In touching distance of the Holy Grail: Calzaghe versus Jones

By Neil Goodman - Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones Jnr face off in a light heavyweight match up this coming weekend; a true boxing ‘Event’ in every sense of the word. For both fighters the outcome presents the opportunity for them to grasp hold of their very own Holy Grail. Joe Calzaghe enters the bout looking to end his career both on a high and undefeated. His opponent, the mercurially talented Jones Jnr seeks to redeem his legacy; tainted mainly by the KO to Glen Johnson..

Whilst Roy ruled the world; as pound-for-pound claimant, for many years, his reputation was undeniably tarnished by KO defeats to Tarver and Johnson. Jones, for so long untouchable, was brought down to earth with a bump and subsequently has only displayed glimpses of his talent in brief cameos.

Roy is currently on a 3 fight win streak, but this is about the only good news. These 3 fights have been spread over 3 years. Two of the opponents were limited, one faded and arguably bloated; a threat in name only. Against Trinidad, Roy did show excellent hand speed and decent power; wobbling and decking Felix on a couple of occasions. These facts do however need to be considered against a backdrop of Trinidad making his name a welterweight champion, with a penchant for trips to the canvas. Felix was once a seek and destroy artist and he did manage to carry his power up to middleweight, but the bout at light heavyweight allowed Roy the opportunity to fight as if in an exhibition bout.

It is not surprising that Roy understands the size of the challenge facing him tomorrow night. The heavyweight match up against Ruiz, by comparison, was a virtual walk in the park! Jones does though sound confident; he seems to have found ‘the love’ for boxing once again and at the same time the fans and media have warmed to the ’08 RRJ. The Jones camp are spinning the line that the reduction in weight from heavyweight to light-heavyweight left him drained; thus he suffered two, once unthinkable, KO defeats.

Let there be no mistake; in his heyday Jones was the pound-for-pound supremo. The list of accomplishments goes on go; 4 weights champion, beating amongst others Hopkins, Toney, McCullum, Johnson. The facts and figures do not really do justice to the legacy; it was the performances, the speed and athletism which set Jones apart. Even now, Jones has skills; timing, speed and an innate ability to gauge distance.

What Jones needs tomorrow night though is a tank full to the brim with gas. Time and tide wait for no-man; Jones legs no longer carry him around the ring for 3 minutes a round and the punch output has also diminished. So, how does Jones win this fight? That is a big, big question; even for a fighter such as Jones. To my mind; he has two routes to go down.

Route one: Jones can gamble! He can go out there and stick to his pre-fight boasts of going toe-to-toe. Roy’s hands are still exceptionally quick and Calzaghe is no stranger to the canvas. Perhaps he can stun Calzaghe and then follow up with one of his blistering combinations. This would be a dangerous, dare I say all or nothing, tactic; but Jones has produced stunning victories before (see Montell Griffin II).

Route two: Alternatively, Jones can use his speed to pot shot and counter Calzaghe; Hopkins certainly had some success with these tactics. Does a hyped up and frenetic Calzaghe then blow himself out; allowing Jones to come on later? The catch here is; Jones might not have enough let himself to get over the finishing line. One thing we do know about Calzaghe is that he can produce massive output and maintain this over the championship distance.

Joe Calzaghe, apparently, is reaching the end of his fistic journey and is aiming (allegedly) to bow out undefeated (46-0). Looking back now, it seems crazy that it has taken Joe so long to receive the sort of recognition he deserves. Year upon year Joe sought his defining fight, despite have beaten numerous former champions along the way. Then, along came Jeff Lacy; who was heavily favoured to end the world championship reign.

Of course, as we all now know, Joe hit his pugilistic zenith and boxed, bashed and befuddled Lacy to lopsided points defeat. In truth, the fight should have been stopped after 9 or 10 rounds; but Lacy was allowed to struggle through to the final bell. Joe has subsequently added the thrilling defeat of Kessler to his resume and just for good measure sneaked a points win over the ever youthful ‘Hoppo’. This win in particular now has added quodos; after Hopkins beat the next big thing Kelly Pavlik.

Looking back, whilst it was not one of Joe’s prettiest performances, on the night he did what he needed to do (as he has always done). Additionally, Hopkins definitely struggled to impose his style and will onto the Welsh Dragon; seeking several minutes respite (due to phantom low blows). If this is to be Joe’s last fight, it will be a final attempt to prove the ‘haters’ wrong; that he is not just a happy slapper; but that his style does have substance. What better stage and opponent could he ask for – this is course a rhetorical question!

This bout promises to be not just a fight, but also an event. Should Joe win then he cements his place in the Hall of Fame. For Jones, perhaps he took things for granted whilst he reigned at the top of the game. Now he will tell you, that should he lose tomorrow, it does not mean anything. Well, do not be fooled by this for a second; he wants this and he wants it bad!

Finally, on a personal note; I wish Joe all the luck in the world. I have seen him box on numerous occasions and he always raises the roof, a true warrior and entertainer. I envisage a late round stoppage for Joe; but would not be surprised to experience a few heart stopping moment’s a-la Bryon Mitchell along the way!

Bombs away!!

Article posted on 08.11.2008

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