Reflections on Calzaghe-Kessler from Ringside

joe calzaghe05.11.07 - By Michael Klimes: Something happened on Sunday morning which does not usually occur in today’s world of boxing: Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler, two undefeated champions squared off in their primes to find out who was best of their generation. Their contest must now become one of the most celebrated chapters of the young super middleweight division as both of them gave the sport some of the most graceful rounds of fighting this year. Unfortunately, there were two disappointments at this encounter.

Firstly, Kessler’s atrocious entrance music should never be heard or played again. You’ve been warned! Secondly, there was some stupid Welshman who knew nothing about boxing or Kessler, jeering several rows behind me who said ‘you’re rubbish and you’re crap’ during the fight. Kessler was and remains the exact opposite of these ignorant slurs. Everything about him was memorable and the opposing champion, both consummate ring technicians.

Each man started the bout with a light reconnaissance. They probed each other’s defences with frighteningly fast jabs and feints, measuring the best range to hit each other with. They slipped and ducked, knowing they would have to be at their very best defensively. The first round was even with both being cautious and respecting the level of opposition in the opposite corner.

The second round continued with the jabbing as both men harpooned one another. Kessler had the slightly better time as he staggered Calzaghe and was landing the superior combinations. However, there was very little between them as predicted.

Round three finally saw Calzaghe assert himself as he appeared to knock down the Dane with a straight left which was rapidly ruled as a slip. Nevertheless, Kessler looked surprised and hurt as his face was reddened.

The fourth was easily Kessler’s as he landed two outstanding uppercuts, one of them particularly picturesque and executed to perfection. That upper cut was the best single punch of the fight. Overall, Kessler found the better distance and Calzaghe intelligently retreated into survival mode.

Round five was hard to score with neither landing any huge punches. Both were content to box. Calzaghe looked shier and Kessler seemed to win the round by just a fraction. It was clear they were slowing down the pace; perhaps sensing they would be in for the long haul. Round six was Calzaghe’s as he outworked Kessler and threw the higher volume of shots.

Round seven was exhilarating with both demonstrating sublime boxing. Their movements alone were exquisite to watch yet they also landed some eye catching volleys. Round eight was like so much of the fight and extremely close. Calzaghe knew it and so stole it with a busy flurry.

Round nine was Calzaghe’s as his higher work just secured it and from round ten the direction of the fight passed into Calzaghe’s hands. He mixed his punches up well. Kessler was still a dangerous force but his earlier energy was dissipating.

In round eleven Calzaghe began to hold his hands a bit low and was showboating, which was the silliest thing he did during the fight but he already had a sense he would be lifting the belts at the end. He did some sound work on the inside. Kessler was like a mathematician helplessly scratching his head attempting to see a solution for the equation that was Calzaghe.

Round twelve was started with screams from the crowd. Both went at it and gave their all. At the final bell Kessler and Calzaghe smiled and traded warm hugs. There was genuine, old fashioned sportsmanship which was endearing to see. It was refreshing to witness no trash talking of the type seen from the exceptionally talented yet also obnoxious Floyd Mayweather. Both Calzaghe and Kessler are both a class above that.

At the announcement of a well deserved unanimous decision, Calzaghe stood on the turnbuckles to receive the admiration of his home crowd. Although Danish fans may have left feeling disappointed there is no reason to be. Kessler was half of the reason for such a good fight. He is only 28, 39-1 and if one really considers it has not lost much. He has gained valuable experience, is still the second best super middleweight in the world and could very quickly re-establish himself.

For the last decade, continual doubts have hurtled at Joe Calzaghe’s reputation. If there was any statistical record regarding the amount of questions that have come at him over the years; they may actually outnumber the volume of punches thrown at Calzaghe so far in his career. Even after he destroyed Jeff Lacy, there were considerable numbers of fans that were oblivious to his brilliance. One can only hope that after confronting and defeating his toughest challenger, all of the sceptics have been converted to at least respecting Calzaghe’s achievements.

Make no mistake about it. In his battle against Mikkel Kessler, Calzaghe fought a young, ambitious and undefeated champion. Before the title unification, Kessler had moulded himself into the second best super middleweight on the planet and some would put have forward the best. He was a dangerous adversary with an exemplary jab, a howitzer like right hand, a devastating right uppercut and silky all-round skills. These showed in what was a scintillating contest which presented the sternest test Calzaghe has ever had to pass. He did so beautifully. Let there be no short-term memory ‘Lacy Syndrome’, which consists of saying ‘Kessler was over-hyped’ and so on. It would be an injustice to both fighters. Congratulations to Calzaghe and Kessler for articulating with their world class work what boxing is truly about.

My score was 117-114 Calzaghe.

Article posted on 06.11.2007

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