“Anytime I go into the ring, I always carry my country on my shoulders” – Joshua Clottey
The past couple of years have been an exciting time for the welterweight division. It has been a period in which a handful of notable talent has grabbed the imagination of fans all around the globe. In fact, several of our sport’s biggest marquee names have either made their home at one-hundred and forty-seven pounds, or have gravitated to it based on the attractive and lucrative opportunities currently available in the division. Adding to the excitement, the diverse nature of the skill sets this talent pool presents, and the distinct array of different heritages represented have served to color the characters at play, truly adding to the compelling nature of each of the many potentially marvelous match-ups.
Currently residing at the top of the welterweight talent pool, and firmly rated among the top three or four marquee notables, Joshua Clottey, 35-2, 20 KO’s, is a man that has traveled long and hard around the globe in search of opportunity and glory, both for himself and his proud homeland of Ghana. In the past thirty years Ghana has produced two very notable world champions, former WBA Welterweight Champion Ike “Bazooka” Quartey, and the great two-division former kingpin, Azumah “The Professor” Nelson. Last summer, “The Grand Master” succeeded in his quest to become a world champion, defeating former two-division champion Zab Judah to take the IBF Welterweight Title, a win that has not only positioned him alongside championship contemporaries such as WBA Champion “Sugar” Shane Mosley, Andre Berto, the reigning WBC Champion, but also with wildly popular former champions in Kermit Cintron, Miguel “Angel” Cotto and Antonio Margarito.
It’s a cinch that “The Grand Master” is in an enviable position relative to the potential paydays and attractive match-ups, but sometimes being dedicated, hungry and talented has a way of making it difficult to move forward. In boxing, winning is always the objective, but sometimes it works out that your success can be an impediment to further opportunities, especially if you possess the constitution of an iron man and the ability to hang tough in the trenches regardless of the style presented. Joshua Clottey finds himself in that rare twilight realm of being both blessed and damned, and like the great Azumah Nelson before him, the hopes and dreams of the Ghanaian people are placed squarely on his broad shoulders each and every time he steps into the squared-circle.
It was indeed a rare opportunity to represent RSR and sit down with Joshua “The Grand Master” Clottey to discuss the recent events in the welterweight division, his journey to the pinnacle of the sport, his feelings on title unification and his hopes for the future.
MP: How have you been doing since winning the IBF Welterweight Title last August and are you anxious to get back into action?
I’m ready to get back into action, you know. My manager and promoter gave me a contract to fight with Kermit Cintron, but I signed the contract and Cintron don’t want to fight, so the fight it off. I’m waiting to find out what is next.
MP: You had a record of 20-0 14 KO’s going into your bout against future WBC Welterweight Champion Carlos Baldomir back November 1999. Your record shows the outcome as being an eleventh-round disqualification loss. Tell us what happened?
Well I was winning the fight, you know. It looked like we had two promoters we were dealing with, Frank Maloney and Panos Eliades. So I was winning and the referee disqualified me for nothing with just a round left. In the fight there was only one round left; just one round. The people that were watching the fight, they started shouting and doing some bad, bad things. So I know that there must have been something between them, a boxing friendship behind the outcome; promotional interests that didn’t include me.
MP: In December 2006 you gave then-WBO Welterweight Champion Antonio Margarito one of his toughest fights, ultimately losing a unanimous decision. What are your recollections of that bout and Margarito as an opponent?
When they gave me a contract to fight him, I know that they regarded him as being somebody that nobody wanted to fight. They offered me the money to fight him, but I knew I would beat him. So they gave me the contract and I took lesser money because I knew I was going beat him and also it was for the world title. So what it really came down to was I was planning to throw a lot of punches on him, just do my thing and win. He was very, very strong and he came on late. I waited too long for some openings when I just should have kept throwing punches on him.
MP: How do you rate his punching power and do you have any comments on the recent suspension of his boxing license by the California State Athletic Commission pending an investigation into his having a plaster-like substance inserted into his hand wraps just before his recent bout with
“Sugar” Shane Mosley?
Well you know what? Maybe he was doing that for a long time. Nobody knows, you know? But I tell you, I always get prepared anytime I get a fight before I get into the ring, because boxing is a very hard sport. The way you are going to fight, you have to prepare yourself. So I always prepare myself really, really hard. Even if he was using illegal things and doing all of that, I felt his punches but not too much because I prepared very much for the fight. He was strong but I was ready.
MP: Getting back on the topic of your big title winning effort last summer, it looked to me as if you were on your way to stopping Zab Judah. What are your recollections of that bout and the moment where you knew you had won a world title?
Well I was #1 position and Zab was something like #4 or #5 in the rankings, but they gave me lesser money. They gave a lot of money to Judah. But I took the fight because I knew me and Zab Judah had a personal problem. He pushed my trainer while we were in training, then he tried to fight with me on the street because I challenged him to meet me in the ring. So when they gave me the contract, I was so happy although the money was not good, but I took it because I knew I would beat him and it was for the championship. I know how to spar with southpaws and that’s why I took the fight and I beat him. When I beat him and when I won the belt, all the time I spent listening to him and all the time I spent going all over the world trying to become a champion, right then in 2008 I was a champion. So I was very, very happy about that. I was thinking that when I became a champion, the guys that are going to want to fight me for the belt, but they just keep running away.
MP: Compare Zab Judah and Antonio Margarito as opponents for us.
Zab Judah is more complicated and difficult. Zab is a very slick southpaw. He’s got all the skills there, he don’t have the heart. Antonio Margarito is not that difficult. He’s really just very strong with a good chin, good head and he keeps coming. He’s a durable guy, but I kept looking too much for the openings to get there before jumping on him. So you have two fighters with very different attributes. Margarito is very durable guy who keeps on coming back, who don’t do too much about his game. Zab Judah has a lot to his game but he doesn’t have the heart. Talking about boxing, Zab is much better, more complicated than Margarito.
MP: Would you be interested in a series of unification bouts with your contemporaries and who would be your first choice among WBA Welterweight Champion “Sugar” Shane Mosley and Andre Berto, the current WBC Welterweight Champion?
Everybody knows that now Shane is the best in the welterweight division because he beat Antonio Margarito. Let me tell you, I knew Margarito was nobody with skills and Shane Mosley was going to beat him. Andre Berto will never fight me because he’s not prepared in America. So I don’t think that he will ever chance me. I want to fight with any of the better fighters. But right now if they would give me the chance to unify the titles I would be very, very much happy. I remember there was a time in 2006 they offered him a fight against me, when Lou Di Bella was my promoter. They said no. Now as a champion and now that I am here with the IBF belt, I think it would be good for us to fight, to unify.
MP: Ghana is a proud nation that has produced some notable boxing names in the past such as Azumah Nelson and Ike Quartey. Do you feel that you carry the weight of your nation on your shoulders whenever you enter the ring?
Exactly right! I never knew how important that was because I wasn’t a champion before. I knew that every time I won a fight they would celebrate and all that back home. But when I won the belt and went to Ghana to show the belt to them, they were all over. They were so happy. Even if you go watch it on You Tube, you will see on there. They were very happy that I won the belt. Everybody in Ghana knows I have to be among the world champions, because they have trust in me. They all know that and anytime I go into the ring, I always carry my country on my shoulders. For me to be the champion for my people, so they can be happy.
MP: Is there anything you’d like to say to your fans in closing?
Well, you know, I can’t understand one thing in America. I don’t know about my promoters, but they have to give me the chance. We have to unify the belts. We have to fight each other. They have to stop saying, this fighter or that fighter they don’t want to fight me. That means they are cowards. I don’t understand it. I want to fight with the best, for people to know me and recognize me as the best. If they don’t give me the chance, I will never get the opportunity. I want them to make them fight me. I’m there to unify the belts and I thank all of the Ghanaian people and all my fans for supporting me.
(Interviewers Closing Note: I would like to thank RSR’s Scott Hendrix for his invaluable assistance in setting up this interview. Without his faith and willingness to introduce me to Joshua Clottey, I would not have had the privilege of speaking with one of today’s most prolific ring warriors and a fine example of a world champion.)
Joshua Clottey Nickname: “Grand Master” Division: Welterweight Professional Record: 35-3, 20 KO's Date Opponent W-L-D Location Result 1995-03-31 Samuel Lotsu 0-1-0 Accra, Ghana W PTS 6 1995-04-14 Joseph Ayinakwa 0-0-0 Benin W TKO 2 1995-04-29 Smart Abbey 0-0-0 Accra, Ghana W TKO 4 1995-05-27 Jomo Jackson 0-1-0 Accra, Ghana W TKO 1 1995-06-03 Nazah Ayetoe 0-0-0 Benin W TKO 5 1995-06-30 Friday Steve Egwatu 0-0-0 Accra, Ghana W TKO 5 1995-07-14 David Duke 0-0-0 Togo W TKO 1 1995-08-25 Sam Akromah 16-10-1 Accra, Ghana W PTS 8 1995-10-25 Ran Coco 0-3-0 Accra, Ghana W TKO 3 1995-11-17 Friday Steve Egwatu 0-1-0 Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire (I W TKO 2 1995-12-22 Marciano Commey 16-2-0 Kaneshie, Ghana W PTS 12 Ghanaian Light Welterweight Title 1996-08-03 Dick Dosseh 1-3-0 Accra, Ghana W TKO 6 1996-10-07 Karl Taylor 14-29-3 Lewisham, United Kingdom W TKO 2 1996-12-28 Abbas De Souza 0-1-0 Accra, Ghana W TKO 2 1997-03-25 Mark Ramsey 13-11-2 Lewisham, United Kingdom W PTS 8 1997-07-12 Cameron Raeside 9-1-1 Kensington, United Kingdo W TKO 2 1997-11-01 Ike Obi 1-2-0 Accra, Ghana W PTS 8 1998-05-23 Dennis Berry 15-6-0 Bethnal Green, United Kin W TD 3 1999-05-01 Ali Mohammed 0-5-0 Accra, Ghana W KO 1 1999-10-19 Viktor Baranov 28-14-3 Bethnal Green, United Kin W TKO 6 1999-11-29 Carlos Manuel Baldomir 28-9-4 Wembley, United Kingdom L DQ 11 WBC International Welterweight Title vacant International Boxing Council Welterweight Title 2001-04-27 Ike Obi 2-4-0 Kaneshie, Ghana W TKO 10 African Boxing Union Welterweight Title 2001-09-08 Didier Mebara 0-0-0 Kaneshie, Ghana W TKO 3 2001-11-30 Siki Benger 0-6-0 Kaneshie, Ghana W TKO 2 2002-12-06 Ayitey Powers 5-0-1 Accra, Ghana W UD 10 2003-11-21 Jeffrey Hill 23-4-0 New York, USA W TKO 6 2004-06-04 Christian Lloyd Joseph 12-4-3 Poughkeepsie, USA W UD 10 2004-07-24 Christopher Henry 18-7-0 Laughlin, USA W TKO 5 2005-02-18 Steve Martinez 46-5-1 Atlantic City, USA NC NC 2 2005-10-21 Marlon Thomas 35-5-1 Verona, USA W UD 10 2005-12-03 Marcos Primera 19-11-2 Las Vegas, USA W UD 10 WBC Continental Americas Light Middleweight Title 2006-07-29 Richard Gutierrez 21-0-0 Santa Ynez, USA W MD 12 IBF Inter-Continental Welterweight Title 2006-12-02 Antonio Margarito 33-4-0 Atlantic City, USA L UD 12 WBO Welterweight Title 2007-04-07 Diego Corrales 40-4-0 Springfield, USA W UD 10 2007-08-09 Felix Flores 22-5-0 Las Vegas, USA W UD 10 2007-12-20 Shamone Alvarez 19-0-0 Las Vegas, USA W UD 12 2008-04-03 Jose Luis Cruz 36-3-2 Brooklyn, USA W TKO 5 2008-08-02 Zab Judah 36-5-0 Las Vegas, USA W TD 9 vacant IBF Welterweight Title