'Capital Punishment': Will Calzaghe Face A Day Of Execution?, Or Stay Of Execution?

19.04.08 - By Vivek Wallace: Tonight's scheduled 12 round Light Heavyweight fight between the Bernard 'The Executioner' Hopkins (48-4-1, 32KO's) and Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32KO's) should be a colossal affair of epic proportions. Dubbed the "Battle of the Planets", no other name could be more fitting as these two gladiators, separated by 7 years and many thousand miles, have found a destiny that will collide at center stage before the masses. Both considered future Hall of Famer's, there could be no better fight to be made. As we get set to embark on this grand affair, we take a very in-depth look at both men, as well as what it will take for each man to effectively redefine and/or seal his legacy..

Pre-Fight Analysis: This will undoubtedly be a war of attrition, as both men are totally prepared for a knockdown-dragout affair. Neither man has ever made a habit of touching the deck, and rarely has either man been seen hurt, but in this grudgematch that inevitable occurrence could manifest in a very ledgible way as both contenders have openly vowed knockouts. Despite the fact that Calzaghe has faced the less formidable opposition, few can attempt to take away from what he's accomplished in the sport. His workrate remains virtually unparalleled and his stamina is nothing short of amazing. Throughout his career, Calzaghe has faced tons of opposition with brute strength, and decent to very good skills, but tonight will mark the first time where he will face such a polarizing figure on foreign soil which could prove to be more of an issue than some think. Not only does Calzaghe have to overcome a somewhat partisan crowd, but he'll have to do so with 3 foreign judges, and an American referee looming in the backdrop. Add all those challenges to the fact that he will be standing across from one of the sports most ring-intelligent figures of all-time and the plot quickly thickens. Hopkins' Trainer, the legendary Freddie Roach, recently spoke of how Bernard Hopkins has been known to see an open opportunity early in a fight to land a punch based on his opponents flawed defensive mechanics, but rather than going for the opening early, he'll wait for the precise time when he knows his opponent has become thoroughly fatigued and immediately go for the proverbial 'curtain call'. This tendency was witnessed when Hopkins took advantage of former victim Oscar Dela Hoya who failed repeatedly to cover up after exchanging punches. The flipside to this uncanny ring savvy is that Hopkins has also made a name for himself as not only an occassional dirty fighter, but a very tactical one who will cross any forgivable boundary to land a victory. Be it an occassional head-lead power punch, an occasional elbow, or perhaps a shove or two, as long as it doesn't result in a fight stoppage or deduction of points, much like the damage it evokes, consider it done. Major emphasis has been put on potential illegal tactics by both camps with Calzaghe's corner afraid of rough-housing manuevers and Hopkins' camp concerned about the suttle 'hand-behind-the-head' clinch and punch tactic often used by Calzaghe. If the past has been any indicator, referee JoeCortez won't allow abuse of any illegal tactics, but to the contrary, he won't become too big a factor to where his disciplinary actions affect the rhythm of the fighters. This is a major concern for Father/Trainer Enzo Calzaghe who feels his fighter may be kept out of rhythm due to nit-picky calls. Whether or not this becomes an issue remains to be seen, but the inadvertent miscues of this same referee was believed to have played a role in the loss that fellow U.K. fighter, Ricky Hatton faced in this same city at the hands of another American, the sports pound for pound great, Floyd Mayweather Jr. In order to emerge victorious, both men will have to employ certain strategies, and in an effort to analyze those strategies, we take a look.

Joe Calzaghe (Keys To Victory): Calzaghe will need to do what he's done for 15 years and stick to it. Basically use his speed to land multiple punches, and use his quickness to avoid those in return as he bags early rounds in the 'bank' to avoid any late fight flurries from Hopkins. Calzaghe will need to make sure that he enters the ring at ease and well relaxed, as it was noted that leading up to the fight at times he has appeared out of sorts and somewhat fatigued, as he endured a very celebrated fight buildup unlike any in his storied career. Countryman Ricky Hatton gave unused, yet very sound advice to Joe Calzaghe roughly a month ago by telling him to "get over to Vegas and get acclimated at least 2 to 3 weeks in advance" to adjust to the elements in time for the fight. For those who aren't use to the dryness of the air in Las Vegas, dehydration can be a huge concern and sources close in proximity to Calzaghe at the event weigh-in spoke of visual evidence of his issues with this problem, as he was witnessed immediately sucking down nearly a full bottle of water only seconds after jumping off of the scale. If Calzaghe becomes dehydrated late in the fight, this could spell major problems for his strategy to work at a high rate and wear his opponent down. Sticking to a disciplined use of his speed and angles will land Calzaghe a points victory at the very least.

Bernard Hopkins (Keys To Victory): Bernard Hopkins needs to come into the ring and set the tone immediately. For a man known for playing mind games, there's no better strategy to employ than serving up intimidation in his own rare form. Hopkins, once known for his slow starts, has recently used his losses to Jermain Taylor as a reason to reinvent himself, allowing him to come out of the gates fast and furious by pressing the action from first bell. Against Tarver and Wright we saw this revamped Hopkins, and the amazing thing was that at his ripe age of 43, he was able to sustain the pace and land two comfortable points victories. One other thing of high priority that Hopkins will need to do is smother the punches of Calzaghe and cut the distance between them. This is easier done in the center of the ring, but Hopkins may also use a wise veteran move he often employs by coaxing Calzaghe to the ropes and using his ability to slip punches and land power shots while on the ropes like he did various times against the prodding Tito Trinidad. Visible in the Kessler fight was a tendency of many Calzaghe opponents who land stunning blows and pause to assess the damage rather than finishing the job. This isn't an area that Hopkins would typically fail in, and if he hurts the Brit, it's highly likely that he'll pull the curtains quickly rather than risk the odds of losing a decision. The final touch on Hopkins' keys to victory is that he will need to continue his mastery of the 'southpaw'. Despite having luck in the ring against well over a dozen, few have had the skill level and ability of Calzaghe, so Hopkins will need to use perfect angles to counterpunch, engage only when necessary, and execute the way he has done for so many years.

Final Prediction: I see Joe Calzaghe coming out full of energy, weathering the early tone-setting storm of Bernard Hopkins and easily banking the first 3 to 4 rounds. At this point I see Bernard Hopkins finding his range and landing the kind of shots that make any opponent use caution. Rough-house tactics become a part of the Hopkins delivery and after little acknowledgement by Joe Cortez, by the 6th round I see anxiety induced dehydration causing a less energetic Calzaghe to become lethargic and far less executive. I expect Calzaghe - displaying his heart of a champion - to steal moments in the middle rounds, but ultimately find no true method for the madness. Despite putting on a valiant effort, I see Hopkins slipping a couple poorly timed shots and landing something vicious that will culiminate in a stoppage no later than the 9th round. At the shock and dismay of the many, the man who few gave a chance finds a way to enjoy a 'last meal' before his final execution.

Hopkins: KO9

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Article posted on 19.04.2008

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