, I’m big from head to toe. My legs are so big. Even at 154, I still have to make weight, but I’m not going to struggle myself like at 147.”
Clottey’s ideal plan after his comeback fight on Saturday is a rematch with the winner of Cotto-Margarito II, two fights he believed he could have won. But first, he knows he must shake the ring rust off, and that begins on Saturday.
“I would like a fight with Margarito because if it wasn’t for my hand, I would have beaten him,” Clottey said. “I was taking it to him. One more fight with Margarito, I think I can take him. I want to fight Cotto again, also, because that first fight, they robbed me. I want to fight Miguel Cotto.”
If he can’t get either of them, he would love a fight with one of the young guns at ’54, namely “Canelo”.
“I’m always ready to fight,” Clottey said. “They should give me to “Canelo”. I don’t think he would want to fight me, but I’d love to. I’ve never chickened out of a fight.”
One this is certain, Clottey wants fans to know that he is far better than the fighter who turned in a lackadaisical performance against Pacquiao – and he is eager to prove it.
“I want the fans to know that they shouldn’t be writing me off because of the Pacquiao fight,” Clottey pleaded. “I am ready, I just need some tune-up fights now. After the tune-up fights, I’m ready for everybody next year. Those guys at 154, I’m gonna beat them.”
Mike Coppinger is a regular boxing contributor to USA TODAY and THE RING. He is a member of THE RING Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Sports Boxing Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger