A Critique of Joe Calzaghe

joe calzaghe24.07.08 - By Michael Klimes: Wales is one of the world’s foremost boxing nations. To use a boxing phrase known in our community, he or even she in the politically correct culture punches well above her weight. I can imagine the faces of certain fans on the other side of the Atlantic shaking their heads in disbelief and disagreement as the infantile tribalism sets in. They are preparing to articulate their counter-arguments. Unfortunately, their counter-arguments are not as eloquent as my middle finger which is now pointing in their faces. Jimmy Wilde, Freddie Welsh, Tommy Farr, Howard Winstone and Johnny Owen embody this noble boxing tradition. Joe Calzaghe is the latest manifestation and since the Welshman is thirty six and his fighting days are numbered, one might think that as a Calzaghe fan I would be waving my supportive banner and frantically joining the Welsh tribe. I am not though as I have never had time for narrow sectarianism and I am a boxing fan of all shapes and sizes, colours and creeds. Sentences like “he is an American bum” or “British fighters are crap because they are British” have not and never will appeal to me..

So I have decided to be critical about Joe Calzaghe, a fighter who I have much affection for and consider to be a great one. Calzaghe’s supposed swan song against Roy Jones has given me deep reservations. Jones is an old man and I worry about his well-being as any fan of the sport should. It is a bout which should not be happening. I can understand Calzaghe’s urge to finish the circle at Madison Square Garden in New York, who wouldn’t? In my first visit to the city this May I could experience its seductiveness through all my five senses. Even though boxing is not what it once was there, little corners of New York still resonate with a sleeping presence.

There are two general arguments I can see about Calzaghe fighting Jones and they are both powerful. The first is for Calzaghe and says he should be allowed to fight Jones since he has taken on the young pretenders in Jeff Lacy and Mikkel Kessler. He should be allowed to do what he wants or “cash in” on his credentials for his last hurrah. I can see the attractiveness of this point of view, especially for Calzaghe as he wants a low risk and high reward scenario, don’t we all?

However, the second argument Ted Sares has consistently reminded us is that “the best fight the best” and that is the old school way of doing it, hence the correct way. I could not agree more. There is a certain degree of sliminess to the phrase “cash in” and the interpretation of a fighter or anybody “cashing in” at other’s expenses is discomforting. It can do damage to reputations. In some circles, Sugar Ray Leonard still suffers from the perception that he rested on his laurels in the late 1980s so he could make more money. I think there is some truth to that view although one can also put forward the counter-argument that Sugar Ray Leonard was just being honest about his declining skills and decided to take the lesser fights because they safeguarded his health. There are also marks for a fighter being honest with himself and not taking the young monsters who they know are too dangerous to vanquish.

For what it is worth, if anything at all, I must say I have been very privileged to see Joe Calzaghe fight in person. I attended his fights against Jeff Lacy and Mikkel Kessler where he was stunning on both accounts. Against Lacy, he delivered a once in a lifetime performance and with Kessler he used all his class and experience to tackle his toughest adversary. He is one of the greatest British fighters of all time and probably the most accomplished post-war European boxer. Only Lennox Lewis comes to mind as the other really dominant champion and maybe Naseem Hamed although that is more favouritism on my part.

When Joe Calzaghe retires, there will be a hole in boxing. That will sound abhorrent to those who think he is a mediocre slap artist but then you cannot win over all people. Frankly I do not care about such entities. They will still hate Calzaghe if he defeated Kelly Pavlik or Glen Johnson, two boxers who I am on record as saying I would rather see Calzaghe confront. So as far as I see it, Joe Calzaghe has earned the right to take on Roy Jones Junior but that does not mean it is right.

Article posted on 24.07.2008

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