Joe Calzaghe – “I’m Going To Smash Him [Hopkins] Up”

joe calzagheBy Matthew Hurley: Now that his showdown with Bernard Hopkins has become a reality super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe is anticipating the war of words to get heated in the build-up to their April 19th fight. Calzaghe has already been verbally taunted by the former undisputed middleweight champion and has born witness to Hopkins’ unique, and sometimes questionable, psychological tactics. It was back in December at the Floyd Mayweather – Ricky Hatton weigh-in that ‘The Executioner’ let loose with his latest foray into bad taste.

It was on that day that Hopkins insisted that he would “never let a white boy beat me.” Although many in the media derided Hopkins comment as racist, insinuating that had Calzaghe made such a remark he would have been subjected to much harsher criticism and, probably, a visit from Al Sharpton, the Welshman understood the gamesmanship involved and simply brushed it aside. In fact, were it not for the media attention that surrounded the remark, Calzaghe wouldn’t have even addressed it in the first place. But therein lies the cleverness of Hopkins. He may come off looking like a jerk but the reaction he got was just what he wanted. Make no mistake, Hopkins doesn’t mind playing the bad guy if he can get underneath the skin of his opponent. Calzaghe, however, insists he’s to seasoned to let that happen.

“People ask me ‘Are you offended by what he said to you? But I can’t stop laughing,” he told the Daily Mirror. “It’s embarrassing for Hopkins, and white, yellow, black and blue, color doesn’t matter to me. It makes him look like an idiot. Do I think its racist? No, it’s just pantomime.”

Calzaghe is aware that despite the fact that this fight is coming several years to late it still represents the biggest moment in his long professional career. After 44 fights without a loss, and highlight performances against Jeff Lacy (W 12) and Mikkel Kessler (W 12) Bernard Hopkins remains his most significant opponent. It will also be his debut on American soil and though he is an enormous draw in Europe he admits that fighting in Las Vegas is long overdue.

The seemingly unflappable fighter also revealed that he learned a lesson from what countryman Ricky Hatton went through during the build-up to his fight with Floyd Mayweather.

“Ricky admitted (that) Floyd got to him. I know Ricky says it was getting the point deducted which did his head in, but I saw Ricky at the weigh-in. You could see he was angry. You can’t be an angry fighter. Mayweather wanted to get under his skin and he managed to do it.”

The odd reality about Bernard Hopkins is that he talks a tough game, often stepping over the line with his bully tactics, but at this stage of his career he relies more on his guile in the ring than his street-tough persona. Not since his rematch with Antwon Echols in 2000 has Bernard actually perpetuated that hard-nosed Philadelphia character. He’s savvy enough to realize that he can’t fight full-steam for three minutes of every round so he relies on his boxing skills to set traps and the occasional foul to throw his opponent off his game. Hopkins may say that he is going to charge right after Calzaghe and try to overwhelm him but that’s just part of his psycho-babble. He’s never been that kind of fighter. Which, unfortunately, could lead to a very tactical and, perhaps, boring fight. It will be up to Calzaghe, with his vaunted punch output, to make the fight enjoyable to watch. That very aggression could play into Hopkins’ hands or it could lead Calzaghe to a decision victory. In his mind whatever Hopkins does he’ll be able to offset and deal with, and that includes the pre-fight hostilities.

“His comments won’t get under my skin. I remember Robin Reid used to say things about me and I took it personally. Now I just laugh it off. Hopkins knows he has to throw me off to get me to fight his fight. The only way he can do that is to make me angry enough that I make mistakes. But I know I have the temperament to take everything in stride.”

Calzaghe went on to add, “Bad things happen to people who mouth off to me. They get paid back. Come April 19th I’m going to smash him up. It’s about me going over there and kicking his ass. He’ll need a facelift when I’m finished with him.”

It would seem Joe Calzaghe is at least more than a match for Bernard Hopkins in the smack talk department. We’ll find out if he can live up to his own boasts when the opening bell rings.

Article posted on 01.02.2008

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