Sharkie’s Machine: White Boy Beats Bernard Hopkins

Joe CalzagheBy Frank Gonzalez Jr. Undisputed Super Middleweight (WBA/WBC/WBO) Champion, Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KO’s) made his debut fight in the USA, as a Light Heavyweight Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, against America’s legendary, former undisputed Middleweight Champion and current (IBO/NBA, no, not basketball) Light Heavyweight Champion, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KO’s).

The lead up to this fight there was a lot of emphasis on Hopkins’ age and his workouts with his conditioning coach as well as Calzaghe’s methods of training with his father, a jazz musician turned boxing trainer. And of course, there were some typical mud slinging, mostly by Hopkins. Calzaghe kept to his usual polite demeanor, even after Hopkins’ told him that he’d, “never let a white boy beat him.” Calzaghe just responded saying, “If you fight me, you will lose.”

The ring answers all questions, with no regard for all the hype, pre fight talk, pound for pound rankings and even the official Judges’ Score Cards at the end. Fortunately, the winner of this fight got the W at the end of the day.

At 36 years old, Calzaghe is no spring chicken but he hasn’t shown any signs of aging or slowing down and has won all of his fights so far. At 43, Hopkins may be “old” but he remains in excellent shape and is possibly the craftiest fighter I’ve ever seen. His ability to win the psychological battle and foul opponents opposite the ref’s view is an art form worthy of recognition. His fights can be boring but he is tenacious in finding ways to win.

As they made their way to the ring, thoughts of how open Calzaghe’s style leaves him to the straight right hand, and how Hopkins knows how to deliver one, danced in my head. There were no loyalties here for me; I like both Hopkins and Calzaghe. Both are great fighters in their own right.

Calzaghe is a slapper, a rhythmic boxer, who doesn’t generate big power with single shots so much as he wears opponents down with his overall volume of offense, good stamina and athleticism.

Hopkins is the master of getting inside his opponents head. He has sneaky power and good accuracy when he punches. He takes away what his opponents do best and can hurt opponents with his specialty; holding while hitting (opposite the ref’s view). If Hopkins has a signature punch, it might be the low blow or the head butt. But seriously, the man is a legend.

The Fight

Round One

They felt each other out for a moment, Calzaghe pressed forward, Hopkins waited to counter. They traded shots and Hopkins clinched against the ropes until the ref broke them. As Calzaghe came in, Hopkins’ landed a clean right and put Calzaghe on his seat. Calzaghe up immediately but was tentative and Hop landed another right. They brawl in close, ref brakes them. Calzaghe kept coming forward, throwing one at a time. Calzaghe’s nose bled from a small cut caused by a Hopkins punch. 10-8 Hopkins.

In the corner, Enzo Calzaghe told his son, “You’re letting him bait you in for that kind of punch.”

Round Two

Calzaghe the aggressor and exchanges with Hopkins against the ropes. Referee Joe Cortez working hard already. Calzaghe landed two low slapping punches, no warning. Hopkins held every time Calzaghe got close enough. Hopkins landed a nice straight right. Hopkins overreacts to an unnoticed low blow. Hopkins used his left arm to hold Calzaghe when in close and punch with his right. Calzaghe countered with the same. 10-9 Hopkins.

Ref warned Hopkins corner about hitting behind the head.

Round Three

Hopkins boxed outside, moved and came in with shots aimed at the body, scoring too. Hopkins held and hit until Cortez broke them. Calzaghe gets Hop in corner and flurries with slapping punches. Crowd roars. They trade and both score. Calzaghe started finding his rhythm and exchanges dirty shots with Hopkins. Ref warned Calzaghe and crowd booed. Hopkins landed more telling shots and matched athleticism with Joe.

Freddy Roach tells Hopkins that Calzaghe’s a sucker for the right hand.

Round Four

A sloppy start with Calzaghe chasing Hopkins, who held and hit when possible. Cortez getting a work out. Calzaghe starting to wrest control of the tempo as they brawled into the ropes, where Joe scored. The ref said, “Brake!” And Hopkins threw a punch that landed. Ref paused action to warn both to, ‘keep it clean.’ Calzaghe chased Hopkins round the ring, dropped his hands, taunting Hopkins in. Hop scored nice off the ropes with counter punches. Lot of wrestling initiated by Hopkins. Calzaghe pressed forward and punched his way in and out. Calzaghe landed a left at the bell. Hopkins hit Calzaghe from behind, right in front of Cortez, who broke them apart yet again. Momentum starting to shift as Calzaghe started landing more and forcing Hopkins to fight his fight instead. 10-9 Calzaghe.

Round Five

Calzaghe jabs his way into Hopkins, whose only direction is backwards and sideways, always away from Calzaghe. Calzaghe showboats a little as his confidence starts to soar. Hopkins eats some leather as Calzaghe landed a nice left and a flurry of little shots. Calzaghe forcing Hopkins to keep busy. Hopkins back against the ropes as he is committed to defense as Calzaghe pressured him. Hopkins to the body. Calzaghe landed a series of lefts to the head and after the bell, Hopkins kept punching. 10-9 Calzaghe.

In the corner, Roach told Hopkins, “I need more than one at a time, throw combinations!”

Round Six

Calzaghe stalked Hopkins. Hopkins backed up and held when Calzaghe got close enough. Calzaghe pressure starting to bother Hopkins, who holds after throwing any punches. Calzaghe started using his jab to move Hopkins around. Hopkins, one punch and hold, every time. Calzaghe shoe-shined Hopkins until the bell, Cortez got between them and pushed Calzaghe, who went to the floor.

Cortez told Hopkins corner, “Bernard, I don’t want any more of those tactics, I don’t want to take any points. I want a clean fight!” Then he went to Calzaghe’s corner and said the same thing. Calzaghe’s father was screaming at his son to pick up the aggression.

Round Seven

Calzaghe landed jabs and got Hopkins on the ropes. Calzaghe landed more and more, Hopkins held more and more. Hopkins led with his head and continued to hold. No warnings from the ref either for all the holding. Calzaghe got the better of the exchanges and Hopkins was less and less effective. Calzaghe dropped his hands then went after Hopkins against the ropes. Calzaghe landed slapping shots. Hopkins landed a short right that buckled Calzaghe’s balance. Too little too late. 10-9 Calzaghe.

Round Eight

More of the same as Calzaghe pressured Hopkins, whose path was the ropes as he backed up and waited for counter opportunities. Calzaghe landed a clean left to the face. Hopkins held. Calzaghe threw combinations. Hopkins landed a right then backed up. Calzaghe a left, Hopkins a right. Calzaghe threw more, landed more and Hopkins is tricky but doing so much less. Calzaghe rallied with punches and scored and taunted Hopkins to the bell.

10-9 Calzaghe.

Roach told Hopkins, “You need to throw more combinations.”

Round Nine

Calzaghe has his spacing down, his confidence up and his rhythm working as he landed a straight left on the face of Hopkins. Calzaghe flurries, Hopkins held. Calzaghe harassed Hopkins with little punches that keep Hopkins going backwards. Hop landed a nice right. Calzaghe landed a bigger right. Calzaghe in control. Calzaghe landed another straight left. He mimicked Hopkins, dropping his hands and was even winning the psychological battle at this point. 10-9 Calzaghe.

Enzo Calzaghe screamed at Joe, “You won the last four rounds in big style, I think this guys ready to be knocked out. TRUST ME! TRUST ME! TRUST ME!”

Round Ten

More of the same, with Calzaghe controlling the tempo, forcing Hopkins backward and popping punches. At one point, they got close, Hopkins turned round and with Calzaghe behind him, he did a little taunting dance in front of Hopkins backside. Prior to the theatrics, Calzaghe threw a slappy uppercut toward the body that was low but didn’t have any steam on it but Hopkins played it to the bone, taking a knee and pretending to be in pain, while taking a few minutes to get some oxygen as the crowd got restless and annoyed by his bullshit. Calzaghe bounced around, spread his arms in askance of “what?” The crowd complained as Hop milked the clock. Calzaghe incited the crowd, walking back and forth, bouncing around, waving the crowd in…and drawing cheers in his direction and jeers in Hopkins’. When action finally resumed, it was back to work for Joe, who kept the pressure on. Hopkins landed a straight right as he jumped in to deliver it. Hopkins rallied a bit but always held whenever Calzaghe got close enough. Hopkins did score some decent shots. Calzaghe scored some too as Hopkins landed two low shots opposite side of Cortez. Calzaghe kept fighting. The long rest helped Hop get some energy back. They traded to the end. Good round for both guys, Hopkins gave a good effort late. I’ll call it even, 10-10.

Round Eleven

Calzaghe pressured Hopkins and they traded shots until Hopkins held. Calzaghe landed a sneaky right as they tussled inside. Calzaghe landed a clean combo to Hop’s face against the ropes. Calzaghe’s pressure made Hopkins try another; ‘I got hit by a low blow’ routine, but Cortez didn’t stop the action. Hopkins rallied and they traded, both landed. Calzaghe outworked Hopkins and landed more often. Hopkins did some good work but just not enough to win the round. 10-9 Calzaghe.

Calzaghe’s corner, possibly fearing a bogus decision, tells him, “You got to STOP him!”

Round Twelve

Calzaghe reached out to touch gloves but Hopkins didn’t share his enthusiasm, they commence to brawl and Hop landed one and Calzaghe landed about five. Hopkins tried to land the straight right, charging in with it on a few occasions. Calzaghe keeps Hopkins outside and kept punching. Calzaghe landed a nice left, Hopkins landed some good shots, Calzaghe countered well and Hopkins held. Calzaghe had too much energy and Hopkins didn’t have enough. Calzaghe bounced and punched, Hopkins darted in with combos when he struck. Calzaghe, in charge since about the fourth round, kept taking it to Hopkins as they slugged to the bell. The crowd cheered wildly. 10-9 Calzaghe.

As Calzaghe jumped up onto the ropes to address the crowd, they cheered some more. It was obvious who the crowd thought won the fight.

The Official Scores were 114-113 Hopkins, 115-112 for Calzaghe and 116-111 for Calzaghe, who won by Split Decision. The Judge who scored in favor of Hopkins was the only one wearing glasses. According to the unreliable compu-box stats, Calzaghe landed more punches against Hopkins than anyone ever has.

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During the post fight interview, Calzaghe was told of his compu-box numbers over Hopkins and asked how he did it and he said, “I don’t know, to be honest. I found it really hard tonight. He caught me in the first round. I think I slipped (laughing), but I had to dig deep. Bernard’s a great fighter.” He thanked the fans in attendance. He went on to say that he felt more loosened up after the fourth round and felt stronger in the fight and knew it wasn’t going to be pretty but, a win is a win.

Interviewer: You said you felt you slipped. (Calzaghe never said that) It was a clean knock down; did he ever hurt you in the fight?

JC: “I said I slipped. You know I’m joking. (laughs) He caught me with a flash knock down, it’s only the third time in my career I’ve ever been on the floor and I got up and did what all great champions do, I went on about my business and like I said, I’m so happy right now.”

When asked about Kelly Pavlik and Roy Jones Jr. Calzaghe said he didn’t know just yet. He did say maybe Roy Jones Jr. since he just beat Hopkins and is now a “Legend Killer”.

Of course Hopkins said he won the fight when he was interviewed but after Hopkins demonstration of honesty in the ring (the low blow show), how much credibility do his words really have?

Congratulations to Joe Calzaghe, the new man to reckon with at Light Heavyweight. There’s still three other major belt holders in the division in Zsolt Erdei (WBO), Chad Dawson (WBC) and Antonio Tarver (IBF) and one belt that is up for grabs at the WBA. It’s likely that Joe goes for Roy Jones Jr. next, unless Roy out-prices himself to prevent it from happening. Can anyone imagine Jones traveling to England to fight Joe Calzaghe? I can’t. If Roy can’t dictate all the terms of the fight from the money to the venue to the gloves, etc, don’t expect Roy to be a serious consideration.

I’d like to see Roy Jones Jr. finally fight Bernard Hopkins in a long overdue rematch but we know that’s not going to happen. Hopkins may have lost this fight but he is still way too dangerous for Jones to seriously consider. The only thing Jones has is his name at this point and that name has lost much of its luster since 2004. If Jones is for real, he would do well to prove it by fighting Hopkins before 2008 ends.

Why can’t they just have a tournament at Light Heavyweight between Dawson, Tarver, Erdei and Calzaghe and out of that quartet; the last man standing would be the undisputed Champion. I think Calzaghe has what it takes to beat them all but speculation means nothing until they fight in the ring. Dawson is only a champ due to a horrendous decision win over Glen Johnson, who beat him but didn’t get have the Judges blessings. Erdei is seriously untested and Tarver is on the downside of his boxing career.

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Article posted on 20.04.2008

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