Brits on Tour 2008 – Golden Era for British Boxing

07.04.08 - by Neil Goodman - Part 1: The resurgence of boxing into the public consciousness continues to gather momentum; with the up and coming bout between Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe looking to take centre stage (both sides of the Atlantic). It has taken B-Hop along time; but the big money fights for him now keep rolling in; Trinidad, De La Hoya, Tarver and Winky all being repelled by the old school skills of the man from Philly. The fight against Calzaghe is a truly intriguing proposition; which has divided opinions on the likely outcome.. It may simply be due to nepotism on the part of the scribes on the respective side of the Atlantic; but the overriding feeling state side is that ye olde Hoppo will know too much for the happy slapper from the Valley's!

There could be an element of truth in this assertion; Hopkins has decoded and broken down many good fighters over the years. But and there is a 'but', he has also lost (twice) to Jermain Taylor. Now this in itself is not a crime; but (yes another but), subsequently Taylor has shown himself to be a notch or two below the requisite level required to be considered as a top level fighter. Over the course of time Hopkins has been elevated to the role of modern 'Legend', I think this is mainly due to longevity and his obvious dedication. However, some of the big name scalps on his roster also add to the aura. Chuck in a jump up to light-heavyweight, for this title winning effort against Tarver; then you have quite a convincing argument.

There are though, as we well know, two sides to every coin! Both Trinidad and De La Hoya were not natural middleweights and you also have to consider that Trinidad has been found out in recent fights (as being quite one dimensional). Some have even questioned the validity of the win over De La Hoya. Even the win against Tarver was marred slightly, simply by the fact Tarver actually fought a better fight against a 60 year old man (called Rocky)!

Whilst it is possible to detract from Hopkins pugilistic standing; you do have to hand it to him. He is 43 years young and still competing at the highest level; he has always fought on his terms and now he has formed a major promotional partnership with De La Hoya - not bad for an ex-con.

Calzaghe, much like Hopkins, has gained much of his kudos late on in his career. Whilst plying his trade and blitz many of his mandatories; he was forever in search of a defining fight. Charles Brewer was first up to bat and many thought the Welsh dragon should have scorched the 'chinny' challenger inside schedule. Next came Byron Mitchell, the fight, whilst brief, was a thriller. But with Joe having to climb off the canvas for the first time in his career, the jury remained out. Then of course it was nearly another 3 years until Calzaghe next faced a challenger against whom he could prove his mettle.

Calzaghe squared off against Jeff 'Left Hook' Lacy, who at the time was being built up as a Mini Mike! The Welsh Wizard put on a memerising display of boxing, landing over 1000 punches and the result was a one-sided points decision. To be honest from rounds 8 and 9 onwards the Lacy camp should have pulled out their man; but they let their charge go on to be floored and he has not really been the same since. So, at long last a great performance and one which should have evalated Calzaghes pound-for-pound claims; but instead it was all to easier for the critics to label Lacy as one dimensional.

The fight against Peter (The Contender) Manfreddo was designed to enhance Joe's profile and persona in the US, but the plan fell very flat when it became all to apparent that Manfreddo was simply a boy on a mans task.

Fast forward to November 2007 and this time Calzaghe nailed his legacy, battling his way to a clear points win over the dangerous Dane, Mikkel Kessler. It was a meeting to unify the super middleweight division and decide who was the premier operator at 12 stone. When the questions were asked (especially in round 4) Calzaghe came up with all the right answers. Calzaghe varied his work and found the speed and angles to make a clear winner against a fighter who is more than likely to dominate the 12 stone division which Calzaghe has vacated.

The 19th April brings together two boxers who are polar opposites; both in terms of fighting styles and personalities. Hopkins is the brash and at times controversial veteran; now perhaps more renown for his promotion, than his punching. Calzaghe is understated and reserved outside of the ring; choosing to let his actions speak louder than words. Hopkins has made all sorts of threats and statements in the buildup and you can not knock his efforts, because it has raised the levels of anticipation. However the reality of Hopkins backing up his boasts maybe called into question; whilst Calzaghe is also coming up in weight (as per Hoppo's most notifable victims) it is amazing that Joe has managed to keep his weight within the confines of the 12st division for so many years. Calzaghe's fitness and workrate are his trump cards and against an opponent who is hardly reknown for his punch output, these factors could be key. Hopkins produces a majority of his best work off the backfoot, choosing to counter rather than iniate the action. Calzaghe has shown the adaptability to box, bang and counter, as the situation befits. If plan A is not working; well he will swiftly move to plan B and if all else fails he will end up throwing the kitchen sink at the foe before him.

A man of Hopkins well founded reputation can never be written off; but will he end up regretting his 'I will never lose to a white guy' statement? He states that Calzaghe's style will suit him; that if Joe throws a thousand punches, then this opens up the opportuntiy for many countering opportunities. I can not however remember the last time I saw Hopkins fire off more than 30 punches a round and whilst looking strong at 175lbs; how will he fare against a fired up Calzaghe? Who could also prove to be the stronger man come fight night.

I feel the outcome will hinge on who is able to keep their emotions in check and make the necessary adjustments, if things are not going their way. In this regard Calzaghe's last fight may proved to be invaluable preparation for his American debut. For my money, I just simply can not see the man who lost twice to Jermaine Taylor producing the sort of work required to tame the Welsh Dragon. It is certainly true that Calzaghe is facing his biggest challenge; the cominbation of fighting in the States, duelled with a step up in weight and facing a battle hardened pro. However Calzaghe has now shown himself to be a man who thrives on challenges and one who's unauthordox skills maybe enough to break down the old stager inside schedule.

Article posted on 08.04.2008

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