Business And Bad Blood

By Francis Walker
Updated: July 30, 2008

NEW YORK — When Joshua Clottey (31-2, 20 KOs) meets Zab Judah (36-5, 25 KOs) for the IBF welterweight championship vacated by newly crowned WBA champion Antonio Margarito, the two will undoubtedly have a personal grudge to settle.

Clottey, a 31 year-old from Accra, Ghana, will battle Judah, 30, Brooklyn, NY, in what should be a very personal encounter according to Clottey’s trainer Kwame Asante.

“We have a grudge with him,” Asante told BASN during an exclusive interview this week. “It’s going to be an interesting fight.”

“About four years ago after Clottey fought Lloyd Joseph he said he wanted to fight the best — Judah, Cotto, and Margarito,” Asante added. “When we went to the gym Judah said to Clottey, ‘you want to box me?'”

Clottey asked Judah: “why when someone mentions your name you get pissed? Judah said he wanted to ‘spar’ with Joshua. Then Judah was with Don King. Joshua said that he wanted to fight him as a ‘sportsman’.”

The situation that had occurred at the famous Gleason’s Gym in downtown Brooklyn became ugly. Judah insisted that Clottey ‘spar’ with him to the extent he would taunt Clottey.

“At Gleason’s Gym, Zab came up to the ring to disrupt Clottey’s training,” Asante recalled. “Zab pushed me. I was really pissed that he pushed me. Then Zab said he wanted to fight me. I told him that he was lucky that I was on his turf.”

“Zab doesn’t have any discipline. They didn’t teach him discipline.”

The idea was that if Judah sparred with Clottey, Zab would have had opportunity to breakdown Clottey’s strengths and weaknesses as fighter. Clottey would have had a sparring partner’s mentality, as Zab would have taken cheap shots at him. When Zab figured he was comfortable enough and knew for sure he could beat Clottey, then Zab would have perhaps fought him – in a real, professional boxing match.

That didn’t happen. Instead, Clottey turned Zab way; leaving him pondering as to whether he could beat Clottey if the two were to fight one day.

“All along through when he was welterweight champion were trying to fight Zab,” Asante said. “Zab has avoided him. Now the title is vacant. He knows he cannot beat Joshua.”

“Zab is trying his luck against Joshua,” Asante said. He’s just trying is luck.”

Styles makes fights

Judah has lightening quick reflexes and can generate power very easily. Judah has all of the physical tools and is very dangerous in the early rounds. Judah, well known for his offense, will test Clottey’s defense and solid boxing skills.

“We know Zab is good in the early rounds,” Asante said. “We’ll go to the body and take the air out of him. Fourth and sixth rounds, he’s going to start to tire. I know that Zab cannot definitely take it. Zab cannot do anything to Joshua.”

“Joshua Clotty is going to knock Zab Judah out,” Asante said. “Watch for it.”

Judah, a former two-division world champion, is trained by his father and former professional kickboxing champion Yoel Judah. Zab’s brothers also box professionally. Clottey will be fighting one of the most talented fighters in the sport. If Clottey can KO Judah for a world championship, it would definitely be the crowning achievement of his career.

Clottey the total package?

Clottey presents a difficult style for any fighter. Clottey is always in superb conditioning and a very tight defense.

“People find it difficult to break through,” Asante said. “They hit his hands the way Clottey keeps his guard up. It’s very difficult to hit him. They don’t want to take a chance with Joshua because, they don’t know him too much. If he beats one of the top fighters then they may fight him.”

In preparation for the bout with Judah, Clottey has boxed upwards to ten-twelve round intervals in sparring. He’s been hitting the pads for numerous rounds. Of course Clottey enjoys hitting the speed bag and the heavy bag in the gym.

Clottey also has a reputation for running upwards to eight-ten mile intervals during training camp. The guy likes to run.

“He trains very hard for every fight,” Asante said. “We don’t take any fight as an ordinary fight. We take very fight as a championship fight. He’s in good condition.”

Recovery after loss to Margarito

The only reason why Judah agreed to fight Clottey is from a business standpoint. The IBF belt that Margarito vacated after he knocked out Kermit Cintron (again) in April is at stake. The winner could get a crack at Margarito, who has to be considered the No. 1 welterweight champion in the world.

Judah has never fought Margarito, but Clottey has.

In December 2006, Clottey challenged Margarito for the WBO welterweight championship. Clottey was giving Margarito all he could handle during the early rounds of the contest. However, Clottey injured his right hand after the fourth round and the momentum shifted. Margarito would retain his championship on a unanimous 12-round decision.

“After the fourth round,” Asante said, “Joshua was complaining about his hand. He’s very good with his left hand. When the injury occurred it slowed him down. He was fighting with one hand. The crowd saw his hand injured. We don’t let people know that something has happened. He’s a warrior. After the fight he complained about his hand.”

Asante knew that Margarito was indeed one of the best welterweights in the world capable to beating anyone at 147 pounds. In fact Asante knew that Margarito was going to beat Miguel Cotto last Saturday. Margarito stunned the world when he stooped Cotto in the eleventh round.

“I knew that Margarito was going to win the fight,” Asante said. It was unfortunate that we left New York early. We told everybody that Margarito would beat Cotto.”

While fighters like Cotto, Margarito, Judah, and Sugar Shane Mosley fought in high profile pay per view fights making lots of money against the best fighters in the world, it took Clottey two years to fight his way back into contention following the Margarito fight.

Clottey became the IBF No. 1-ranked contender after he defeated previously unbeaten prospect Shamone Alvarez through twelve rounds in December 2007. Clottey has fought only once since then and has won his last four bouts.

It’s been a very difficult road for Clottey. Of course he has been able to remain active and get fights, but not the type of fights that will have people wanting to see Clottey again. Clottey needs to fight the premiere welterweights in the world, but it’s difficult when everyone else simply tells you “no, thanks.”

That is why this fight with Judah is so important for Clottey’s career. A victory against Judah, a former undisputed world welterweight champion, IBF and WBO junior welterweight champion, Clottey can almost be certain of having a big money fight.

Diego Corrales was Clottey’s biggest win

Perhaps the biggest and most memorable fight of Clottey’s career was against Diego ” Chico” Corrales. It was memorable because, not only was it Clottey’s biggest win, but little did we know that Clottey would be the last man to have ever fought Corrales.

Corrales died on May 7, 2007 in a motorcycle accident; one month after he lost a 10-round decision to Clottey.

“We all know Corrales was a good fighter, a warrior,” sante said. “The way he battled Castillo, as he moved to welterweight they thought that he could keep up that momentum. That wasn’t his weight.”

Asante said of Clottey’s performance: “That fight he fought was good because, what Corrales planned to do, he couldn’t do it. Corrales said ‘this guy is a good fighter. Joshua has a good reach, a very good reach. When Corrales came inside, he couldn’t do what they promised to do.”

There’s a lot on the line for both Judah and Clottey. There will be an explosion in what should be a very closely contested battle that may be decided in the later rounds. Let’s hope that emotions can be in check long enough so that the fight would have an exciting and decisive finish.