Historical Significance: Calzaghe versus Kessler

23.10.07 - By Geoffrey Ciani: The super middleweight division is a relative newcomer amongst boxing’s seventeen weight classes. Created in 1984, the division lacks the rich history which helps define the legacy of so many others in boxing. The weight class is further undermined because it has never had an undisputed champion, and as such, it has never had a defining figure. There have been many great fighters who have passed through the 168 pound weight class. Some of the obvious stand-outs include names like Roy Jones Junior, Nigel Benn, James Toney, and Chris Eubank. In fact, the two biggest fights in the division’s history included the aforementioned names. One was a rematch between Eubank and Benn which occurred on October 9, 1993—a WBC/WBO unification bout that ended in a draw; the other happened on November 18, 1994 when James Toney lost his IBF championship via a unanimous decision against Jones.

The upcoming showdown between reigning WBC/WBA champion, Mikkel Kessler, and longtime WBO champion, Joe Calzaghe, promises to be the most significant fight in the history of the weight class. A championship battle between two undefeated pugilists is apt to bring some excitement to any division—this is especially true for one still in its infancy and still in search of its own identify. Whoever wins this bout will undoubtedly be tagged as the greatest champion the division ever had.

Although the winner will not officially become the ‘undisputed champion’, he technically should be. This stems from political nonsense which has long plagued the sport; in this instance, Calzaghe voluntarily gave up his IBF strap last November so he could face Peter Manfredo instead of his mandatory. However, for all intents and purposes, this fight should be for all the marbles. Make no mistake, the winner of this bout will be the top dog.

The showdown also represents a chance for the division to gain some much-needed respect. Many members of the boxing community, in particular, boxing “purists” who wish to return to the days of the original eight weight classes, often frown upon the very existence of the 168 pound class. They view it as nothing more than a resting home for aging overweight middleweights or as a safe haven for light heavyweights who refuse to make the jump up.

No matter what happens, it is very difficult for such a young weight class to overcome its own lack of history. After all, there have been many great fighters over the years who have fought both as middleweights and light heavyweights. No matter what happens going forward, many all time greats will inherently be omitted from discussions pertaining to ‘the greatest super middleweights of all-time’.

Is this fair?

Critics will maintain that we should be talking about great fighters from the division’s prehistory. Instead of discussing fighters like Calzaghe and Kessler, they will say we should be including all-time greats from the weight range, such as Archie Moore, Harry Greb, Mickey Walker and Bob Fitzsimmons. Perhaps, in fairness, we should. On the other hand, perhaps doing so limits one’s perspective.

That the winner of this bout will go down as the division’s greatest of all-time is a given. The question becomes, how significant is such an accomplishment? Personally, I think this largely depends on the quality of the fight itself. Regardless of who ultimately wins, an exciting bout that demands a rematch will help put this feat in a more favorable light. A snooze-fest, on the other hand, might grossly undermine any progress the division hopes to make.

Let’s hope for a great fight—the type that produces a rematch, or dare I say, begins a trilogy.

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Article posted on 23.10.2007

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