The wiry Ghanian will never be confused with Sugar Ray Leonard or even Ike Quartey, but he presents some unique challenges for the champion. Aside from the obvious height and reach discrepancies, Clottey, who weighed 156 pounds in the ring against Zab Judah in 2008, may have as much as a 15-pound advantage on fight night. Pacquiao may have defeated Cotto and Oscar De La Hoya at welterweight, but those opponents enjoyed their greatest success at 140 pounds or below; Clottey has campaigned nearly his entire career at welterweight.
Pacquiao enters Saturday's fight on a streak of four soul-stirring victories against larger opponents: a ninth-round TKO of David Diaz for the lightweight title in June 2008; an emphatic ninth-round stoppage of De La Hoya in December 2008 that sent the Golden Boy into retirement; an awesome second-round starching of Ricky Hatton for the junior welterweight crown in May; and a TKO of Cotto in last year's most lucrative fight. With each successive outing, the Filipino seems to be getting better and better. He's not just bringing his punch up with him, but he's also absorbing opponents' shots more effectively.
No one expects Clottey to beat Pacquiao, so he's approaching the fight with nothing to lose. He's a strong, forward-moving pressure fighter who's looked impressive against southpaws in the past. He's worthy of the opportunity, but whether he has the overall excellence to contend with a fighter as skilled and dynamic as Pacquiao is a big question.
Roach, a four-time Trainer of the Year, is one of the game's best corner men whose partnership with Pacquiao is becoming the stuff of legend. On the flip side, visa issues have prevented Clottey's favored trainer, Godwin Dzanie Kotey, from traveling to the United States for the fight. That means corner duties for Team Clottey fall to Lenny DeJesus, a veteran who's worked with the likes of Roberto Duran, Wilfredo Gomez and, yes, Pacquiao.
Intangibly, you have to wonder about Pacquiao's motivation, and whether the confidence from his string of recent victories can slip toward hubris. Distractions have been everywhere. Pacquiao is gearing up for a congressional run in the April elections in the Philippines. There's the pending defamation lawsuit over Mayweather's drug-related accusations. A budding singer, he's already scheduled to perform at a post-fight party. All the while, the underestimated Clottey has quietly trained in workmanlike fashion for what he's repeatedly called his "miracle" opportunity.