Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Twenty thousand screaming Puerto Ricans couldn't possibly be wrong, could they?
As a matter of fact, says Joshua Clottey...yes.
"I think I won the fight, but I didn't get the decision," the 32-year-old Ghanan said, shortly after dropping a narrow split verdict to crowd favorite Miguel Cotto in front of a raucously partisan crowd Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
"I think I was the more active guy, chasing him down, and most of his punches just hit my hands. I want (promoter) Bob Arum to get me a rematch. I'm very, very upset, but that's life and I have to move on."
The bout, on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day parade through the city, allowed the 28-year-old Cotto to retain his WBO welterweight title for the first time since winning a vacant crown against Englishman Michael Jennings four months ago.
It was his fourth appearance in five years as the pre-parade attraction at the Garden, following up on previous defeats of Mohamad Abdulaev (TKO 9, 2005), Paul Malignaggi (W 12, 2006) and Zab Judah (TKO 11, 2007).
SportsNetwork.com agreed with Judge Tom Miller giving Joshua Clottey a 114-113 nod.
Judges John McKaie and Don Trella scored the bout in his favor, 115-112 and 116-111, respectively. Only Tom Miller dissented, giving Clottey a 114-113 nod.
SportsNetwork.com agreed with Miller, seeing Clottey as a 114-113 winner.
"I think the referee should have done something about the fouling he was doing," said Clottey, referring to a fifth-round sequence in which he was wrestled to the ground and two in the 12th where he was hit behind the head and struck with a borderline low blow.
Referee Arthur Mercante Jr. briefly admonished Cotto for the infractions, but did not penalize him with any point deductions.
"I understand it's the eve of the Puerto Rican parade and the referee was trying to protect him because he could not make the Puerto Ricans mad."
Now 35-3 overall in a professional career that began in 1995, Clottey fell to 1-2 in world title fights.
He dropped a unanimous decision to then-champion Antonio Margarito in a previous try for the WBO belt in 2006 in Atlantic City, then beat Judah on a nine-round technical decision last August for the vacant IBF championship.
Cotto's lone loss in 35 fights came against Margarito by 11th-round TKO last July in Las Vegas. He is now 14-1 in championship fights at 140 and 147 pounds.
"I think Joshua Clottey proved tonight that he's a great fighter, no question about it," said Arum, who promotes both Cotto and Clottey under his Top Rank Boxing banner. "I'm very, very proud of the performance he put up."
Cotto made a brief appearance at the post-fight news conference with bandages over his left eye, which was cut by an accidental Clottey headbutt in the third round and bled intermittently for the remainder of the bout.
He took a few questions before leaving to have the gash stitched, according to Arum.
"I think I'll take a rest now and talk to my team and the company, and if a rematch is the way the company wants to go, then we'll do it," Cotto said. "But, according to me, what's next is a vacation. The people are going to have to wait a little bit."
Perhaps more likely as Cotto's next opponent is Filipino Manny Pacquiao, the reigning IBO junior welterweight champion who was in attendance at the Garden and drew loud cheers when he was shown on the video scoreboard during pre- fight announcements.
Pacquiao, who'd driven Oscar De La Hoya to retirement with a ninth-round stoppage in December, returned to stop Ricky Hatton in two rounds in May.
Pacquiao has reportedly requested a match with Cotto take place at a catch weight of 142 pounds, while Cotto has claimed he won't go below 145 to make it happen.
Arum, who also promotes Pacquiao, said he was confident "reason would prevail."
"We'll get a weight that pleases both guys," Arum said. "It won't be 145 and it won't be 142, but somewhere in between we'll get a weight."
As for Clottey, Arum suggested a meeting with WBA champion Shane Mosley was a follow-up possibility, perhaps more so than a previously discussed challenge of WBC champion Andre Berto.
"Berto, let's be honest, is really an inexperienced welterweight," Arum said. "Title or no title, he's an inexperienced fighter and I wouldn't blame him if he didn't want to fight Joshua Clottey at this juncture. Mosley at this point is more realistic."
Floyd Mayweather Jr., who'll return from a two-year sabbatical when he meets Juan Manuel Marquez next month, was largely dismissed by Arum, who mocked the former champion's perceived reticence to fight dangerous opponents.
"Floyd Mayweather is getting ready to fight Marquez, and then he'll probably want to fight Calderon," Arum said, referring to 108-pound champion Ivan Calderon, who retained his WBO title with a bloody technical decision on the undercard. "He can't psychologically face losing, therefore he'll only fight someone he thinks is not a danger.
"That's why he's not interested in fighting a guy like Shane Mosley, who's a great fighter, because Mosley's got a good chance to beat him. But hey, if he wants Miguel Cotto or he wants Joshua Clottey or he wants Manny Pacquiao, OK. He can call me. But you don't hear anything like that."
Cotto, who weighed in at 146.25 pounds, scored the bout's lone knockdown with a quick left hand in the closing seconds of the first round and controlled the subsequent two rounds as the busier and sharper fighter.
The momentum changed after the cut, however, which prompted Clottey to become more aggressive and shifted Cotto's approach to one of retreat, where he tried to reach his foe with clean, albeit less frequent shots as he advanced.
Cotto again performed well in the sixth, when he drove Clottey to the ropes with a quick combination to the body and head at the midway point and kept him there with consistent punishment through the session's final 90 seconds.
The onslaught seemed to tire the champion, though, as Clottey again rallied and seemed to take charge in rounds seven through 10, frequently moving Cotto to the ropes and occasionally rattling him with snapping overhand rights.
The final two rounds were back and forth, prompting each corner to lift its fighter at the final bell in anticipation of a points victory.
"After 10 rounds, I had it five rounds to five, meaning Cotto was ahead by a point because of the knockdown," Arum said. "I thought he clearly won the 11th, and the 12th could have gone either way, so if you had him winning it he won the fight by three points, and if Clottey won it, it was a one-point fight."
In terms of rounds, judges McKaie and Trella gave Cotto seven and eight out of 12, respectively.
Miller, on the other hand, awarded seven of the 12 to Clottey.
SportsNetwork.com gave Clottey the fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th rounds, and scored Cotto the winner of the first, second, third, sixth and 12th.
"I thought I had a good performance," Clottey said. "I was throwing both hands a lot and chasing him, and he was just moving around. I thought that was the best way for me to win the fight. If you are doing the pressuring, you win."
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 20-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to Stone Cold Sports on the MVN Network (stonecoldsports.com) and several sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.