Joe Calzaghe: A Bleak Future?

16.03.05 - By Don Caputo: Is he the premier super middleweight in the world? Maybe, maybe not. Whatever your opinion of him Ė good, bad or ugly Ė Welshmen Joe Calzaghe is certainly one of the leading candidates for that particular distinction. Sadly though, he is not a fixture on that short list primarily through his own merits and accomplishments (as he should be), but rather by default; for Calzaghe plyís his trade in a division that has long been devoid of big name talent. I say Ďsadlyí with genuine feeling because he is a fighter who I believe is oozing with talent and potential, yet for whatever reason has been seemingly stuck in the same gear for a frustrating length of time. If anything, the caliber of his competition has significantly regressed in recent years; the Calzaghe story has turned out to be the epitome of Ďone step forwards, two steps back.í

Whenever the WBO(gus) champion appears to be gathering any kind of positive momentum, he in a sense stutters or breaks down two minutes or so down the road. Highs are immediately followed by lengthy lulls, a pattern that has proved severely non-conducive to the Calzaghe cause. Itís hurting him. He just hasnít sustained anything on a legitimate world class plane, which may sound somewhat harsh but Iím afraid his aesthetically impressive yet hollow resume speaks volumes.

The good fighters he has beaten have been few and far between; for the most part Calzaghe has been toiling disadvantageously in the lower leagues; often allowing himself to be dragged down to his opponentsí level and made to look bad. Floored in two of his last three fights at the hands of less than formidable foes, some are even speculating that Calzaghe has already past his pugilistic peak.

While I agree that he hasnít looked especially impressive of late, I wholeheartedly believe that particular train of thought to be completely false. The cynics are always going to be cynical and say things like that, but from my perspective Joe Calzaghe is a boxer who has always performed to the level of his opposition. Thus, theorizing that he is on the downslide because he had a horribly bad night against someone like Kabary Salem doesnít really sit well with me. If we Delve back further into his career, he struggled mightily with the likes of Robin Reid and David Starie; does that mean he was over the hill 5-6 years ago? No, I attribute his poor showings predominantly to boredom and frustration. After 15 consecutive world title defenses, Calzaghe should be at the stage now where heís securing big money fights and only throwing hands with the best; clearly thatís not happening and his obvious ever-increasing anguish is filtering its way into his performances more and more.

Last October, Calzaghe fought the man in front of him with what could be seen as complete and utter contempt before getting decked in the 4th round, up until that point he had shown his challenger close to no respect. I expect because he is copiously aware that he should not still be in the ring with the Kabary Salemís of this world, instead he should have moved on to bigger and better things by now. And he knows it! Thatís what baffles me; Calzaghe claims he wants to fight the best, seems upset that heís not fighting the best, but is apparently content to use his mandatory obligations as a means to feast on a long line of undeserving rivals ala Roy Jones Jr. The finger of blame has to point to him; the odd soft defense is acceptable when sandwiched in-between two or three tough match-ups Ė expected even Ė but when weíre being subjected to consecutive mismatches disguised as world title fights, there is something seriously wrong.

The super middleweight division isnít talent rich, we all know that, but to try and sell Tocker Pudwill, Mger Mkrtchian and now Brian Magee to us as worthy challengers to Calzagheís crown serves as an incredulous insult to our intelligence. It begs the question, who is he trying to fool, the fans or himself? Calzaghe is simply not backing up his boasts; he may well be the best 168 pound fighter in the world, he has absolutely no qualms in proclaiming himself as such, but as yet has not shown a shred of willingness to step up to the plate and prove it. I really donít get it; he is able but just not willing, or so it seems to me.

Of course, itís never his fault when the big fights fall through. Over the years weíve heard the Welsh champion offer a litany of excuses, though in the harsh light of day very few of them ever ring totally true; for example, the alleged injuries that were cited as the reason for the repeated postponements and eventual cancellation of his much anticipated clash with Glencoffe Johnson could certainly be called into question, especially when one takes into consideration the reported personal difficulties he was experiencing at the time. If extenuating circumstances meant he couldnít focus 100% on what would have been the biggest fight of his career, fine, pulling out was probably the wise move. What I didnít like about the whole scenario was the way Johnson was messed about; I really felt for Glencoffe at the time, he wasnít treated with the respect he deserved. There just always seems to be something or someone stopping Calzaghe from making the big fights materialize, and quite frankly Iím sick of it. If he would just step out of his comfort zone and make himself more available, things would be different.

Are there no challenges out there for him? Lets have a look: Syd Vanderpool, Scott Pemberton, Anthony Mundine, Danny Green, Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler, Marcus Beyer; these are the fighters he should be facing, not Brian Magee and definitely not Mario Veit. Thereís nothing to be gained by facing a man you have already knocked out in under a round, if they do end up squaring off again I for one wonít be watching out of general principle; itís a flat out nonsensical fight, one that will prove nothing in my opinion. I really hope it doesnít happen, but then again I prayed his last couple of outings wouldnít take place, but they did. At the end of the day, Joe Calzaghe needs to take a long hard look at what direction his career is going in and decide what he wants out of it, because at the present time his future is looking bleak. Itís not too late, but itís wholly up to him to make something big happen, I donít want to hear any more excuses. Please Joe, make me a believer.

Article posted on 16.03.2005

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