Light heavyweight champion Joe Calzaghe is looking to end his 15-year professional career as an unbeaten fighter, but two out of three neutral trainers don't believe his record will be unblemished after he meets Roy Jones Jr. on Saturday.
The 36-year old Calzaghe, 45-0 with 32 knockouts, will defend his title against the 39-year-old Jones, 52-4 (38), in a 12-round bout at Madison Square Garden. The HBO Pay-Per-View card begins at 6 p.m.
This will be Calzaghe's second appearance at 175 pounds after defending his super middleweight title a division record-tying 21 times. He is coming off a 12-round split-decision victory over Bernard Hopkins in April.
Jones, who began his pro career in 1989, has won titles at 160, 168 and 175 pounds and also claimed a slice of the heavyweight championship with a victory over John Ruiz in 2003.
Teddy Atlas, who guided Michael Moorer to the heavyweight championship, said the difference would boil down to Jones, of Pensacola, Fla., being the bigger fighter and crisper puncher against the left-handed Calzaghe, of Newbridge, Wales.
"(Jones) has seen plenty of southpaws," said Atlas, who is now a boxing analyst and commentator for ESPN2 Friday Night Fights. "He has a size edge and he's been at (175 pounds) longer. Jones matches Calzaghe's hand speed. He punches better, so he has the edge there."
Beginning with a controversial majority-decision victory over Antonio Tarver in 2003, Jones' seeming invincibility was shattered. Tarver stopped him in two rounds in their 2004 rematch and Glen Johnson scored a ninth-round KO over Jones later that year.
Tarver won their rubber match in 2005, but Jones has come back to win three consecutive matches since and is coming off a 12-round unanimous decision victory over Felix Trinidad in January.
"Mentally, he's confident," Atlas said of Jones. "He's always been a careful fighter. Coming off those knockout losses, his confidence was at a lull. Jones has experience. Calzaghe is a step on the other side of his career as well.
"Jones is not known as a big puncher. He's very careful and doesn't take a lot of chances. The thought in the Calzaghe camp is he'll outwork and outhustle Jones. I see the thinking in that area. (But) Jones is a better puncher and won't be intimidated by Calzaghe's power. He'll see an opportunity while Calzaghe is trying to outwork him."
Ronnie Shields, who trains former lightweight titlist Juan Diaz, likes Jones as well.
"(Jones) is one of those guys that, if you underestimate him, he'll chop your head off every time," Shields said. "He's such a great boxer that you can't hurt him. Jones is a better puncher and he has all the skills in the world.
"Roy is so fast, he can hit you with six punches before you can blink an eye. Calzaghe has never run into somebody like that before. Hopkins dropped (Calzaghe), but (Hopkins') style is to retreat a lot. Roy is faster. If (Jones) hurts him, he'll stop him. I don't see this fight being close at all. I don't see Calzaghe getting close to him."
Jesse Reid, who guided Paul Spadafora to the IBF lightweight title, sees it differently.
"I think (Calzaghe) has a great shot to win with the accumulation of punches and speed," Reid said. "Hopkins looked great his next fight (in a win over unbeaten Kelly Pavlik), but in that fight (with Calzaghe) he looked terrible. (Calzaghe) keeps you off balance.
"He's so quick with those little pitty-pat punches, he'll keep Roy Jones off balance. Jones used to do that with his opponents when he was younger, now age has set in. I think (Calzaghe) will stop him or win a unanimous decision."
APPEAL PICK: I've already written that I like Calzaghe to win. I've since written that I was worried about that pick. And I still am. That said, nobody likes a flip-flopper, so I'll put the best spin on Calzaghe I can.
Though he wouldn't have stood a chance against a younger Jones, Calzaghe possesses two traits in common with Tarver and Montell Griffin (who scored a disqualification victory over Jones in 1997): He's a quick southpaw and he can box in and out.
Moreover, Calzaghe throws punches in bunches, much like a prime version of Tarver did in his three matches against Jones.
Jones still has the speed advantage and is a much sharper puncher. His punching power is generated by his tremendous speed and he is especially deadly when he catches his opponent walking into his power " think Floyd Mayweather Jr. when he caught an overly aggressive Ricky Hatton with a fight-ending check hook.
Against Hopkins and former WBA super middleweight beltholder Byron Mitchell, Calzaghe showed the ability to come back from an early knockdown to win (he stopped Mitchell in two after being dropped earlier in the round).
Against Jones, he may have to do just that. He'll also have to maintain constant pressure without running into something big, which is another difficult proposition.
Calzaghe may not possess the sharp punching of Jones, but R.J. doesn't have the best whiskers in the world and may get caught himself, in which case Calzaghe stands a chance to end the fight early as well.
I think Calzaghe was a lot more convincing in his win over Hopkins than the American judges gave him credit for, so my thinking is that he will once again have to deal with the judges and will need to stop Jones in order to win.
The most likely scenario for that is Jones dropping Calzaghe, rushing in to finish the job but getting caught himself. Calzaghe would then put enough punches together to end the job.
No matter whom you select, it's a fight well worth paying to see.