Calzaghe set to take on Hopkins | NevadaAppeal.com

Calzaghe set to take on Hopkins

MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer

Roy Jones Jr., Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson, Tarver again and then Bernard Hopkins.

The lineage of the light heavyweight championship is indisputable and easy to trace.

Devoid of the machinations and whims of the sanctioning bodies, there is only one true champion at 175 pounds and around Hopkins’ waist rests The Ring championship belt.

Following the rather mundane victories of WBC titlist Chad Dawson, who squeaked by Johnson, and Tarver, who dethroned IBF beltholder Clinton Woods last Saturday (but looked just slightly better than ordinary), Hopkins’ belt is now the only one that matters.

Hopkins will defend his title this Saturday against Joe Calzaghe, the linear super middleweight champion, who also wears The Ring belt.

According to fightnews.com, Planet Hollywood casino has the 36-year-old Calzaghe, 44-0 with 32 knockouts, pegged as a 2.60-to-1 favorite ( a $2.60 bet wins $1) over the 43-year-old B-Hop, 48-4-1 (32) with 1 no contest, a plus-2.20 underdog (a $1 bet wins $2.20).

The fight is part of a card that will be televised live on HBO, beginning at 6:45 p.m.

For those who follow this space, you will already know that my “bracket” – in what looked like an elimination tournament – is still alive.

Though I will not change my pick – Calzaghe – this de facto tournament does not look like it will pan out if the “Prince of Wales” lifts the crown from “The Executioner.”

Calzaghe told me during a conference call last week that if he beats Hopkins, he’ll fight only once more before retiring unbeaten.

And, according to Brian Doogan, a reporter for The Sunday Times in London and a correspondent for The Ring, if Calzaghe does defeat Hopkins, he’ll likely fight the comebacking Jones or linear middleweight (and The Ring) champion Kelly Pavlik at 168 pounds.

After a division-record tying 21 title defenses, Calzaghe has indicated a preference to stay at 175 pounds, so Jones, 52-4 (38), looks to be the logical choice.

The fight will probably be held in the United Kingdom, where Calzaghe, of Wales, can easily draw 40,000 fans.

Of course Hopkins has other plans. Besides guaranteeing he’ll win because Calzaghe is a “white boy” (Hopkins is black), B-Hop has retained the services of fitness trainer Mackey Shilstone, who prepared light heavyweight champ Michael Spinks for his victory over then-heavyweight kingpin Larry Holmes in 1985.

What does this say about the strategy of the normally defensive, counterpunching Hopkins?

What it tells me is that he’ll fight like he did in his last fight – a win over Winky Wright – that he will come out aggressively against Calzaghe.

It should make no difference.

Calzaghe’s hand and foot speed and volume punching should earn him a 12-round unanimous decision that will be scored closer than it should be.

• Contact Mike Houser at mhouser@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1214.