Clottey can't count on home-court advantage against Cotto

Updated: June 12, 2009, 6:28 PM ET

Chris Farina/Top Rank

It will take more than a little sweet-talking for Joshua Clottey, standing, to win over New York fans.

No hometown advantage for Clottey

NEW YORK -- Even though Joshua Clottey lives in the Bronx, mere minutes from Madison Square Garden, he's not expecting much love from the crowd there when he steps into the ring Saturday night.

Although Clottey has made his home in New York since 2003, having moved from his native Ghana to pursue his boxing career as his more famous countrymen Azumah Nelson and Ike Quartey did before him, he will be the enemy come fight time (HBO, 10:35 p.m. ET).

That is because Clottey (35-2, 21 KOs) will be challenging welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto (33-1, 27 KOs), the Puerto Rican star, on the eve of the annual National Puerto Rican Day Parade. Cotto has an enormous following in New York, where he's headlining for the sixth time at the Garden, fourth on the eve of the parade.

Cotto's countrymen have turned out in droves to support his fights, singing, dancing, waving flags and, of course, booing the opponent.

Clottey sounds as though he's expecting a hostile crowd despite his own New York connection.

"I know all the Puerto Ricans will be there," Clottey said. "It is the day before the Puerto Rican parade, and there are going to be a lot there. But I can't worry about that because when I get into the ring, it will be just Cotto. Those people can always say something and I can say something back, but they will never be hit. All their screaming and shouting, you don't even hear it. I just protect myself and come out good and open up. I am not worried about that."

Joshua Clottey

Fightwireimages.com

Joshua Clottey, left, is well accustomed to dealing with adversity.

Said Vinny Scolpino, Clottey's manager, "Josh is a determined guy. He'll hear them cheering for Cotto, and he'll smile and laugh. It's no big deal. And when the bell rings, he will do his business."

Clottey, who began boxing when he was 6 years old, grew up poor in his country's capital, Accra, as one of six children. One of his brothers, Emmanuel, is also a pro boxer.

"I was a soccer player, but they were fighting in my area," Clottey said. "There was this guy beating everybody out there. I say, 'Why is this guy beating everybody? I can fight him.' And the coach asked me, 'You never fight before. Why do you want to fight this guy?' I said, 'I just feel like fighting him.' And I fight the guy, and the guy kicked my stomach and I vomited. When I vomited, I say, 'Oh, no, no, no. I don't like this, it's too hard to beat this guy.' I start training hard because of this guy, and I beat him. I beat him, and he stopped boxing and I come in as a boxer. I stopped the soccer playing."

Clottey turned pro in 1995 and fought primarily in Ghana before signing with English promoter Panos Eliades in 1996. He fought regularly in England, where he suffered his first loss, a controversial 12th-round disqualification in 1999 against Carlos Baldomir, the future undisputed welterweight champion.

With his career stalled in Ghana and England, Clottey relocated to the Bronx in late 2003 and began boxing exclusively in the United States after signing with promoter Lou DiBella.

"It is very hard to make the move, but I have to come here to make the money," Clottey said.

In December 2006, DiBella sold Clottey's contract to Bob Arum's Top Rank, which gave him a shot at then-titleholder Antonio Margarito. Clottey started fast and was ahead after four rounds, but he came undone after injuries to both hands and lost a unanimous decision.

After four wins, including a dominant win against the late Diego Corrales in 2007 in what turned out to be Corrales' last fight before he died in a motorcycle accident, Clottey earned a mandatory shot at a vacant belt in August 2008.

He claimed a 10-round technical decision against former undisputed champ Zab Judah to finally win a world title. But Clottey hasn't fought since, as fights have fallen out for one reason or another. Ultimately, he gave up his belt to get a crack at Cotto rather than face a mandatory opponent for a fraction of what he'll earn Saturday.

"It's been a long, rocky road," Scolpino said. "It's been a rough road, but finally we are here. If Josh comes out of this with a win, how are they going to hide from us now?"

The fight with Cotto also will give Clottey the opportunity to perform at the Garden, one of the most hallowed arenas in boxing history. Clottey said he has wanted to fight there since moving to America.

"It means very, very much," Clottey said. "Of course, you know it is the mecca of boxing. To fight in Madison Square Garden, people will always say that Joshua Clottey fought in Madison Square Garden before he retires. It means a lot to me to have that on my record when I retire from boxing. It means a lot to me. And I have to win."

It also means a lot to Clottey that Cotto is giving him a shot when he didn't have to. Few have wanted to fight Clottey unless forced to.

However, because Top Rank promotes Clottey and Cotto, the fight came together somewhat easily.

Clottey attended Cotto's February fight with Michael Jennings, which Cotto won via fifth-round knockout to win a vacant belt. Before the fight, he met with Arum.

"Bob promised me that if Cotto wins the fight, he is going to match me and Cotto," Clottey said. "Cotto then accepted the fight, and that was exactly what I wanted. I respect Cotto for giving me a chance, a chance to fight him. I respect that so much. I respect him because he is a man and he gave me the chance."

Calderon back in action

Junior flyweight champ Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon (32-0, six KOs) of Puerto Rico, who will defend his crown against the Philippines' Rodel Mayol (25-3, 19 KOs) at Madison Square Garden Saturday night on the Miguel Cotto-Joshua Clottey undercard -- but not on the HBO broadcast -- can't wait to get back in the ring after a long layoff.

Calderon hasn't fought since August, when he defended his title by winning a seven-round technical decision against ex-champ Hugo Cazares in a rematch. However, Calderon was severely cut from an accidental head clash, which is why the fight was sent to the scorecards.

Ivan Calderon

Al Bello/Getty Images

After a long layoff, Ivan Calderon is ready to get back to business.

"It was one of the reasons I have been out for so long," said Calderon, Cotto's 2000 Olympic teammate. "I had surgery, and it healed good. But I was ready to fight at the beginning of the year, but we had some dates and fights that kept changing. We couldn't get the opponents or the TV. I was supposed to fight in February, and then they moved me to May and now June."

Calderon has long been one of boxing's most technically gifted fighters, but he said he plans to give the fans a more exciting fight on Saturday than he usually does, even though he's disappointed his bout won't be televised in the U.S.

"It's going to be something real good," Calderon said. "I'm going to be a little more aggressive and give the people what they want to see."

Abraham returns to Showtime

Middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham (29-0, 23 KOs), unable to come to terms to face mandatory challenger Giovanni Lorenzo on June 27, has received an exception and will instead face German countryman Mahir Oral (25-1-2, 10 KOs) in Berlin.

American fight fans will be able to see the fight, albeit on a few hours' tape delay, on Showtime, which will feature the bout on a special edition of "ShoBox" at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Announcers Nick Charles and Steve Farhood will call the fight from a studio in New York while Al Bernstein will be on site in Germany to set the scene and handle interviews, Showtime's Gordon Hall told ESPN.com.

Arthur Abraham

Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images

It's Showime! Arthur Abraham, right, has punched his his way onto a special edition of "ShoBox" on June 27.

Showtime has had interest in Abraham for some time and aired his rematch against Edison Miranda in June 2008, Abraham's only fight in America.

The winner of Abraham-Oral likely will face Lorenzo in the fall. Abraham and Oral are friendly and familiar with each other because they sparred together earlier in their careers.

"We know each other from our early days as sparring partners, although now we have both matured," Oral said. "Arthur has become 'King,' and I have developed a lot, too."

Said Abraham, who will make his 10th title defense, "In 2003 and 2004, we sparred a lot together in Cologne. We got on well with each other. We are both sportsmen and are training hard. We both do our own job, but of course, I would be lying if I didn't say I want to win. Afterwards, things will revert to how they were before."

Also on the card, but not part of Showtime's broadcast, middleweight contender Sebastian Sylvester faces Lajuan Simon in an eliminator. Simon lost to Abraham in March.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.


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