Miguel Cotto Proves
He Belongs In With The Best; But So Does Joshua Clottey
By Tim Donaldson
Photos: "Sugar" Ray Bailey
at Madison Square Garden might not have been exactly what Miguel
Cotto’s fans had been hoping for. They had come to see Miguel
Cotto defeat Joshua Clottey. Although Cotto won the split
decision, it would be hard to call Clottey’s loss a defeat. Both
fighters battled beyond what many fighters would have, Cotto
with the cut over his left eye and Clottey with his knee after
being thrown to the canvas. If the test of a truly great fighter
is never quitting, then these two have passed that test.
The garden was packed with mostly the supporters of Miguel
Cotto. Everywhere one looked, the Puerto Rican flag could be
seen being displayed proudly. And the noise from Cotto’s fans
was quite deafening. The noise only increased every time that
Cotto threw a punch. Not that Clottey did not have his fans in
attendance. The flag of Ghana could be seen throughout the arena
also, just not as many. But as the fight progressed, Cotto’s
fans seemed to lose some of their enthusiasm. And then,
Clottey’s fans could be heard, shouting to their fighter and
hoping to spur him on to victory.
But the real story was in the ring. There are fights, and then
there are FIGHTS. This seems to be in the latter category. And
what makes a great fight? Possibly, it is the fact that both
fighters have something to prove. Miguel Cotto had to prove that
he had gotten over his loss to Antonio Margarito. Joshua Clottey
had to prove that he belonged in the ring with Miguel Cotto.
Clottey had stated that he wanted this fight because beating
Cotto would prove that he belonged at the top.
From the beginning, it was an all out battle. The judges in the
fight did not have an easy job, but isn’t that what they get
paid for anyway. The first round would have been very difficult
to score except for the fact that Cotto knocked Clottey down.
Now maybe Cotto caught Clottey off balance, and maybe it was
only a flash knock down, but nonetheless, Cotto knocked Clottey
down. Clottey seemed to have learned from this, not allowing
anything like this to happen again. Clottey fought a very
defensive fight throughout, keeping his hands up tight and
leaving only a small space for Cotto to slip in his jab.
With lesser fighters, the third round might have been a deciding
round. Clottey opened up a good size cut above the left eye of
Cotto after an accidental head butt. The blood became a problem
throughout the rest of the fight, and Cotto could be seen
throughout the fight trying to wipe the blood away. And that cut
gave Clottey a definite advantage because Cotto was having
trouble seeing Clottey’s right hand. Now Cotto could have said
that he could not continue. If he did that before the end of the
fourth round, there would have been no decision rendered. Or he
could have said that he could not continue after the sixth
round. He seemed to have the advantage in the fight up until
that point, and he would have had a good chance winning the
decision. But Cotto chose to fight on.
point for Clottey came in the fifth round. Clottey was in
control of the round. He landed several good shots to Cotto’s
head, and Cotto could be seen shaking it off. But then, they
tangled in the corner. Cotto, wanting to continue to fight and
not wait for the referee to break them up, tried to push Clottey
off but ended up tossing him to the ground. It looked like
something more from the MMA than professional boxing. It was
obvious from the beginning that Clottey was hurt. He took his
time getting up. The referee had Clottey walk it off, and the
fight was allowed to continue.
This accident seemed to give momentum to Cotto. In the sixth
round, Cotto clearly dominated. He backed Clottey around the
ring until he trapped him in the corner. Clottey went into a
defensive stance, arms up and covering his face. He stayed like
that for most of the round. Clottey was hurt, and Cotto knew it.
Again, this was something that could have changed the whole
dynamic of the fight. But Clottey battled back. And the next
four rounds, Clottey was fighting more like he was in the
beginning of the fight. The seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth
rounds were all rounds dominated by Clottey.
During all of those rounds, Cotto continued to battle not only
Clottey but also the blood dripping down from his eye. The end
of the tenth round saw another shift in the momentum of the
fight. Clottey spent most of the round chasing Cotto around the
ring, but at the end of the round, Cotto landed two powerful
left hooks in response to punches thrown by Clottey. Cotto in
the eleventh began to control the pace of the fight. He would
move in, throw a combination, and then move out. He was taking
away Clottey’s ability to score against him. The twelfth round
saw much of the same thing, with the exception of Cotto hitting
Clottey in the back of the head and landing a low blow. By this
time the fight was basically over. And although Clottey
complained to the ref, no point was taken from Cotto. Not that
it would have mattered, as the judges scoring would show.
It was a tense
few moments until the decision was read. Clottey was celebrating
in the ring; Cotto, as well, raised his hands in victory.
Cotto’s fans were asking who won, trying to get a glimpse as to
what the outcome would be. It came down to a split decision. In
a fight this close, you can expect that sort of thing. Judge Don
Trella scored the fight 116-111 for Cotto. Judge Tom Miller
scored the fight 114-113 for Clottey. And Judge John McKaie
scored the fight 115-112. Cotto narrowly won the fight.
Clottey called for a rematch almost as soon as the decision was
read. Does he deserve the rematch? Maybe. He fought a hard fight
and kept the pressure on Cotto. Does Cotto deserve the victory?
Yes. He fought a tough fight, a fight that he was handicapped in
early by a head butt.