Thursday, March 11, 2010
Updated: March 12, 1:15 PM ET
Clottey, trainer find resolve as subs
By Dan Rafael
Joshua Clottey was in his native Ghana in January not even thinking about boxing when he got the call from manager Vinny Scolpino. The Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. negotiations had imploded, and Pacquiao needed an opponent to face.
Top Rank, which promotes Pacquiao and Clottey, was offering Clottey, a former welterweight titlist, the opportunity to make a seven-figure payday by challenging Pacquiao for his title.
Clottey, admittedly a great admirer of the pound-for-pound king, quickly accepted the chance of a lifetime and will fight Pacquiao on Saturday night (HBO PPV, $49.95) at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
As Clottey and Scolpino went about setting up the training camp, Clottey hoped to reunite with trainer Godwin Kotey, from whom he had split in 2004.
Clottey (35-3, 21 KOs) had parted ways with trainer Kwame Asante last year following his close decision loss to Miguel Cotto in June, and he wanted Kotey to return to his corner.
Kotey agreed, and after a brief media tour to promote the fight, Clottey returned to Ghana to help Kotey secure a visa that would allow him to come to the United States for training camp and the fight. However, Kotey was denied.
When Clottey found out that Kotey would not be able to enter the United States after a clampdown on visas following an attempted airliner bombing on Christmas Day, he wept.
"It is true," Clottey said of his reaction to the news.
Clottey said he couldn't wait for the visa situation to be ironed out "because I have to get ready to fight and my life is on the line."
That left Clottey, the substitute fighter against Pacquiao (50-3-2, 38 KOs), to find a substitute trainer.
Enter Lenny De Jesus, a 64-year-old New Yorker and locksmith by trade -- but a boxing lifer. De Jesus has been around the game for more than 40 years working on and off as a trainer, but mostly as cutman -- the role he performed in Clottey's corner for his past three bouts.
In February, De Jesus took over Clottey's Fort Lauderdale, Fla., camp as head trainer, and he will also serve as the cutman on Saturday night.
"In other fights, my cutman, Lenny, was pushing me a lot, so I thought I would use him as my trainer," Clottey said. "I have known Lenny, and he is a very good man. He was my cutman with Cotto. So my trainer could not get a visa and I picked [De Jesus] to be my trainer for this fight."
It is just a bonus that De Jesus is quite familiar with Pacquiao. De Jesus served as the fighter's cutman for six fights and believes his knowledge of Pacquiao can help in Clottey's quest for the upset.
"I really don't need to look at video of Manny Pacquiao. I worked enough of his fights and know how he fights," De Jesus said. "Manny will be Manny. You can teach a fighter certain things, and when you get hit and hurt you go back to your style. He has fought many fighters who were on top on the way down. [Clottey] is a strong, lean fighter. I'm going to bring the best out of him."
Of course, Pacquiao's cutman, Miguel Diaz, also has good knowledge of Clottey, having worked in his corner before De Jesus was part of the team.
Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer and a four-time trainer of the year, said De Jesus' past work with Pacquiao won't make a difference.
"He knows us pretty well, but we have changed a lot since then," Roach said. "He thinks he's going to face the old Manny Pacquiao, but that's not going to be the case. I respect him and he's a good boxing guy. Am I a better trainer? I don't know, but I have the better fighter. We have the perfect game plan, and I don't care who trains Joshua Clottey for this fight; he can't beat us. He is what he is. Let's face it: He fights the same way in every tape I watch. Whether he fights southpaws or right-handers, he is predictable.
"He's good at what he does, but he does the same thing over and over again and he is very predictable. He's going to try to change for this fight, but once he gets in he will revert back to it. We are 100 percent ready for his style. He is resilient. The beginning of the fight is going to be very hard because he is a very good opponent and he likes to fight. We will break him down, and I am confident the fight will not go 12 rounds."
By all accounts, the Clottey-De Jesus pairing has worked well so far, even if using a substitute trainer doesn't seem like the ideal way for Clottey to go into the biggest fight of his life, one in which he is a prohibitive underdog.
"I asked Joshua about that, and he and Lenny are getting along really well," said Top Rank's Bob Arum. "Lenny has taught him a lot of new things. Lenny has been around the sport for a long time. You know how much of boxing is mental. Joshua feels at ease and confident with him. Is Lenny De Jesus going to be mentioned in the same category as Freddie Roach? Of course not, but there are very few trainers who can be."
Scolpino said he is comfortable with De Jesus in the lead role and, more importantly, so is Clottey.
"Lenny is an old-school guy," Scolpino said. "Been around 40-plus years in the business. He's calm, cool and collected and has a lot of knowledge that Joshua has just been absorbing.
"He brings a wealth of experience, he knows the business, he knows what to do in the ring whether he's a cutman or whether he's a trainer. So we are comfortable. Joshua is comfortable with him and we are ready to rumble. Josh was training in Ghana with another trainer [Kotey] and we tried to get that trainer in, but we weren't sitting on the sidelines hoping and praying that that trainer would get in. We had plans. If the trainer joined us from Ghana, we would love it. Right now we are comfortable with what we have, and Josh is a true professional. Josh is so excited to get in that ring with Manny. We are ready to rumble."
De Jesus said Clottey has been a good student and a hard worker.
"Camp was good. We have a good respect between us," De Jesus said. "I don't talk too much. I see little mistakes and let Joshua know. He's been very good in camp. We've done about 90 good rounds [of sparring]. I think I got a chance, like anybody else [would], to win this fight. I know we're 4-to-1 to lose. That's good. It will motivate us some more."
Even if Kotey had made it stateside, Scolpino said De Jesus was going to be part of the camp. Now his role has just expanded.
"Whether Godwin came or not, Lenny was going to be there -- and as a bit more than just a cutman," Scolpino said. "It was always the plan to have Lenny in camp. We didn't sit there and wait to see if Godwin would get the visa. We were always prepared for the worst. We were hoping [Godwin] would be able to come. It is what it is. All I know is that this has been the best training camp I have ever seen, and the kid is in phenomenal shape. He wasn't even in this kind of shape for the Cotto fight."
Scolpino thinks the change of trainer has been refreshing for Clottey.
"I think it's a change of pace," Scolpino said. "I think everything is clicking. I am not just saying it. I have never seen this kid in such good shape. Just fabulous. Him and Lenny just hit it off. It just clicked. It's been a very good training camp."
Scolpino has known De Jesus for years. One of Scolpino's other fighters, former super middleweight titlist Alejandro Berrio, also has him as a trainer.
"He's not the most known guy, but he's trained guys. He's just never had anybody in this kind of spotlight before," Scolpino said.
A Clottey win, of course, would do wonders for De Jesus' reputation and significantly raise his profile. But when asked about that possibility, he downplayed the potential personal rewards.
"To me, it's the whole camp, not just me," De Jesus said. "Scolpino, the chef, the kid with the pads, all of us. It's going to be a good win for all of us. I'm a team player. I know it will put us all in a good position. I think we have a pretty good chance. I'm not overconfident, but I'm very excited. Fighting Manny Pacquiao comes once in a lifetime. You're fighting the pound-for-pound best guy on the planet.
"These guys will get in the ring and fight, and my job is to have a calm, collected corner so Joshua can listen to instructions and then go out there and do it. I will tell my kid if there is an opening and what to do."
From one substitute to another.
|Ready to rumble: A rough start to training hasn't thrown Joshua Clottey off his game.|
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.