From Madison Square Garden, New York
Leading up to this bout, I got the feeling that this fight was going to be severely underestimated. Since Cotto’s brutal (and highly controversial) beating at the hands of Margarito last July (in a fight that would have to be considered one of the best in welterweight history), Cotto had taken some time away from boxing to recover came back to look impressive (although never really tested) in despatching Michael Jennings for the vacant and lightly regarded WBO crown. In his first real test since his stoppage loss he comes up against the tough-as-all-get-out Clottey. Clottey, whose only previous losses were a DQ loss to Carlos Manuel Baldomir and a unanimous decision loss to Margarito, is practically undentable and generally avoided for being on the wrong end of the payoff/effort ratio. His last bout was a nine round techinical decision win over Zab Judah however this bout against Cotto would be his first “big fight”.
Middleweights: Matvey Korobov (6-0, 5 KOs) vs. Loren Myers (7-4, 2 KOs), 4 rounds
I can’t seem to turn on the tv now without seeing Korobov in action. Seriously – it’s like something out of The Truman Show. This has always been a good thing as the former Russian Olympian’s aggressive style and heavy hands make him a joy to watch. I didn’t know a thing about Loren Myers but, with a 7-4 record, I thought it was probably more likely that he had heard of me.
Korobov quickly establishes control of the centre of the ring. Myers is looking to throw but Korobov moves and counters well first with a straight left and then he wobbles Myers with a two piece. Korobov brings his usual aggression and high punch output and Myers looks overmatched as he is being hit and hurt almost at will. Myers seems game though and, although he is sloppy, is looking at Korobov’s body. The second round sees more of the same with Korobov hunting down Myers and landing crisp combinations. A great uppercut lands yet Myers doesn’t seem fazed. Korobov’s head movement and defence look fantastic in this round as he dodges well leaving Myers seem ineffectual. This only serves to motivate Myers and he starts to bring, albeit wild, pressure in the third. Korobov seems bigger and a lot stronger and he is able to manhandle Myers in the clinches. Korobov’s work rate has slowed down considerably and you begin to question whether he is just fighting too often. I mean his punches are landing but not with the same impact they had in his previous bouts, which I guess could in part be attributed to the gameness of Myers who just won’t quit. Korobov lands a couple of good hooks and Myers offence just seems to be about throwing without trying to establish any kind of calculated assault. As the fourth and final round starts you know that this fight is in the bag. Korobov is too far ahead and, with the uneducated handbags being thrown by Myers, you know that he is not going to be stopped. Korobov lands a great three punch combo and spends the entire round throwing single shots, all of which land. Myers still believes like the way a kid thinks he could fly if he just believes enough (which is cute) and is looking for one big shot. He is just trying anything including drawing Korobov into a brawl, a ploy which is only going to work against his cause. He finishes the fight trying to bull Korobov around the ring. The result is never in doubt – 40-36 to Korobov.
Myers gains the distinction of the first person to finish standing against Korobov as a pro. You expected a lot more of Korobov in this fight who almost looked too relaxed in dominating from start to finish. Only being four rounds, and against a 7-4 opponent, this was a backward step for Korobov who seemed to be just getting the rounds in. The Russian’s future looks bright however he either needs to be stepping up in opposition or stretching out lesser opponents in exactly these types of fights. The consolation is that, with still half a year left, he could and will probably have another 4 or 5 fights before 2009 is out.
Welterweights: Miguel Cotto (34-1, 27 KOs) vs. Joshua Clottey (35-3, 21 KOs), 12 rounds for Cotto’s WBO Welterweight title
Listening to the commentary before this fight would make you think that the result is a foregone conclusion. It’s all pro Cotto who is a regular fixture on the eve of the National Puerto Rican Day parade. Close to every one of the 18,000 at the MSG are chanting his name and you are almost shocked to see Clottey supporters and the Ghanaian flag. You just can’t stop Clottey however and I reason that this fight is going to be fairly close with Cotto still dominating. If Margarito (and the possibility of loaded gloves) can’t stop him then I doubt Cotto will do likewise. Clottey gives up his IBF welterweight title in order to facilitate this bout between two of the top fighters in the sports premier division.
Both come out trying to find their range and establish the jab. Cotto seems to be doing much of the coming forward and lands a nice counter right. Clottey lands a hard jab and Cotto comes back with a great combination to the body. Clotteys jab looks sharp and he manages to land a couple of counter rights. Clottey is off balance as Cotto lands a jab that puts the Ghanaian on the seat of his pants near the end of the round. Clottey is up and doesn’t look hurt. The second sees both fighters go to the body with Cotto landing a good combo and Clottey looking to rip. Cotto seems to be doing the majority of the work and pushing the pace of the fight. The round ends with both fighters looking to be aggressive. The next round sees Clottey’s defence tighten up, he looks strong when he is throwing but it is not doing so nearly enough. When he does finally come forward he does well but is picked off by the sharper Cotto. Cotto is cut above his eye by an accidental clash of heads.
At the beginnging of the fourth Cotto is bleeding profusely which must be affecting his vision. I reason that Clottey must be at least half vampire as seeing all this blood spurs him into action (no one finds me amusing). Both fighters wing punches and Cotto manages to land with some jabs and uppercuts. The cut above his eye just looks nasty and there is blood everywhere. Clottey catches Cotto and backs him into a corner but doesn’t follow up and Cotto unloads a good combination before the round is out. Clottey begins to turn it on over the middle rounds as he tags Cotto and paws at the cut over his eye. The drop in vision means that Clottey’s right hand is starting to find it’s range, especially if it is on the back of one of those hard jabs. During a clinch in the fifth, Clottey takes a tumble to the ground where he writhes in a pain that could only be experienced by an actress or a professional soccer player. The referee obviously isn’t into either drama or comedy and he gives Clottey a short breather then urges the bout back on. Clottey initially seems to be favouring his knee, however that seems to come right when he lands punches. Clottey is bringing more leather but never seems to be capitalizing. Cotto lands which backs Clottey up and the rest of the sixth round is Cotto teeing off on Clottey in the corner. Clottey’s workrate takes a dive and you just don’t understand the reasoning. There are not many fighters out there who can win by throwing less punches. A Cotto uppercut gets Clottey’s attention but he is making no effort to get out of the corner. Cotto looks sharp and strong during the sixth and is able to land punches that would down a lesser opponent.
Clottey snaps Cotto’s head back with an uppercut during the seventh and takes control by backing up Cotto with hard, straight shots. Cotto seems a little out of gas and you know the cut is bothering him as he uses his feet to escape the oncoming Clottey. This is by far Clottey’s best round thus far (after his worse round in the sixth). The fight swings back and forth during the eighth with both fighters having offensive periods. Clottey is getting the better of these exchanges and he bangs Cotto with two uppercuts. Cotto is starting to look a little weary, like the ghost of Margarito is putting the wind up him, and for brief periods he seems to doubt himself. He starts to move a lot more and is avoiding any heavy exchanges. At the end of the round Cotto backs him into a corner and unloads however Clottey shakes his head in defiance as nothing seems to have had an affect.
Clottey looks much stronger as the fight progresses and is now coming forward the majority of the time. The fight has indeed swung his way but Clottey needs to have more output if he wants to take control. Cotto starts to box cleverly during the tenth and never really lets Clottey set himself and snaps Clottey’s head back at the end of the round. The championship rounds see Cotto stick and move well, when Clottey is actually able to set himself and throw he is picked off. Cotto is really trying to win these final rounds and is landing fantastic straight shots both upstairs and down.
Going into this final round you had the feeling that both fighters needed it but only one really wanted it. Clottey, who had taken control from the seventh, is coming forward but without any real desire. It’s almost like he thinks he can sleepwalk his way to a decision. Clottey once again gains my ire when he turns his back to Cotto then complains when is hit in the back of the head. He is at it again after a Cotto shot lands slightly south of the border. You get the feeling that his theatrics are part of his frustration as Cotto’s middle round hiatus is well over and he effectively transitioned from puncher to boxer. The last ten seconds of the fight sees Clottey throw caution to the wind but it not enough.
Cotto gains a split decision win in his most gruelling test since the Margarito bout. Clottey is complaining about the decision but, although it was a close fight, he seemed both unable and unwilling to take definitive control when he had the chance. His flopping and excessive complaining have no place in the ring and probably only made it easier to score the fight for Cotto. For the record, I scored it 117-114 for Cotto and can appreciate the argument that it could have gone either way. To say that it was a clearly a Clottey win suggests foolishness, excessive drug use or both.
Although a loss, this bout was good for Clottey who proved himself on the big stage. It’s unfortunate that he is so tough as he is clearly avoided by the biggest names but he could probably campaign for bouts against Mosley and Paul Williams, both of whom will fight anyone (and hopefully each other soon). Cotto managed to shake off the demons of his sole loss and once again established himself as one of the top fighters in the division. A bout with Pacquiao, who was in attendance, looks to be more nigh than ever and is one of the top bouts the sport can make.