Boxing

Sharkie’s Machine: Joe Calzaghe Too Slick For Mikkel Kessler

calzagheBy Frank Gonzalez Jr. - November 3rd 2007 - Photo by Sumio Yamada - Saturday night in Cardiff Wales, reigning WBO Super Middleweight Champion, Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KO’s) treated his loyal hometown fans at the Cardiff Stadium to the toughest fight of his career, taking on the younger and arguably stronger, WBC Champion, Mikkel Kessler (39-1, 29 KO’s) of Denmark.

Once again, Joe Calzaghe proved he is the best fighter in his weight class as he used speedy hands, tricky ring generalship, toughness and a vast array of punches to tame the technically sound Mikkel Kessler during the course of 12 exciting rounds.

Late 2007 has been good to boxing fans. Fights like Calzaghe vs. Kessler is boxing the way it ought to be. This is what raises Boxing’s stock in the minds of even casual sports fans. As a fan who constantly advocates for unification bouts, I want to give a shout out to the people who made this fight possible. Lets hope this trend continues.

The Fight:

In the first round, Calzaghe applied pressure early and was able to touch Kessler on occasion but after tasting Kessler’s power, Calzaghe settled down a bit and seemed to reassess his approach. Both guys landed some shots during the feel out moments of the beginning. Calzaghe was busier and delivered a couple of decent body shots to tip the round in his favor. 10-9 Calzaghe.

Round Two

The second round began a little wildly until the ref warned Calzaghe for hitting behind the head during clinches. Kessler looked very sharp and landed the cleaner shots in the second round. Calzaghe held his own and it was close, but I thought Kessler’s punches did more damage. 10-9 Kessler.

Round Three

They boxed and brawled to start the third, with Kessler going down to the canvas, compliments of a slip, which was rightly ruled as such. Calzaghe pressed Kessler with punches from all angles but wasn’t connecting squarely. Kessler was unflinching and crisp. He landed some good shots but Calzaghe took them well and even turned the pace in his favor late in the round.

10-9 Calzaghe.

Round Four

Kessler rocked Calzaghe during a brawling moment early in the fourth. He also landed a pair of upper cuts that stunned Joe, who was aware of the shifting momentum and Kessler was finding that his uppercuts were working well. Calzaghe stayed busy enough to keep it close but Kessler landed the more telling blows in the fourth. 10-9 Kessler.

Round Five

Lots of back and forth action as both took turns controlling the tempo. Calzaghe was landing more but Kessler was landing cleaner. Calzaghe stepped up the pace right before Kessler’s nose started to bleed. Calzaghe was beating Kessler to the punch and dictating the pace. 10-9 Calzaghe.

Round Six

Calzaghe was landing lots of ‘slappy’ shots which were taking a toll on the chiseled Kessler, who was moving slower and throwing less. Calzaghe made it a boxing match and he was winning the round by landing more and controlling the action. Kessler looked frustrated. 10-9 Calslappy.

Round Seven

Kessler landed a strong series of punches but Calzaghe took them well and whacked Kessler with some punishing shots that had the crowd roaring. Hell of a fight. Kessler imposed his will and landed some good shots himself, making the seventh tough to score for me so I called it even, 10-10.

Round Eight

Kessler’s corner implored him to be more aggressive going into the eighth. Calzaghe went back to his unorthodox style of boxing and countered many of Kessler’s shots. During one rally, Kessler teed off on Calzaghe, who came back with an effective rally of his own. What a fight! Calzaghe went after the body and was going on the attack when the referee warned Calzaghe about hitting and holding. Though Kessler did well, Calzaghe stole it with a show of huge heart, chin, stamina and will. Great round. 10-9 Calzaghe.

Round Nine

Calzaghe was in charge by this time. Kessler was more dangerous at that point as his corner was telling him he needed to do more and that he was losing the fight. Mikkel was hunting for the big punch that would end things but Calzaghe out boxed him and neutralized Kessler’s ability to do any real damage. 10-9 Calzaghe.

Round Ten

Calzaghe was flirting with losing a point as he hit Kessler again behind the head (he’d been warned for that too a couple of times already by referee, Mike Ortega). Kessler was out of his game plan and slipping into desperation mode as he sought to slug it out with Calzaghe, who was the superior fighter with the quicker hands and cagey ability to always get the last word in punch wise. 10-9 Calzaghe.

Round Eleven

More of the same, with Calzaghe always winning the exchanges and Kessler unable to catch him with anything significant. Calzaghe displayed amazing agility and tenacity in the eleventh round and Kessler wasn’t able to hurt him—as he so desperately tried. 10-9 Calzaghe.

Round Twelve

A brawl. Kessler was loading up with every punch, giving every bit of his energy to turn things around in his last chance to win the fight. Kessler managed to land a few big shots but Calzaghe ignored the pain and returned fire.

At the bell, they hugged, in show of respect and admiration. This was the toughest fight of Joe Calzaghe’s career, as it was for Kessler’s. In the battle of speed vs. power, speed set the tone and won the fight.

* *

The official Judges scored it; 117-112 and 116-112 twice all in favor of Joe Calzaghe, who is now the closest to being the undisputed Super Middleweight Champion of the World. (There’s still the IBF Title if he’s to have all four of the most recognized belts.)at

Calzaghe was pure class during the post fight interview, crediting his opponent and admitting that Kessler rocked him a few times. Kessler was equally gracious. He said he’d like a rematch where he could employ a different tactic.

Congratulations to Joe Calzaghe! This man continues to surprise his critics with dominating performances. The official scores don’t reflect what a tremendous fight this was.

Congratulations also to Mikkel Kessler, who showed big heart and plenty of quality against the best man in the division. This loss can only make the 28 year-old Kessler an even better fighter. I can’t wait to see him fight again. I don’t think he should chase a rematch with Calzaghe just yet though.

Calzaghe has a more lucrative fight in mind then a rematch with Kessler for his next appearance. He’s been talking for some time about wanting to fight Bernard Hopkins (who has more experience fighting smaller men).

Chad Dawson might make for an interesting match should Joe decide to fight in the States in his next appearance. But why would he come to the USA when he can fill an entire Stadium in Cardiff Wales and still be televised in every market on the planet? Besides, Dawson would be lucky for the opportunity to fight Calzaghe, regardless of the location.

There’s also Kelly Pavlik, who knocked out Jermain Taylor recently to become the best recognized Middleweight Champion in the World. That could be an interesting fight. I think Calzaghe is too fast for Pavlik. But Pavlik has good boxing skills, uses his jab nicely to keep opponents at a favorable range. As much as I like Pavlik, I doubt his long jab dictates the pace to Joe Calzaghe. It would be interesting to watch him try though.

Kessler’s people should consider going after the only other Super Middleweight Title unclaimed by Calzaghe—the IBF version, which is currently the property of Lucien Bute of Canada by way of Romania (21-0, 17 KO’s). If they can’t get Bute, Kessler will have to find another way to get a title. Maybe lose a few pounds and go to Middleweight or gain a few and go up to Light Heavyweight.

But…can you imagine Hopkins vs. Calzaghe? Two guys whose modus operandi is to disrupt the boxing skills of their opponent. Both schooled in the art of getting away with little fouls that subtly influence outcomes. It might be a very boring fight unless one of them finds a way to impose his will on the other and administer a beating.

It would be interesting to see two guys who’ve never been ‘beaten up,’ battling it out. I’d lean towards Calzaghe because he’s more athletic, throws more punches from more angles, has great head movement and ring smarts. Bernard could counter punch well enough to force Calzaghe into a chess match that gives B Hop the advantage—while putting the crowd to sleep.

Both are geniuses in their art. Hopkins would probably have to fight a faster paced style, which favors Calzaghe. Neither are big punchers. Both have unique styles. Calzaghe is a voluminous puncher and Hopkins has a way of hurting opponents during clinches on the opposite side of the referee. Hopkins has made fouling into an almost acceptable art form. It could get ugly but still turn out to be a great fight after all!

* * *

Comments can be emailed to dshark87@hotmail.com

Article posted on 04.11.2007



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