Calzaghe/Hopkins: Sledgehammer a Tire or Have a CAT Scan?

By Paul Strauss: What is boxing coming to these days? Now days when boxers talk about their team, they are not kidding. For example, take Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins. For his upcoming fight this Saturday with Joe Calzaghe, he has employed a very sophisticated fitness expert, who has a high tech clinic with all the gizmo's and gadgets you can imagine..

The technicians at that futuristic facility hook the aging (for a boxer) athlete up to wires, and tubes, and mouth pieces, etc., all the while probing, poking and twisting him, seemingly listening for "cracks" and "pops"! Hopkins admits it's all very painful, but in his mind worth it when it comes to the results he's expecting.

That's not the end of things either. That's only one aspect. You can't forget Bernard's head trainer, and two co-trainers. One works the punch mitts. Another might spar. Freddie Roach, the head trainer supervises, and formulates the game plan. Of course, at this stage of Bernard's career, no one can really teach him anything new, but they can help him decide on which of his skills might be best employed against an opponent like Calzaghe. Since Hopkins is basically self-managed, he has those duties, as well as his partnership promotional duties with Golden Boy Productions. I think he might even be selling peanuts and popcorn between rounds.

Now cross the pond to Calzaghe's small hometown of Newbridge, Newport in Wales, and you will find a fighter trained by his father, a former musician! Say what? Yes, that's correct. When Joe first started as an amateur, his father Enzio felt they could learn the sport together. By the way, Calzaghe was actually born in Hammersmith London. What a great name for a fighter's birth place!

Calzaghe's so called team is his father, and several other fighters, or former fighters. He runs the streets and paths of his small towns. When out and about his kibitz with the locals, to whom he is a humble hero. He draws strength from them, and their loyalty propels him to perform well, especially in big fights such as his bouts against Jeff "Left Hook" Lacy and Mikkel Kessler.

Calzaghe's situation reminds me of Kelly Pavlik's. Kelly has a team in name only. There are no sophisticated medical diagnostic machines, or fitness and dietary experts, unless you want to call his mother's cooking and a sledgehammer such things. He's had the same trainer, whose full time job until recently was to seal asphalt driveways.

Yet all three fighters have been extremely successful, especially Calzaghe and Hopkins. Pavlik is the youngster of the trio, but his future looks very bright. There's a bigger conundrum here too, being that Hopkins is really the one you think of as a street kid. He's the one that you would picture in cut off sweat pants wielding a big hammer, because he couldn't afford or didn't want anything better.

Does one method get better results? If Hopkins wins, does that mean all prospects will be trying to follow the examples of fighters like him and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.? If Calzaghe wins, does that mean youngsters interested in the sport will be yelling, "Hey Pops, do you want to teach me how to box, and do we have a sledgehammer"?

Personally, I hope that won't be the case, because I still think it boils down to the individual, and the individual's needs and preferences. What's good for the goose, might get the gander knocked out. So, what's going to happen Saturday night?

Hopkins is full of surprises, but also has been a disappointment at times. He felt he was robbed in his first fight against Jermain Taylor, and vowed to not let there be any doubt about the winner in their rematch, but he failed to back up his promise. He is very dangerous though, and has been known to pop up with a few tricks or slick moves. Ask Winky or Oscar or Felix or Antonio, and so forth. Normally, you would think a fighter his age has a big handicap, but he has always taken excellent care of himself, maintaining his proper weight, and he hasn't had those tough fights that sap a fighter's strength. Plus, he doesn't have any obvious weaknesses. He moves well, and has a very good defense. Plus, he has a good jab, excellent right hand, and good left hook to the body. His head to the chin isn't bad either.

I still think Calzaghe should come away with a decision. I think his extremely high volume of punches and edge with speed will carry him through. He and Hopkins both have strong chins, and Calzaghe, like Hopkins, hasn't suffered any bad beatings. Calzaghe's problem might be that he wants to impress his fans and the rest of the boxing world so much that it might cause him to take unnecessary risks. That would not be a good idea with a cagey veteran like Hopkins, and definitely would put him in harms way. However, if he keeps his head, and boxes (relies on his hand and foot speed) the way he is capable of doing, he should come away with the decision.

If that happens, then we might see a match-up between him and Pavlik, and have two teams that really would be my dad against your driveway sealer, or my mom's cooking against your mom's cooking It would be a small town Welshman against reigning king of the "Rust Belt". I can see you licking your chops for that one!

Get ready to mark your score cards. Hopefully, there won't be any points lost for low blows, heads butts, or excessive clinching. Let's touch them up and come out fighting, but leave your team in the corner and at ringside. It has boiled down, as always, to the two combatants, which in this case are two of the greats. Enjoy! .

Article posted on 17.04.2008

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