So finally we get a very meaningful, very significant divisional match up as a pair of unbeaten Super Middleweights meet this Saturday before what is expected to be nearly 60, 000 at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. The Pride of Wales Joe Calzaghe 43-0 (32 KO’S) takes on the unbeaten ‘Viking Warrior’ Mikkel Kessler 39-0 (29 KO’S) to decide who is really best at a buck 68.
Let’s break it down as best we can given how little we have seen of these two here in America. Calzaghe has been a champion since 1997 when he defeated Chris Eubank by a 12-round unanimous decision. Since then he has done a great job of defending his WBO 168 pound crown as he has had 20 successful title defenses against some good opposition. Joe has defeated the likes of Robin Reid (12-round split decision 1999), Omar Sheika (TKO in 5, 2000), Mario Veit (TKO in 1, 2001), and again over Veit (TKO in 6, 2005), Byron Mitchell (TKO in 2, 2003), Jeff Lacy (12-round unanimous decision 2006), and he is coming off a 3rd round TKO over Peter Manfredo in April of this year.
As for his opponent, Kessler, the same opposition comparison cannot be made as Mikkel has only fought a few opponents with any recognition whatsoever, at least over here across the pond. Kessler won a few fringe titles before capturing the WBA Super Middleweight Championship knocking out Julio Cesar Green in the first round in March of 2004. Since then, the ‘Viking Warrior’s’ biggest wins have been against Anthony Mundine (12-round unanimous decision 2005), Eric Lucas (TKO in 10 2006), Markus Beyer (KO in 3 2006), and his last fight, the only one most of us have ever seen, a very impressive 12-round shutout over Librado Andrade.
The opposition comparison clearly goes to Calzaghe but with one huge exception. In terms of big names, Kessler did take on a name much larger than any of Calzaghe’s. Kessler defeated a fella named Dean Martin in November of 1998. However, that Dean Martin was never a member of the Rat Pack.
You cannot criticize anything about what Calzaghe and Kessler have done inside the squared circle, but you can criticize the location of the squared circles they have worked in. They’re all at home, as both of these guys have only ventured away from Mom a few times. Calzaghe has fought in Germany and in Denmark but never here in the United States. As for Mikkel, he has only fought twice away from Denmark, and he actually did fight here in Vegas in 2000. These guys know more about home cookin’ than perhaps any other champions today. If you compare it to what Winky Wright or even a Manny Pacquiao have had to endure along with so many others, it seems a little unfair to call yourself a world champion when you have never left your front porch!
The fighters are not really to blame; it’s the system that has allowed it to happen. Well, at least we finally do get them together and despite the homer stuff they truly are the best at super middleweight. The home field advantage will go to Calzaghe, as does the level of opposition faced.
Physically the two match up evenly, Kessler will have a slight height advantage and he is the stronger of the two I feel. As for style, well, Calzaghe is a southpaw volume puncher extraordinaire. He is very fast and punches in bunches, has very good stamina, and deceptive power. He throws punches ugly to me, but very effective. He almost appears to be slapping, but obviously it works…43-0. Most important he really knows how to win and does not know how to lose.
Same must be said about Kessler, an orthodox fighter who is a very quick, very straight and an accurate combination puncher, at least that’s what my pugilistic eyes saw when he fought Librado, the only time I have seen him fight. He is younger by 7 years to the 35-year-old Calzaghe, but I don’t think that will be a big advantage for Mikkel as Calzaghe is a well-preserved boxer and has not suffered any real beatings.
I usually can break down style advantages for one fighter over another, but I simply have not seen enough of Kessler or even Calzaghe for that matter to make an honest ‘Smitty’ analysis. So conventional wisdom is obvious here, pick the more experienced against better opposition guy who is fighting at home, right? That’s Joe Calzaghe over Mikkel Kessler by most likely a 12 round decision, that’s the conventional pick here. You know what I think about being conventional, right? Remember my De La Hoya over Mayweather pick against very obvious conventional wisdom. I have learned my lesson, right? Sorry Mom. My pick is Kessler to pull out an unconventional victory.