Calzaghe proves his worth
Appeal Sports Writer
After listening to HBO blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley blather on Saturday about how mainstream boxing fans don’t know who world super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe is, three things became obvious: 1) Dim Lamps doesn’t know what he’s talking about; 2) You’re either a boxing fan or you’re not; 3) If you don’t know who Calzaghe is, you’re not a boxing fan.
The absurdity of Lampley’s statement was nearly lost amid the clamor of those 50,000 screaming fans all around him at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales – all of whom, it is assumed, are not merely “mainstream fans.”
What is a mainstream fan?
That’s hard to say if you inhabit the same alternate universe Lampley does. It must mean it’s the type of fan that doesn’t watch HBO, Showtime or ESPN to catch the fights.
It must mean this type of “fan” doesn’t pick up The Ring magazine or visit fightnews.com or maxboxing.com or, for that matter, any boxing Web site because he/she isn’t really a fan at all, illustrating points two and three.
Well, those type of fans can go back to watching poker and dominoes on ESPN if they don’t possess the capacity to appreciate what the 35-year-old Calzaghe accomplished against the young, strong, tough and formerly undefeated Mikkel Kessler.
Calzaghe defended his WBO super middleweight belt for the 21st consecutive time – tying a division record (also held by former IBF 168-pound beltholder Sven Ottke) – and put himself in the discussion for pound-for-pound supremacy with Floyd Mayweather, Ricky Hatton and Manny Pacquiao.
The 28-year-old Kessler, now 39-1 (29), would have beaten any other super middleweight and most likely any other middleweight or light heavyweight. He fell behind early against the slick-boxing, fast-handed Welshman, but in rounds four and five landed a hard right uppercut and began to find his range and back up the older fighter.
But Calzaghe did what only a great – not just good – fighter does, and that’s demonstrate the ability to adjust and once again find a way to dictate the tempo of the fight (otherwise known as ring generalship) and, most important, control the gap.
Controlling the gap – that is, to command the distance separating the boxers – is the most important element of boxing. If a fighter isn’t close enough, he can’t be hit (or for that matter land his own shots), and if he is close enough he can employ his own skill-set – in Calzaghe’s case, his preternatural hand and foot speed and ability to use angles.
He hit Kessler with a body shot that rocked his younger foe in the eighth round, but the referee inexplicably broke the fighters and inadvertently gave Kessler a respite at a crucial time.
Calzaghe, now 44-0 (32), has indicated he’s interested in neither pursuing the title defense record held by Joe Louis (25 – former strawweight champion Ricardo Lopez and former WBO light heavyweight titlist Dariusz Michalczewski each had 23) nor the 49-0 record held by heavyweight king Rocky Marciano.
It is also unlikely that Calzaghe would keep either the WBA and WBC belts he took from Kessler, fight IBF belholder Alejandro Barrio or face former Kessler victim Anthony Mundine, who holds the specious WBA “regular” title (Calzaghe will be elevated to the equally inane status of “super champion” by the clueless WBA).
Former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor possibly lost any chance he had at moving up and facing Calzaghe when Kelly Pavlik knocked him cold. And the undefeated Pavlik will have to take care of Taylor in a rematch at a catch-weight of 166 pounds before deciding whether to vacate his newly won crown to face the superior Calzaghe.
Although boxers are notorious for not keeping their promises, it’s likely that Calzaghe will now go through with his plan of moving up to 175 pounds and fight for one more year – long enough to face IBF beltholder Clinton Woods and linear champion Bernard Hopkins.
The downside of the latter option is that Hopkins is 42, a boring fighter who lost twice to Taylor, and he’s not likely to travel to Wales to face his foil.
And put aside any hope of Calzaghe coming to the United States. There is no way he and any other opponent can bring anywhere near 50,000 fans to a venue in the U.S. for a bout.
Although his place in history – and the pound-for-pound list – is still a bit uncertain, Calzaghe ( an 8-5 favorite over Woods and a 13-8 favorite over Hopkins) is a wizard in the ring. Feel fortunate that you can watch him – for free, no less, on HBO, where the network has talked itself into the delusion that “mainstream fans” don’t know him well enough for the network to feel safe in putting their hands into your pocket and empty your wallet for an unnecessary pay-per-view event.
In one of the final fights of a great year for boxing fans, WBA welterweight beltholder Miguel Cotto and WBC titlist “Sugar” Shane Mosley will meet Saturday for Cotto’s belt in one of those previously mentioned unnecessary PPV events televised by HBO at 6 p.m. from Madison Square Garden.
If you have the money, the bout is worth paying for even though Mosley, 44-4 (37), is past his prime. Some might argue with the notion that Mosley has seen better days; after all he recently stopped Fernando Vargas twice.
And the former IBF lightweight champ twice defeated Oscar De La Hoya and his four defeats have come at the hands of Vernon Forrest (twice) and a bigger Winky Wright (twice at 154 pounds), which means there’s no shame to his game – except maybe those BALCO allegations.
But the knockouts over Vargas were fool’s gold. Vargas’ chin is suspect, having been stopped by De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad, which takes the luster off Mosley’s accomplishment.
Cotto, 30-0 (25), is a determined but flawed fighter, who hit the deck several times against the rather ordinary Ricardo Torres and was rocked to his toes by the dress-making, eye-shadow wearing (and married) DeMarcus Corley.
A former WBO light welterweight titlist, the 27-year-old Puerto Rican is being hailed as the next Trinidad – a fairly accurate assessment.
Cotto may get hit, but he’s got great power and goes to the body well. He also isn’t afraid to “sell out,” to let it all hang out regardless of the consequences if he is in danger.
In his prime, Mosley would’ve beaten Cotto in an exciting fight. Now, a slower Mosley – who doesn’t think he’s slower and believes himself to be stronger than Cotto – will be right in front of his younger opponent.
This will benefit Cotto, who will still have problems connecting with Mosley. It looks like a close, distance fight. I’ll go with the favorite – Cotto – via split decision.