'Super' Joe: Fight predictions and the suspension of REALITY!

By P.H. Burbridge - Fight predictions!! If you’re right you look like a genius but if you’re wrong…..Well, you know the deal. I really thought Roy Jones Jr was going to surprise the world and out maneuver Joe Calzaghe. In the first round when Roy caught Joe with that short little right hand which was more wrist than fist I felt like a genius. I said to myself “I knew it!! I knew it!!” However, after that one event it became obvious round after round that Roy’s ONLY chance to take Calzaghe out had passed.. Joe continued to do what he always does and that’s put his foot on the gas while looking in the rear view mirror at a disillusioned opponent. Fight predictions are tough because you never really know how one boxer is going to react to another until they’re actually in the ring together. You can use past performances to shape your opinion but with the passing of time and entry into multiple weight divisions it’s truly difficult to “eyeball” it.

The other tricky thing is the emotional component of your pick. When you root for a particular fighter you tend to overlook their short comings. I did the same exact thing when Ricky Hatton signed to fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. I’ve followed Ricky since he beat Vince Phillips in 2003. I loved the style and I love the attitude. I use to think of him as Britain’s answer to Julio Cesar Chavez. He’s the type of fighter I always tend to root for. The fan friendly “search and destroy” approach! It get’s me every time.

I was adamant in pointing out “why” Hatton was going to end Floyd’s unbeaten streak. I thought he would out hustle, out punch and flat out manhandle the “Pretty Boy”. I used the first Mayweather vs Castillo fight to underline my assertions that Ricky was going to be Floyd’s worst nightmare. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way. I ignored the obvious size deficit for Hatton but more importantly I underestimated the slickness factor of Mayweather as I did with Calzaghe. Although Ricky had some moments early on in that fight Floyd maintained his composure and set a trap. In hindsight it seems so obvious but at the time it never occurred to me. If it did I ignored it. What I personally learned about Calzaghe in his fight against Jones aside from the obvious quality of his speed is that the man can take a shot. Roy sailed some tight hard shots at him and he took them. Like anyone else Joe gets hurt by punches he doesn’t see but when he is prepared for a shot he manages to absorb it without too much difficulty. He acclimates well. Once it became obvious that Roy couldn’t hurt Calzaghe the fight was effectively over.

Now, what does all this mean in terms of Joe’s legacy? Right now he looks like the best super middleweight ever. He, like Bernard Hopkins does not have enough fights at light heavyweight to be in the conversation with Bob Foster or even Virgil Hill but he’s having a good run late in his career which is always a good thing. The undefeated record if he chooses to walk away will be scrutinized over the years. Just like Marciano’s. But, everything people throw at him will be conjecture because an undefeated record is well, an “undefeated record”! You can argue about his level of competition but you can do that with every fighter and make a case pro or con. The bottom line is that no one can truly diminish Calzaghe’s great accomplishment in the ring and if ever there was time to bid “farewell” NOW would be it!

If Joe sticks around and takes on a young light heavyweight champion like “Bad” Chad Dawson and loses then that aura of greatness he’s been enjoying for the wins over Hopkins and Jones will evaporate. That’s the nature of boxing’s fan culture. You’ll hear statements implying that both guys were in the latter stages of their careers to diminish the historic relevancy. I’m not sure what Joe gains by beating Dawson outside of a decent payday. And then the question is how much of decent payday would it be? Chad’s an excellent young champion and Floyd Maywether Jr’s pick as #1 on his P4P list but Dawson isn’t exactly a household name. This would be a much bigger fight in Britain which I’m sure Joe would much prefer so he could perform in front his home fans. I’m just not sure if such a fight is worth risking his legacy for. In my opinion, Joe can only hurt his legacy at this point rather than enhance it. Also, there doesn’t appear to be a public mandate for the fight so the choice seems obvious. Retire! Dawson needs him NOT the other way around.

It’s time to start basking in the fan admiration as the best fighter Great Britain has ever produced. He’s also guaranteed consideration whenever the discussion turns to who the best fighter in history is. You can’t ignore him.

But, if history has taught us anything it’s that successful fighters have a tough time walking away from the sport. Especially a few years removed. With the emergence of every “new” highly touted young fighter comes the sense that you “could still” beat him. The sense that “you are” still the best. It’s a key characteristic of all great fighters. Some would say it’s addictive in nature. That may be the biggest career challenge Calzaghe will ever face. Who knows he may be looking at someone like Bernard Hopkins and thinking to himself that he too could fight well into the next decade? Modern training techniques have extended the careers of athletes across the sports spectrum and it’s not that far out of a concept. Sometimes it’s not about money or legacy. It’s about the need for that first person adulation that comes along with being your country’s most successful fighter. It’s about the process of preparing for a fight and the adrenalin rush of having your hand raised.

Whatever Joe does he’s going to have one hell of a time leaving his career at its highest peak. There’s always one more mountain to climb.

One thing unquestionable, his next move WILL make history……

Now, there’s a safe “prediction” for you!

Article posted on 14.11.2008

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