Observation on Calzaghe-Hopkins

calzaghe hopkins boxing22.04.08 - By Anthony Coleman: First of all lets get something out of the way: yes Saturday night’s Light Heavyweight title fight between Joe Calzaghe and Bernard Hopkins was boring and ugly. It featured the script of a typical Hopkins fight: grappling, clinching and fouling. Secondly, the fight was still of extreme importance. We had two of the best fighters of the last fifteen years facing one another while they were still pound for pound level guys and not semi-washed up geezers. Despite the low quality of the action the fight actually meant something to the legacies of both men and the business of Boxing. Now it is the time to reflect and really consider what we have learned from Saturday night’s encounter.

For Joe Calzaghe this victory continues the roll he has been on since destroying Jeff Lacy in their Super Middleweight unification match two years ago, and he can now make a legitimate case for being the pound-for-pound best fighter in the sport.. However, unlike the aforementioned Lacy annihilation and his win over Mikkel Kessler, Calzaghe was not impressive. Besides getting dumped on his pants in the first round courtesy of a perfect Hopkins right hand, there were obvious holes in his game. Calzaghe’s punching technique was way off. While he has always been known as a slapper, on Saturday night, his punches lacked any semblance of snap. The man only landed soft powerless combinations (which is infuriating because he has very good punching power when he throws his weight behind his punches). Plus at times he was open to counters because his punches were wide. A lot of Calzaghe’s sloppy technique can be attributes to his opponent, but some of the deficiencies we saw could have been avoided.

Yet Calzaghe was able to soldier on and land enough of his punches, to earn the victory, and bank more points in his pound-for-pound ratings. By beating an all-time great for the Light Heavyweight title, and winning undisputed recognition as the Super Middleweight champion with his win over Kessler last year you can make a strong case for him being the Number 1 fighter p4p. Also there are more big money paydays to look forward to. There is a talked about showdown between he and Roy Jones Jr., but he could also fight Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, rematch with Kessler, square-off with Chad Dawson (who I think will not be so avoided anymore after reviling how bad his chin was in his controversial win against Johnson) or face off with Glen Johnson (and I would love to see that fight). The doors are opened for Joe to make some serious cash before he rides off into the sunset of his tremendous career.

While the sky is still blue for Calzaghe, the same cannot be said for Bernard Hopkins. He was able to make the fight close for three reasons. The first being that knockdown, the second was his John Ruiz-esque grappling, and the third is the fact that to the day he dies he will always be one of the best defensive fighters in the sport. Even though Calzaghe landed the most punches on the modern day “Old Master” than any fighter before him, the man still had a hard time landing and if he did he rarely landed cleanly. This performance proves again that,whether you like him or not (and lets be real many simply do not like him), Bernard Hopkins is an effin’ Boxing God.

However, besides those weapons, the rest of his performance left a lot to be desired and the now former Light Heavyweight champ and one of the greatest Middleweights in history has a lot to be concerned about. The most obvious thing that we should note was his total and utter lack of handspeed. All night long Hopkins was in position to land his lead right hand counter, but he had trouble landing it. Make no mistake; Calzaghe exhibited holes in his defense that, even as late as the Taylor fights or the Tarver fight Hopkins would have capitalized on with his right hand and except in the first round it wasn’t a huge factor because his hands couldn’t get there fast enough to Calzaghe’s face. You could see him thinking about it, but his body wouldn’t allow him to do what he commanded it to.

Plus Hopkins couldn’t sustain an offensive attack. He is no longer capable of landing that right hand and left hook to the body or head in combination. He offensive attack Saturday night was to hit a single counter shot then force a clinch.

Hopkins also couldn’t stick to his game plan. His main objective was to keep the fight at center ring and to maul and land his punches on Calzaghe. You’ll also notice that Hopkins was spending most of the fight on the ropes; and it wasn’t because he decided suddenly to change his strategy. His legs wouldn’t allow him to stand at center ring with an opponent of Calzaghe’s caliber.

But perhaps the most alarming sign was the fact that Hopkins, a man known for his superhuman conditioning, was visibly fatigued. By the 9th round his stamina was clearly fading as he was obviously breathing from his mouth for air. When was the last time you saw a Bernard Hopkins fight when his opponent had more energy than he had when the 12th round began? Hopkins’ energy shortage was shocking to me.

Even at his diminished physical state Hopkins would probably be good enough to defeat contenders in the Light Heavyweight division. But judging from his performance on Saturday night, he simply doesn’t have the speed, reflexes, or even the stamina to defeat Boxing’s elite fighters. Based on an admirable effort and his fantastic body of work, B-Hop will still be in my personal pound-for-pound list. However, it might be time for him to retire.

While this fight may have bordered on suckiness, it actually had repercussions on the sport. We saw a great fighter add another badge on his trip to Canastota, and we may have seen the curtain call on the career of one of the greats. In the next couple of months we will see the ripple effects of this fight.

Article posted on 22.04.2008

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