If one were to judge Joshua Clottey by recent ring activity, it would be safe to assume that his heart is no longer in boxing. Since a maddening decision loss to Manny Pacquiao in March 2010, Clottey has fought only five times.
But boxing fans in Ghana ought to know better. Pan any arena during a major local show and you’ll find Clottey stoically looking on. At times, he’ll shout instructions from ringside. Occasionally, he’ll work a corner.
These aren’t acts meant for show. Clottey now calls the East Legon suburb of Accra home yet spends most of his days in the same Bukom province that raised him. His presence in the town’s impoverished gyms is as much an inspiration to others as it is a painful reminder that the bright lights are fleeting. Hopefully, the bigger lesson isn’t lost on these hopefuls: If there’s anything to glean from Clottey’s 21-year career, it’s that if you can’t land a “stay busy” bout, stay busy preparing for one.
That dedication is why Clottey, even at 38-years-old, is arguably still Ghana’s most formidable fighter. Bukomboxingnews.com sat down with the former IBF welterweight champion as he discussed the past, his return bout on March 26th bout, and offered a sobering look at Ghana boxing today.
BBN: Josh, first thing I wanted to say on behalf of Bukom Boxing News is that our thoughts and prayers are with you on the passing of your father and your coach. You said before that these recent events had you contemplating retirement. Do you still feel that way?
JC: Well, when I look back at my career, I realize I haven’t been able to fight in Ghana much. It’s been 15 years (December 2002, when he defeated Ayitey Powers) since I last fought here. That is one thing I haven’t been able to do so Joseph Agbeko and I have decided to fight on the same bill against different opponents in late March.
BBN: Do you know who your opponent is?
JC: No, not yet. We’re finalizing everything so once we complete sponsorships and everything, we’ll announce the opponent and announce the fight.
BBN: In your last fight, against Gabriel Rosado, you fought well but it seemed like he was simply too big. How did you feel about that fight?
JC: Well, to be frank with you, this is based on so many things that go on in boxing circles. When you aren’t American – when you’re a foreigner, especially African – it can be very difficult for you. My fight with [Manny] Pacquiao associated a lot of bad things with me, so I wanted to make amends with the television networks and make amends with the fans.
So I took the Rosado fight, which I knew was going to be dangerous for me because of the weight. I hadn’t even made 154lbs. before. I usually weigh in below that. I train a lot so it’s a struggle for me to get that high. So when they told me about the 158lb. catchweight for this fight, I knew it would be a problem. But I took the fight because I know he’ll be the favorite and I have to show people that I am still there, still strong and ready to make people forget about the Pacquiao fight. I took the fight with all of these disadvantages but it’s all good because, as you said, I fought very well. The same thing others are also saying so that is very good.
BBN: Would you consider going back down to 154lbs or 147?
JC: I will not go to 147 but I’ll fight at 154. I feel comfortable and strong at 154. But you know, my promoter isn’t really promoting me. So I’m always fighting on other people’s cards. But you know, that’s the way it is. I was given the opportunity to fight on TV again so, even though I know it was a dangerous fight, I took it to show the world that I still have more to give.
BBN: You have the fight in March in Ghana but will you look to come back and fight again here in the U.S.?
JC: Yes, of course! I have a U.S. promoter so definitely. I’m fighting here in Ghana for a comeback – I haven’t fought in my home country for a long time so it’s good for me to fight at home and then I’ll come back to the U.S.
BBN: Are there any fighters out right now that you’re targeting?
JC: Yeah, there are a couple guys at 154. The Charlo brothers [Jermall and Jermell, undefeated IBF world junior middleweight champion and undefeated junior middleweight contender, respectively], definitely. Ishe Smith and a few other good fighters out there that I’m ready to fight. And one good thing about this weight is I was so happy that I fought with Rosado because he was a middleweight and I was smaller. But even though I lost the fight I wasn’t beaten. I won the first four rounds and then I found myself getting tired because I was struggling to hit him with his long middleweight reach. And the size differential. So all of a sudden I couldn’t move, and my arms started getting tight and tired because I was forcing myself to reach.
BBN: Well if you can fight like that against a strong middleweight, then you can definitely move back down to 154 and still be a force.
JC: Exactly. I’m 38-years-old and fighting at middleweight is not good for me because I’m always below the weight. So it’s good for me to stay at 154 so I’m just fighting at my normal weight. That makes me fight better but the Rosado fight showed me that I can be good at 154.
BBN: Josh, for someone who is 38, you remain youthful. How many more years do you think you’ll continue fighting.
JC: Well, I can’t really tell you the years. I’m the type of person who respects his body a lot. I don’t want to go to the ring feeling weak, not being able to defend myself…I don’t want to do that. So when my body starts feeling weak, I have to come out and retire. But right now, I feel strong. And the fact that Rosado was a big, strong middleweight who wasn’t able to break me, I know I still have more left to give.
BBN: Looking back at the Pacquiao bout…we’ve heard so many different reasons as to why you underperformed. Do you have any regrets about that fight?
JC: Yes! Trust me – that fight…I think at that point, I was up there fighting the top guys, thinking my career was going to end on a good note. Not like taking small fights, etc. But first thing people have to understand is that with that Pacquiao fight, I really didn’t make a lot of money. I made a million dollars for the first time in my career, yes, but I also lost millions. That’s why we always have to understand that life is not easy. Life is a marathon where you have to be fast.
I really regretted what happened at that fight and the things that happened even before the fight. My manager at the time, was getting 33% of the purse. I had signed a two year contract with him before that fight. So he would be taking 33% of the purse for all of my fights in that time. But this guy wouldn’t give me anything. He never showed up for training; never came to see how I was doing. Never treated me with respect. I mean, he acted as if he didn’t care who I was. But when it’s time for the Pacquiao fight, you are there, ready to claim your 33%. It really pissed me off before I got to the ring and there were times during the fight that I would think about it and was so upset.
So what was going through my mind at that time was how I needed to blow everything up. Change my situation. And realizing all of these things at that time really affected me. You cannot fight for someone who doesn’t care about you. Someone taking food from your mouth but does not even think about you. But it’s all good. This is what is going on in boxing today, especially Ghana boxing.
BBN: You mention people not caring which leads to my next question. You’ve had a very long career and you can make the case that you have been Ghana’s best fighter for the past decade. That has earned you a lot of respect in the States but do you feel that the fans and media in Ghana give you the respect and appreciation that should be given to a country’s top fighter who has won titles and been at the top of his division for a long time?
JC: That’s a good question you’re asking. Let me say one thing about Ghana people: they never really care about the fighters. They never do.
When we talk about sports in Ghana, boxing is the sport that has generated a lot, bringing a lot of honor to the nation. Yet they don’t really care. They really worship the footballers, who have not won anything—not even an African title. I won a world title. I fought the best guys out there in the world. Yet they don’t show any kind of respect. They give all the respect and honor to the footballers who can’t even win the African Cup. And I don’t mean to disrespect any footballer at all. No disrespect to them.
Ghanaians don’t care about the fighters. As a former world champion, not national but world champion, I need to be given that credit. I need to be given that respect when we’re talking about sports in Ghana. Only thing they care about is the Black Stars; then we should pray for the nation and pray for victory and give them respect. And that’s because they aren’t interested in the truth. They don’t worship who is doing the best, just who is going to give them money so they can talk.
I have been fighting the world’s best for 10 years and I never get credit for it.
BBN: Yeah, it’s very surprising to me that among the boxing fans in the U.S., you are given far more credit than among the boxing fans in Ghana.
JC: Yes. Whenever I go for a fight in the U.S., I’m signing autographs for people. They give me respect because they know what is called boxing. They know boxing is not an easy job so when they see a former world champion do you think they’ll just let the person pass by them like that? No way. They’re going to ask for a photo or an autograph. But here, they don’t know what you’ve become, they don’t know what you accomplished. They only know what is present. In the U.S. they know the sport, they understand who won this, who did that, and they give you that respect.
BBN: With everything you’ve accomplished, do you feel that you have more left to prove even still? Is there something you want to do before you retire?Joshua Clottey
JC: Right now in my boxing career I’m not fighting for Joshua. I’m fighting for my trainer, Coach Alloway, may his soul rest in perfect peace.
I think I have to prove myself all over again. I have to fight the best fighters in the world at 154. I think that, in the couple years left in me, I have to prove myself to the world and I’m ready to do that.
BBN: Josh, one final question – you are still actively involved in and close with the sport. Do you want to continue to work in some form in boxing even after you retire?
JC: That’s one thing that…to be frank with you, I cannot answer. Because I feel so bad about boxing and how it is just not going on well in Ghana. Nothing is going on here. The guys that are fighting here don’t make money. I’m talking about GHC500 for a fight. Taking all of those punches. That is very sad. If boxing here improves, I can put myself into it and help but if it’s like this, it will pain me too much to be in someone’s corner while he’s making GHC500 and taking all of this punishment. Something has to change.