With his dominant 12-round decision over previously unbeaten Mikkel Kessler this weekend before over 50,000 in Cardiff, Wales, Joe Calzaghe has catapulted himself amongst the highest echelon of the fight game. Calzaghe won all but three rounds on my scorecard and one of those I had even. Calzagehe is now the undisputed king at 168 pounds upping his record to an unbelievable 44-0 (32 KO’s). They say he has not been beaten in over 17 years and this begs the question, what is so good about this 35-year-old southpaw Welshman?
I asked that question out loud about three quarters of the way through the fight Saturday night. I was watching the fight with my friend, boxing trainer, and former Olympic Silver Medalist Kevin Barry. Barry did not hesitate when he stated the guy has a great chin and huge motor. Those are two of his biggest assets, but there is more.
Calzaghe is a rare breed of fighter especially these days, who actually thinks, calculates and adjusts during a fight. He also has excellent upper body movement and very good defense. The adjustments he makes can be significant or, as they were against Kessler, subtle ones. There was a point during the early rounds where Kessler was landing some fairly significant uppercuts that were getting Calzaghe’s attention and nullifying his offense. It would not last long as Calzaghe adjusted his hands when coming in and began picking off any uppercuts attempted. A few rounds later the punch became meaningless. That may not seem like much, but it can be just a few little things that can really separate the good fighters from the great fighters and the greats from the all-timers.
Calzaghe is heading towards legendary status and I don’t mean just with European fighters. He reminds me so much of an old school fighter even in his stance when he at times seems to be setting up for a fencing contest, holding his right hand up high like the pioneers of boxing did back in the day, a la Gentleman Jim Corbett and Bob Fitzimmons. Maybe some of this is due to Joe’s dad Enzo, who is and has always been his trainer. He taught his son early on skills out of some boxing instruction books which really push the classic boxing stance that you see out of Calzaghe much of the time.
Barry’s assessment of the great chin and huge motor are things that can’t be taught they are God given. They can be improved but not to the level that Calzaghe possesses. The guy simply has a few additional gears and speeds that he can kick into during a fight. He also does have a very good beard, whenever he appears to be stunned he fights or boxes or thinks his way out of it. There again he adjusts during the heat of battle something very few can do. Calzaghe is not a big banger, he doesn’t need to be, in fact if he were a great puncher he probably would not be the all-around great fighter he is.
As for Kessler who drops to 39-1 (29 KO’s), he actually fought a good fight. He really could not have done any better against a guy fighting at the level of Calzaghe before 50,000 of his partisan fans. Kessler has plenty of options out there. It would not surprise to see him take on the winner of the Kelly Pavlik vs Jermain Taylor rematch. And now that he has been beaten he should also travel over here and take on maybe a Winky Wright. Winky did enough traveling earlier in his career and both Kessler and Calzaghe don’t know the meaning of “ buckle your seatbelts it’s time to take off”. Mikkel has many other good opponents out there, he still can improve and he will be champion again someday soon in my opinion.
As for Calzaghe, I expect he will finally face Bernard Hopkins in a fight that should have been made years and years ago. I would also love to see him in there against Kelly Pavlik, because Kelly does have the punching power to hurt him if he can catch the elusive Calzaghe flush.
Congratulations to the Pride of Wales, I was so impressed with his performance I moved him all the way to number 2 on my Pound for Pound listings right behind Pretty Boy Floyd. Both Calzaghe and Floyd beat me when I went against them. I really did not pick against them, I chose to pick against what I call ‘conventional pugilistic wisdom’. I knew Floyd should beat Oscar, it was conventional pugilistic wisdom, unbeaten, younger, faster guy, but no, I chose to pick the Golden Boy and you know what happened.
I then went on a scintillating role of fistic accuracy in picking big fight winners until Calzaghe and Kessler this past weekend. It was ‘conventional pugilistic wisdom’ to go with the more experienced, also unbeaten, long-time champion Calzaghe fighting in the biggest fight of his career on home ice right? Nope, I went with Kessler a pick totally ignoring the conventional pugilistic wisdom again, I even spited it, and guess what? Lost again.
So now it’s on to another sensational fight this weekend at famed Madison Square Garden in New York as long time 36-year-old, super fighter Sugar Shane Mosley takes on the unbeaten, 27-year-old, power punching Miguel Cotto from Puerto Rico fighting before more Puerto Ricans at the Garden than live on the Island. Now you know what conventional pugilistic wisdom demands to do right? Well what will I do? Have I learned my lesson against picking against this wisdom? You’ll find out later in the week when I break down Mosley vs Cotto.
Also, Congratulations to Juan Manuel Marquez who handled, outclassed, and out-gunned Rocky Juarez this weekend on Showtime. Marquez wants and deserves that rematch with ‘The Pac Man’ Manny Pacquiao and should be granted his request.