Calzaghe vs Hopkins: The Breakdown

hopkins10.02.08 - By Ted Sares: Joe Calzaghe will take on Bernard Hopkins at the Thomas and Mack Centre in Las Vegas on April 19. Calzaghe, 44-0 (32), will make his debut both in America and at 175 pounds having unified the super-middleweight division by adding Mikkel Kessler's WBA/WBC titles to his own WBO crown in November of last year. Hopkins, who is 43, is a former undisputed middleweight world champion with an impressive 48-4-1 (32) record. The fight is presented by Golden Boy Promotions, Frank Warren's Sports Network and Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

Now let’s break it down:

Profile: Hopkins had 20 title defenses at middleweight before stepping up two divisions. He is headed to the Hall of Fame. Calzaghe has been undefeated for 17 years. With his aggressive, fast-punching style, he is arguably the best active world champion today..

Contrasting styles: Calzaghe uses great punch volume backed by uncanny ring smarts, great stamina and movement, and takes good directions from his corner to overwhelm his opponents. While a quasi slapper rather than a heavy handed puncher, he can slug when he wants to. However, the one thing hs does better than 99% of the today’s fighters is that he let’s his hands fly and thereby dictates the action. And if he senses a weakness, he will exploit it quicker than you can say “Sugar Ray Leonard.”

Hopkins, like his opponent, has excellent skills, movement, punching power, shoulder rolls, subtle inside stuff, and versatility (he can fight aggressively or counterpunch). But it doesn’t stop there. He also has deceptive hand speed, accurate combinations, old school toughness and durability, and strength. He is always in top shape, has great defensive skills, and achieved success at the highest levels of competition. Bernard Hopkins may be the best throwback fighter in the game. What more is there to say? If he beats a fighter like Joe Calzaghe, he will only seal his already firm legacy. As well, he can alter his style depending on the opponent. If it’s a tired Antonio Tarver, he will be aggressive using combos and sharp body work to break him down. If it’s a frustrated “Winky” Wright, he will tie him up and roughhouse him in-close to take him out of his game. Hopkins is a genius in the ring and just may be that 1% higher than the very savvy Calzaghe.

Strategy: If Joe is allowed to fight his fight, he will win a decisive UD. However, if Bernard fights him like he did against Winky, he will make it close. Trying to out skill Jermaine Taylor turned out to be a mistake, though the two decisions could have gone either way. Hopkins needs to fight Calzaghe differently; he needs to do whatever it takes to take him out of his game.

Level of opposition: Clearly, “The Executioner” has fought a higher level including Roy Jones Jr, Jermaine Taylor, Wright, Tarver, Trinidad, De La Hoya, John David Jackson, Glen Johnson (whom he KOd), Simon Brown, Robert Allen, Antwun Echols, Howard Eastman, William Joppy, and many others.

Yes, “The Pride of Wales" beat Mikkel Kessler, Sakio Bika, Jeff Lacey and an aging Chris Eubank, but many of his opponents have been just that--opponents. Guys like Mger Mkrtchian, Kabary Salem, Tocker Pudwill, Evans Ashira and Peter Manfredo Jr. do not compose a particularly daunting list of fighters.


1) Age: Clearly on Calzaghe’s side. The question here is whether Hopkins, 43, grows old overnight, as he showed some signs in his fight with Wright. This is the single most important factor in this bout and Joe’s big edge just might offset any edge that Hopkins has.

2) Location of fight: Hopkins is the “House Fighter.” Many criticize German decisions, but are they any worse than those rendered in Las Vegas? Calzaghe, 35, has never tasted defeat, but then again, he has never fought in Las Vegas.

3) Roughhousing: Here, a head butt in an early clinch can turn the tide in Hopkins’s favor. He knows all the tricks and “The Prince” has never been in with someone like that, though Bika’s head can sometimes get in the way. Can it nullify speed and 100-punch-a- round style?

4) Weight: Joe comes up while Hopkins remains comfortable. That usually favors the guy who does not come down.

5) Corners: JC’s has never failed him and there is an obvious symbiosis that works to his advantage. Hopkins sometimes can be stubborn while listening to corner instructions.

6) Calzaghe’s hands: He has had trouble in the past and if he should injure one early in the fight, look for Hopkins to exploit it immediately.

7) Hype: Forget it. It’s only done to generate ticket sales, nothing else.

8) The Referee: If it’s a referee like Steve Smoger, advantage will go to Hopkins, but if it’s one who likes to take early control like Joe Cortez, that will favor Calzaghe.

9) Ring Size: A big ring favors “The Prince” while a smaller one favors Hopkins.

The predicted outcome: Hopkins will make this an ugly fight from the start and will frustrate the more aggressive Welshman who likes to swarm his opponents with fast combinations of never-ending punches. The “Executioner” will try to get “The Prince of Wales” to fight off the ropes where he can alternate with sharp counters and clinches. In so doing, he will be warned for low punches and butts and may well lose points.

By the late rounds, I would not be surprised for the crowd to begin calling for more action, but these two are too smart to let crowd noise bother them.

Going into the championship rounds, I believe Calzaghe will hold a slight lead based on his superior, but less than normal, punch volume. At this point, Hopkins may simply not have enough left in the tank to pull it out, but his rough and perhaps even dirty style will put the outcome it in doubt.

In the end, it likely will boil down to age, age and age offsetting a lot of pro-Hopkins intangibles.

I see Calzaghe winning a majority decision, but I would not be surprised by a DRAW.

Article posted on 11.02.2008

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