Letter to Joe Calzaghe: Hopkins, Pavlik, More

07.11.07 - By David Janke: That was a great fight Saturday night. Once and for all, you have proved that you are a great boxer. Many critics wrote about your brittle hands, your ‘slaps’ as opposed to punches, and your mediocre opponents. Taking a line from the great Roberto Duran, claims that you are overrated are ‘no mas..

No more articles that you will be exposed by Mikkel Kessler. No more articles that you don’t belong among the ranks of The Ring magazine’s coveted pound for pound list. Joe – I was impressed Saturday night. Your agility belies your age. You’re one of those timeless fighters who seem oblivious to aging (ie: Sugar Shane). There’s just one thing we need to talk about – Bernard Hopkins.

Yes, Bernard is The Ring’s light heavyweight champion. Yes, fighting him would be a huge payday. Unlike you, he fights his age. But Joe, not everyone wants you to fight him. You’ve mentioned his fight against Winky Wright in July in Las Vegas. How many people were there? 9,000 maybe? I can tell you this much – it wasn’t 50,150 like you brought to the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff. It was not a bad fight, but it was no Calzaghe – Kessler. What I’m trying to say Joe, is that it might not be a very entertaining fight that fans want to see. After seeing Bernard fight in July, and seeing you fight last night, I’m certain you would beat “The Executioner”. Fans have something else in mind, Joe. And I have proof.

Enter the Ghost

You’ve said it yourself, Joe. You like Kelly Pavlik’s style. You think he’s exciting. You know what? We do, too! In July, I just happened to be at Hopkins-Taylor at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas and at Taylor-Pavlik in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall on September 29th. Trying to compare the level of excitement and fan enthusiasm at those two fights is like trying to compare your reign as champion and Zab Judah’s reign as champion. True, the attendance at either fight was about 20% of your turn out Saturday night, but the atmosphere in the Boardwalk Hall was electric, Joe. That’s the only word I can think of to describe it. It seemed like something special was in the air; you weren’t sure what it was, but you knew something special was going to happen that night. It’s probably the same feeling as the minutes before Castillo-Corrales I, or even Chavez-Taylor for that matter. (Maybe even Hagler-Hearns, as Bob Arum mentioned.) The hordes of Pavlik supporting Youngstown fans accounted for a majority of the excitement, screaming and chanting for their first post-Mancini champion.

Well, you know the rest of the story. Pavlik got knocked down in the second. He was very nearly out as it seemed Smoger was going to step in and stop the fight. But Pavlik held on, made it through the round, and came back in the third as though nothing happened. In the seventh, he knocked Jermain Taylor out. Taylor had never been knocked down, much less knocked out.

I’m sure you’ve heard about their rematch in February, Joe. (Pavlik’s belts are not on the line, but that’s a story for another time.) Assuming Pavlik beats Taylor again, I’m sure he can fit you in his busy schedule sometime in June. How about Saturday the seventh, maybe 8pm? He might even come to Wales to make it happen. (I bet Cardiff is just beautiful in the summer.) In case you’re willing to come to the States to fight, Yankee Stadium could be a likely venue if you want to try to approach Saturday night’s turnout. But Madison Square Garden and Mandalay Bay would love to host the fight, I’m sure. But they only hold somewhere around 20,000 and 16,000 respectively. You would need two Mandalay Bay’s just to hold all of the fans who came to watch you fight Peter Manfredo!

The Proof

Currently, HBO has a poll at Their poll asks, “The winner between Calzaghe and Kessler on November 3rd walks away the undisputed champ -- who's next?” The fans have spoken Joe. Kelly Pavlik currently has 46% of the votes, and Bernard Hopkins only has 27%. Joe, have your people call Kelly’s people. Have Frank call Bob. I’m sure Kelly would meet you at 168. His rematch with Taylor will be at 166, so that’s practically one extra bowl of pasta for Kelly. (I hear he likes pasta.)

Well, enough about Pavlik. Don’t pay attention to Pavlik’s trainer, Jack Loew, who told Sports Illustrated, “…we have an interest in fighting Joe. Because we know we would knock him out." Rumor has it that your promoter Frank Warren will soon announce Hopkins-Calzaghe to take place early next year in New York. Honestly, I believe fighting Hopkins makes more sense for you, both career-wise and financially. Many believe that you can and will defeat Hopkins, although no one would go so far as to count him out. He is a great boxer, just on the wrong side of forty. You will almost certainly make more money fighting Hopkins – he is much more established and marketable than Pavlik, not to mention ranked number four in the world by The Ring. With a Hopkins defeat, you’d move up a few spots from your current number eight ranking.

When faced with making more money to fight a bigger name that arguably poses less risk – Hopkins - or making less money to fight a less established power puncher that arguably poses a higher risk - Pavlik, you will probably choose what is best for you: a fight with Bernard Hopkins. Don’t get me wrong, Joe – I’ll watch you fight anyone and probably enjoy it. But a lot of boxing fans like to see action. And you saw Hopkins-Wright. I expect you to do what is best for you. Just keep in mind that what is best for you isn’t necessarily best for the fans.

David can be reached at

Article posted on 08.11.2007

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