I was wrong about Calzaghe

By Geoffrey Ciani: As I noted in my recent article Why Hopkins will beat Calzaghe I was all but convinced of a Hopkins victory. I was wrong. This was not the first time I was incorrect when making a prediction and surely it shall not be the last. Being proven wrong in your assessment of a certain fighter is part what makes this sport so interesting, and Saturday night, Calzaghe proved to me that he is truly a great fighter despite my previous convictions.

One aspect of my pre-fight breakdown that did prove true was when I stated: In all likelihood, the fighter who is able to make the best adjustments will reign triumphant… This did indeed prove true, however, I had everything almost entirely backwards in terms of how the bout unfolded. I anticipated a tactical onset where Calzaghe jumped to an early lead before mid-fight adjustments by Hopkins shifted the momentum in his favor, when in reality, the exact opposite occurred: Calzaghe was the one capable of making the necessary adjustments and Hopkins was the one who faded down the stretch.

After the first round of action, it occurred to me that Hopkins might have an easier time slowing Calzaghe down than I previously suspected. After Hopkins dropped Calzaghe with a straight right down the pipe, I thought he had already gained the respect he needed in order to slow things down. Combined with the fact that there was also a small abrasion on Calzaghe’s face, I began wondering if we would see another one-sided exhibition like the ones Hopkins displayed against Trinidad and Tarver. Instead, like a true champion, Calzaghe quickly regained his composure and battled through the opening rounds. Despite being down several points in the early going, Joe was already in the midst of shifting strategies.

In my view, Calzaghe made two key adjustments that won him the fight. First, and most importantly, he made a conscious decision to sacrifice punch volume in favor of throwing fewer, crisper shots. In doing so, it may have first appeared that he was playing right into Hopkins’ hands by slowing down the pace, but in reality, it was a shrewd and cunning move. This prevented Hopkins from countering as effectively as he had been when Calzaghe was throwing fast flurries. The other key strategic modification made by Calzaghe was one of positioning. Even when he stepped up the tempo, he began reading the lead rights better and was making Hopkins miss more and more frequently. Had he not made these adjustments, Hopkins would have cruised to an easy win, but instead, he was out-maneuvered and left without answers. These two successful adjustments made by Calzaghe tell the entire story.

In the end, Calzaghe won because he out-adjusted the master of versatility. He actually ‘out-Hopkins-ed’ Bernard Hopkins. It was not work rate, but his ability to adjust and neutralize Hopkins’ strengths that enabled Calzaghe to reign victorious. I fully anticipated the exact opposite would come to fruition, especially after the fast start from Hopkins, which makes this victory all the more impressive for Calzaghe in my eyes. The reason Joe won had everything to do with what he did and nothing to do with Hopkins’ age. Make no mistake, Hopkins did not “get old overnight”. He is still a sensational world-class fighter. In the end, he simply lost to a better fighter and there is no shame in that.

I admit, I was never completely sold on Joe Calzaghe as an elite fighter but I am now. This win is by far the most impressive in his career, and I believe it will largely help define his entire legacy, and rightly so. That Calzaghe beat Hopkins is one thing, but that he beat him by proving to be the craftier and more versatile of the two is what makes this victory so impressive. Still, I will always be left wondering how good Calzaghe could have been were it not for Frank Warren. Unfortunately, Warren has long held Calzaghe back by limiting his exposure and big fight opportunities, which is a shame.

Joe says he would like one more fight before all is said and done, and Roy Jones Junior is the opponent who makes the most sense. I look forward to seeing Calzaghe fight again, for although I may have underestimated his abilities throughout most of his career, as they say, better late than never.

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Article posted on 22.04.2008

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