Why retirement is the best option for Joe Calzaghe

Joe CalzagheBy Jim Dorney: After Joe Calzaghe’s recent victory over Roy Jones Jr., what his next move might be has been a hot topic for boxing fans around the world. Calzaghe is a fighter who polarises opinion, but few have NO opinion on the man.

Languishing largely in the shadows in a global scale until his upset domination of heavily-hyped Super-Middleweight heir apparent Jeff ‘Left Hook’ Lacy in March 2006, Calzaghe had already made 17 defences of his WBO Super Middleweight belt, drawing much derision from fight fans particularly in the states as to the legitimacy of the organisation in relation to the more traditionally celebrated ‘big three’ of the WBC, IBF & WBA.

The world had to take notice of Calzaghe’s victory over Lacy – Not just because the underdog won, but also because of the nature in which he won.. Many forget how heavily the bookmakers had Lacy tipped to win the fight, with Calzaghe perceived to be a dead man walking by many boxing fans, including those in the UK who had supported him throughout his less-known years. Joe’s utter domination of Lacy was quite possibly the most one-sided world championship fight ever – Even more notable given it was between two undefeated champions.

Thus began the familiar pattern – Calzaghe would get matched with an opponent, the press would criticise & as the fights drew closer murmurings would start on how Calzaghe was going to get exposed this time & so on. After the fights, inevitably the criticism of Calzaghe’s opponents would continue with all of his critics apparently disregarding the hype they had built up around them. Through it all Calzaghe didn’t help himself with his comments in the press.

Calzaghe has never been a media darling, and whilst many of fans of his performances in the ring, he fails to maintain charisma outside it as far as the boxing community at large is concerned. That lack of charisma seems to be reflected via the will that so many fans, particularly those outside of the UK have for him to lose every time out, and his refusal to do so doesn’t seem to diminish it.

Only now after beating celebrated household names such as Bernard Hopkins & Roy Jones Jr. do some fight fans begrudgingly give the man respect – but even many of those that do simply won’t accept Calzaghe’s attempt at building a legacy. Even now after 46 straight victories, a record-matching amount of world title defences & victories (generally emphatic ones at that) over countless world champions past & present, boxing fans are calling for him to fight names such as Chad Dawson, Hopkins via rematch or Glen Johnson.

Let’s take these names one by one.

Chad Dawson is an undefeated Light-Heavyweight titleholder. He’s a pretty formidable physical proposition, standing 6’3 & fighting out of a southpaw stance, plus he has youth on his side at only age 26.

However, the man’s record, when looked in the cold light of day, begs some questions, I believe. Dawson was put down heavily against Eric Harding, a solid, if unremarkable perennial contender. What’s notable about this is that Harding only has 7 stoppages out of his 23 victories.

I, like many others couldn’t believe Dawson’s good fortune in ‘winning’ a decision over Glen Johnson back in April of this year. I had Johnson as a clear winner in a fight that showed he’s uncomfortable against a good experienced fighter who can maintain pressure & throw lots of punches – That really doesn’t bode well when you consider matching him up against Calzaghe.

I do have to give Dawson credit for beating Tomasz Adamek – a fighter I rate highly who has gone on to become a serious force at Cruiserweight. Adamek’s style differs greatly from a Glen Johnson or a Joe Calzaghe, however. Calzaghe appears nigh on impossible to prepare for, so unconventional his approach is.

Put simply, I see Dawson as another Jeff Lacy type – An undefeated good fighter who’ll continue to impress until he gets matched with someone REALLY good. I believe Hopkins would beat him, Johnson would stop him on a rematch, and bringing it back to the subject, Calzaghe would likely easily box a decision against him – Quite possibly hurting him in the process.

Bernard Hopkins is a different kettle of fish. The man in undeniably a great fighter, an in the first four rounds of his bout with Calzaghe gave Joe fits. He’s the closest man in Calzaghe’s career to set out what appears to be the only blueprint to beat the man – Counter effectively & use a tricky defensive style in doing so - One that pretty much only Hopkins can.

That said, from round six onwards Calzaghe dominated, and whilst there’s a lot been said & written about their fight, I’m of the opinion (of the majority, whilst I realise that doesn’t in any way validate it) that Calzaghe won a clear albeit close decision. I scored the bout 115-112, the same as judge Ted Gimza.

The reason I don’t think Hopkins should get a return fight, put simply is the utterly unsportsmanlike way he conducted himself throughout the whole of the proceedings. Before the fight he belittled Calzaghe any way he could, which is par for the course in boxing, but his ignorant & racist comment ‘I’ll never let a white boy beat me’ was completely unacceptable – Mores because it showed how much of a racist society we still live in when several people had the audacity to jump to Hopkins’s defence unbelievably. It goes without saying that had Calzaghe made similar remarks the world would have been up in arms. Being any race doesn’t excuse making prejudiced statements against another – case closed.

Following this, Hopkins did another forgivable thing within the fight itself – Pretending to be hurt by a low blow that didn’t even land & playing to the judges to try & get time to recover (which he did) at a point when it was obvious that he was losing, and more shamefully trying to get a point taken off Calzaghe. Hopkins had every advantage in that fight – Joe Cortez let him fight his fight in close with hold after hold (showing the apparent bias towards American fighters he also displayed in the Hatton-Mayweather bout when he refused to let Hatton fight in close), the fight was in the states & the psychological upper hand in being able to say whatever he wanted in the build up knowing full well Calzaghe couldn’t employ similar tactics.

Yet he lost, making a mockery of his ‘I’ll never let a white boy beat me’ idiotic statement. I’m sorry Bernard, you made your made & you’re going to lie in it. I 100% agree with Calzaghe that Hopkins doesn’t deserve a rematch for the reasons stated above.

Glen Johnson for me is the only fighter being talked about who deserves consideration of a fight against Calzaghe at this juncture. He’s conducted himself respectfully throughout his career, beaten great fighters, and anyone who wasn’t blind could see that he was robbed of a victory against Dawson, hence placing him above Chad in the deserving stakes in my book. Johnson is a fighter’s fighter – He’s made his reputation in the ring & proved time after time that he’s a worthy opponent for anyone.

I believe if he were to fight Calzaghe it would be a great battle to watch. I reckon Calzaghe would probably get the win, but it would be a titanic struggle, and possibly result in a split decision.

Moreover, Johnson was slated to fight Calzaghe three times. Calzaghe pulled out with injuries, and I think Johnson is the only fighter that Calzaghe’s detractors can say with any legitimacy that there’s a possibility that Joe was ducking him.

The reason I think Calzaghe should retire is that I don’t think Calzaghe would get the respect from the fans that refuse it of him should he fight and beat Johnson – Even should he do convincingly.

It was the same with Lennox Lewis – It took some time before the big man got his due from the boxing world at large. After his retirement his record in the cold light of day couldn’t be messed with, and I think that will prove true with Calzaghe if he retires now. He’s beaten young undefeated world champions in Kessler & Lacy. I believe that Kessler will go on to prove how great Calzaghe is in time with what he’ll achieve in addition to what he already has.

He’s beaten legends in Jones, Hopkins & way back when, Chris Eubank, which is where it all started for Calzaghe.

His detractors will always come up with (and I don’t mean for this to sound disrespectful) essentially unproven undefeated names like Dawson, Pavlik (who got schooled by Hopkins, again showing how much Calzaghe’s victory over Hopkins meant) and where does it end?

From the perspective of a long-time fan (I won’t deny it) and on behalf of the British boxing community I’d like to give my congratulations to Joe Calzaghe on a great career. He’s shown determination throughout his years of anonymity & thoroughly deserves the credit he’s received since his breakthrough in 2006.

Go out while you’re on top, Joe – You’ve got nothing else to prove, and those who won’t give you the respect you’re due won’t do so until you retire. Congratulations on a fantastic career & thanks for the fights!

As always, I welcome your comments.

Article posted on 15.11.2008

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