Welterweight contender Joshua Clottey came out the loser in a close, rugged fight with Miguel Cotto on Saturday night, but there's a good chance his stock went up a lot higher than that of the victor.
Clottey (35-3, 20 KO) has lost three fights in his career. The first was an 11th round DQ against Carlos Baldomir, a fight which Clottey led on all scorecards at the time of the stoppage. The second was a gritty defeat against Antonio Margarito in 2006, a fight now questioned, as many of Margarito's fights will always be. The third came Saturday, a split decision against the world's second-best (at worst) welterweight.
Yes, I think Cotto deserved a close victory, but Clottey's defenders have their arguments, and they're good ones, too. The main knock on Clottey came from a business standpoint: He had no name. There was no money in a fight with Clottey, who had proven to be a dangerous opponent against Margarito. After he demolished Diego Corrales in a 149-pound catchweight fight in 2007, he took lopsided victories over Felix Flores, Shamone Alvarez and Jose Luis Cruz. He fought those men in large part because no one wanted to fight him.
Last August, he beat Zab Judah, giving him the "big win" he badly needed. It also gave him an alphabet title to use for negotiation. Though many of us feel these trinkets are more ceremonial or flat-out horse pucky than anything legitimate, they do make a difference for the fighters, and mean something to most of them. He gave up that title to fight fellow Top Rank pugilist Cotto.
The official decision didn't go Clottey's way, but while he had respect among the diehards before, it's now 110% obvious that this is a guy not to take lightly. He gave Cotto all he could handle. Yeah, there were oddities -- Cotto's vision being blurred thanks to a nasty cut from an accidental headbutt, Clottey's knee getting banged on a slip/shove, etc. -- but those things happen in fights. And even before the cut, his defense was proving to be a handful for Cotto, who struggled to crack Clottey's wall.
A rematch would be welcome for most, and I'm assuming Clottey wants it very badly. Cotto will probably be able to find a fight that makes him more money, maybe even against Manny Pacquiao, another Top Rank fighter. Pacquiao-Cotto would pit Top Rank's two biggest cash cows against one another, which is win-win-win-win-win for Bob Arum.
But Clottey? One way to look at it is that he showed everyone just how good he is, and now nobody will want to fight him all over again. He may have to take a stay-busy fight next, but the Cotto fight did nothing but good things for his career. Many feel he won, and now HBO has had him in a main event where he showed his skills and proved he's one of the world's best welterweight fighters.
The biggest problem he'll have now is simple: Welterweight isn't as deep as HBO or a lot of other folks pretend. Including Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez in the welterweight picture isn't realistic, and Floyd Mayweather Jr. isn't going to fight Clottey, so that's three guys down. Mosley wants "big fights," and Clottey probably doesn't qualify. Cotto will be looking for Pacquiao. Who's left? Lou DiBella isn't going to put Andre Berto in with him, and if they want Berto to keep that WBC title and his unbeaten record, I'd say they're better off that way. Paul Williams says he can still make 147, but would Clottey be attractive enough? Judah likely won't want him again. All the name fighters at 147 have been discussed now.
He's more of a name now than he was Friday, though, and that's the good thing. If Top Rank gets behind him and really pushes him, they've got a hell of a boxer on their hands, and a guy that deserves their support.