Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bronx champ, Clottey, unknown

Pacquiao vs ClotteyNear Yankee Stadium on Anderson Avenue, a muscle-hound man slams the door to his modest apartment. On the street, he starts to jog. No one gasps. No one points. No one stares.

No one knows Joshua Clottey, a Bronx resident since 2003. Which is remarkable.Because on Saturday, March 13, two billion people around the world will watch Clottey, 32, a top-ranked welterweight, pummel superstar Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.

Some 40,000 people will attend the bout at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, scheduled to air in the United States on HBO. Clottey, born and raised in Ghana, trains at John’s Gym in the Bronx.

“He works so hard,” John’s Gym owner and Clottey cornerman Gjin Gjini said. “He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t party. He guns eight or nine miles a day, not on a treadmill, outside in the Bronx. On the street, in his building, no one knows who he is.”

Tyreek Goodman, who also trains at John’s Gym, agreed.

“He’s a nice dude,” Goodman said. “Real quiet, though.”

Clottey, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs some 147 pounds, returned to the United States from Ghana on Tuesday, February 2 and returned frustrated. He hoped to obtain trainer Godwin Dzanie Kotey a renewed visa, but the United States embassy in Accra refused. He plans to prepare for the Pacquiao bout in Florida, Gjini said.

The Ghanaian phenom, nicknamed “Grand Master,” is a former welterweight world champ and boasts a 35-3 career record with 21 knockouts. Clottey surrendered his belt to Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto in June 2009 on a controversial split decision.

Clottey joined John’s Gym in 2006, on Westchester Avenue near the Hub. Gjini, 33, an Albanian who immigrated to the Bronx in 1997, had acquired the legendary, but dilapidated spot, formerly known as Jerome Gym, in 2004. Clottey jogs from his apartment in Highbridge to the gym, his former trainer, Kwame Asante, said.

‘I knew in my heart that the gym would turn out a world champ,” Gjini said. “When [Clottey] first came to the gym, I could see that he was in shape, that he was serious.”

Promoters hoped to pit southpaw Pacquiao, who pulverized Cotto in November 2009, against the unbeaten braggart Floyd Mayweather Jr. but when the two squabbled and Mayweather Jr. insisted on steroid tests, they settled on Clottey.

“He has a shot,” said Asante, who hangs at John’s Gym. “He knows how to fight a southpaw. I know Joshua will win.”

Although Clottey is bigger and stronger than Pacquiao, experts expect the likable Filipino to win. Gjini is unsure.

“A good big man beats a good small man,” Gjini said. “Pacquiao is a great small man. Joshua might not win the fight, but he’ll win fans. Pacquiao won’t push him around.”

Gjini and veteran cutman Lenny DeJesus plan to join Clottey in Dallas. The gym owner is excited.

“It will be a good fight, an international,” he said. “When you have a Filipino and an African...two continents collide.”

Gjini encouraged Bronx residents to back Clottey and to tune in.

“Listen, he’s a good guy,” Gjini said. “He doesn’t drink, doesn’t party. Everyone in New York should get behind him. Everyone in the Bronx should feel proud.”


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