Joshua Clottey - Thursday
Prizefighters are creatures of habit: They run. They punch. They eat. They rest. They repeat.
By deduction, it would seem only out of character that when asked to answer the same question for the 10,000th time they would then become disgruntled. Logic would hold the reverse to be true: a new question would be irritating for disrupting their routine ¯ like a trainer's demand just days before a fight to invent a new type of punch to knock his man out.
Despite these analytics, Joshua Clottey, 32, is exasperated at the prospect of answering one more reporter. "It is just the same questions," he laments to an interviewer on his last day of training, inside a converted conference center in Dallas' Gaylord Hotel, as he walks off.
Eight days earlier in the Bronx, Clottey (35¯3) had no questions to answer, as he sparred in front of a banner reading, "JOHN'S BOXING GYM HOME OF CHAMPIONS." Beneath the banner hung two posters of Ghanaian champions on either side of a crucifix: one bearing the image of Joseph "King Kong" Agbeko and the other of Joshua "Hitter" Clottey. Neither holds a title anymore, but they still do in the posters.
On Wednesday of last week, Clottey sparred against southpaw Francisco "Gato" Figueroa (20¯3¯1), who recently worked with Miguel Cotto prior to his loss to Manny Pacquiao and Juan Urango prior to his loss to junior welterweight champion Devon Alexander. It is growing into an unfortunate track record.
Unlike Pacquiao, who generally keeps three to four sparring partners on hand three days a week, Clottey spars everyday and retains only Figueroa in his stable, who gloves up for six rounds that day of the camp's sum 90 total. Each time Clottey is hit, he retreats into the carapace of his broad shoulders, waiting for the fire to cease, then shuffling up to his opponent, throwing a hook to the ribs and an uppercut.
After sparring, Clottey runs mitts for three rounds with an assistant who seemed certain of which punch combination to call or which direction to move, but rarely both. "Joshua is teaching him how to hold the mitts," says his goateed trainer Lenny De Jesus with a proud grin, as if his son had picked the fat kid to join his team at recess from the kindness of his heart.
The fight of Clottey's life seems an odd time for him to be teaching instead of learning, but perhaps he is practicing his pedagogical skills to give Pacquiao a lesson on March 13.
Jumping on a rubber tire wedged between the ring and the back wall, Clottey cools down as De Jesus packs up. Once a cutman for Pacquiao, De Jesus, 64, is working his first fight in Clottey's corner as a head trainer. (Despite appeals to Ghana's president, Clottey was denied visa requests for his usual trainer Godwin Kotey, preventing his departure to the United States.) According to him, March 13 will be the 76th championship bout that he has worked as a second. He is a bit more animated and loquacious than his fighter, a norm that became fashionable ever since Muhammad Ali retired and Angelo Dundee didn't.
De Jesus grew up in the Bronx, where he used to carry two pairs of boxing gloves with him at all times to provide fair means to settle any dispute arising between him and another citizen of the state. Soon, he married after a brief pro career ("my wife knocked me out," he jests), later becoming a keymaster, a trade he learned from a Jewish man. To this day, the Puerto Rican-American maintains his own locksmith shop when not training fighters. On March 13, he has his travel itinerary mapped out, "We're going straight to Pacquiao's body."
Clottey remains silent throughout the entirety of it all: his trainer's conversation, his sparring, mitt work, ab work, and stretching. After Clottey showers, a reporter asks if he can speak with him a moment. He says that he's sorry, but is leaving now ¯ perhaps another time.