Reporting from Arlington, Texas — Joshua Clottey has already addressed all questions about his desire out of the ring.
Now, as he completes his preparations for Saturday night's WBO welterweight title fight against Manny Pacquiao, the mystery surrounding Clottey is whether the big underdog can produce the performance of his lifetime. Oddsmakers don't think so: Pacquiao is a 15-2 favorite.
Clottey (35-3, with 21 knockouts) was raised with little education in the African country of Ghana. He made daily trips to the sea as a youngster to reel in fish that he would sell to help support a family he described as "transient." But Clottey, 33, had the good fortune to follow his older brother, Emmanuel, into a sport that proved to be his calling.
"Some guy thought I could fight and put some gloves on me," Clottey said, recalling that when he was 6, he was sent into a bout against a larger youth who promptly slugged him in the stomach and caused him to lose his lunch. "I stayed at it. I learned. This was the way I was going to become somebody."
Thirty-eight fights into his professional career, Clottey's ability to avoid the hurtful blows like the one he sustained so long ago most defines him. Fighting against men who yearned for the same path out of Africa, Clottey never lost a pro bout in his native country.
He is made in the tradition of the greatest fighters from his country, boxers such as Ike Quartey and Azumah Nelson: tough, deliberate, balanced.
"I see 1,000 kids come through my gym who say they want it, but they're not mentally tough like this guy," said Jimmy Gjini, owner of John's Gym in the South Bronx, where Clottey trains. "This guy's always in shape. He's focused, whether it's hitting the bag or jumping rope. There's never any playing around with him.
"I know Pacquiao's good, but he's human and I think Joshua will shock the world and show everyone the potential he has."
Unquestionably, Pacquiao shares with Clottey the attributes of being fueled by a youthful struggle. What separates the champion is that Pacquiao has showcased his ring skills so superbly in recent brilliant performances that his opponents are relegated to underdog status.
Clottey's edge, however, is the meaning of Saturday night.
Because of Pacquiao's popularity, mammoth Cowboys Stadium is expected to have a crowd of about 40,000 for the fight. But this date was supposed to be a Pacquiao bout against unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr., a mega-fight the boxing world had clamored for with each fighter receiving a $25-million guarantee. A dispute over drug testing, loaded with unquenchable ego-motivated demands, left that bout on the scrap heap.
No matter how the Pacquiao camp talks about the Filipino's unyielding dedication — regardless of his opponent — this bout still has the distinct feel of a consolation event.
Not so for the challenger, who takes pride in spreading the word among friends, family and reporters that his bigger size, discipline and defense will bother Pacquiao and affect the outcome of the fight. Clottey was in Ghana when he learned that the Pacquiao-Mayweather negotiations collapsed. "This is it," Clottey told friends.
"He's going to fight Pacquiao all night," Clottey's friend Bismark Bruce said.
Fight promoter Bob Arum says that although "no one can beat Manny Pacquiao, Clottey will make the best show. He brings it. He's tougher than Mayweather. Any time a little guy goes in with the bigger guy who's already fought everyone, you have to consider the bigger guy."
Clottey is embracing this "Rocky" moment.
"I'm ready to give him the fight of his life," Clottey said. "I'm more focused, more determined because people will see this all over the world and this fight is for my people in Ghana. I want to make them happy. I'm going to win."
"Pacquiao's now fighting a real 147-pounder," Clottey's trainer, Lenny de Jesus, said. "[He plans] to push Manny against the ropes. Manny doesn't fight well going backward. We're going to force the fight, create openings doing so and hit him with strong shots. We'll throw a lot of punches. If he listens, we'll pull it off."
In the view of Pacquiao's trainer, Freddie Roach, Clottey still has to prove he has an answer for Pacquiao's speed advantage and that he can avoid tipping off his punches. In past fights, Clottey has relied on a passive defense when tired, and that probably cost him a close decision loss to Miguel Cotto last June.
"Clottey is very strong — I respect him, but he has a tendency to cover his face too much and go into that shell," Roach said. "Clottey is not as offensive as some of the guys we've fought. You have to throw punches to win fights.
"I think we'll get him before we got Cotto (12th-round TKO). We'll pound him with body shots, and it will be too much. He'll get hit more than he ever has in his life."
Of course, Clottey knows how to take and dodge punches.
It's why he'll be standing in the center of the ring Saturday waiting for Pacquiao, and for his life's work to pay off.