When the legend becomes the truth
Appeal Sports Writer
Perhaps John F. Kennedy said it best: “The enemy of the truth is often not the lie – deliberate, contrived, dishonest – but the myth – persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”
While Kennedy artfully illustrated how myth may very well often be the enemy of truth, he did not, to my knowledge, elaborate so ornately on its antithesis, the ally of truth.
While certainly not as profound as JFK’s aphorism, I would proffer that truth is best depicted and propagated by action and consistency.
Consider, if you will, what I regard as the truths that have been somewhat illuminated by the fallout from the flare – not the fireworks – that was the Joe Calzaghe-Bernard Hopkins fight on Saturday.
Want consistency? After defending his super middleweight belt a division record-tying 21 times, Calzaghe, by taking a split-decision victory over Hopkins, who had previously defended his middleweight crown a division-record 20 times, has proved beyond a doubt to be one of the best fighters of his generation.
America no longer can lay claim to having a monopoly on the world’s best fighters. That idea is a myth. Calzaghe (who is now the undisputed champion of two divisions – 168 and 175), a resident of Newbridge, Wales, all three of the current heavyweight champions, cruiserweight David Haye, junior lightweight Manny Pacquiao, super bantamweight Israel Vazquez and several other fighters in the lighter weight divisions are not Americans.
Here is more consistency: Calzaghe, now 45-0 with 32 knockouts, is so popular that more than 8,000 supporters from the United Kingdom came to Las Vegas to see him fight. He can draw at least 50,000 fans for any of his fights in the UK. There is no American fighter that could bring 8,000 fans with him to the UK.
This brings us to the myth and perception that Las Vegas is the “Fight Capital of the World.” Go to Cardiff, Wales, when there are 50,000 Englishmen in the crowd and say that with a straight face.
HBO, which televised the fight, and the Associated Press are the victims of their own benighted geocentric mythology and provincial perception. They both claimed that Calzaghe was not well known in America and that he needed to come here and prove himself. Last time I checked, there is an Internet, The Ring magazine, which is published worldwide (as is the AP), and HBO itself, which can be accessed all over the world. If you are a boxing fan, you know who Calzaghe is.
This was an easy fight to score. With the exception of a first-round knockdown and at best two close rounds, Calzaghe, with his aggression, superior workrate and volume of punches landed, was the unquestionable winner. Yet ringside judge Adalaide Byrd and the Associated Press had Hopkins winning, 114-113. The truth is Byrd and the AP have no idea of how to score a fight or what to look for and that this needs to be addressed for the betterment of the sport.
Sometimes the truth hurts: There is a double standard in sports and society today. Hopkins, who embarrassed himself with his prefight “white boy” epithets he directed toward Calzaghe, lost only his pride, street cred and the fight. Jimmy “the Greek” Snyder once lost his job as a commentator for CBS after sharing a theory for why black athletes were, in his mind, superior to white athletes.
The myth of Rocky Marciano and his perfect 49-0 record is too large for Calzaghe to ever overcome, even if he retires 50-0. In fact, even if he beats Roy Jones Jr. in his next and possibly last fight (reportedly on Nov. 15 in Cardiff), Calzaghe won’t be remembered as the best fighter of his era. That honor will go to Jones, who, in his prime, had more speed, skill, power and athleticism than Calzaghe has or had. It may or not be fair, it may be more based on myth or perception, but it is also the truth.