Can Calzaghe Handle Ashira in Style?

07.09.05 - By Robin York: In what is largely considered a warm up fight for a showdown with IBF champion Jeff Lacy, Joe Calzaghe makes the 17th defence of his WBO Super-Middleweight crown against the relatively unknown Kenyan Evans Ashira this Saturday night at the Cardiff International Arena. A big crowd is expected as Calzaghe makes a welcome return to home soil after having his last two contests on the road, in Germany and Scotland..

On the German excursion, the Welshman destroyed former victim Mario Veit impressively inside of six rounds to take his record to 39-0 with 31 knockouts. Calzaghe be looking to extend that unbeaten record with a solid performance against Ashira, who will be coming to wreck the longtime WBO Champion's dream showdown with Jeff Lacy, scheduled for November 5th at the 12,000 capacity Excel Arena in London.

Ashira's promoter Don King will be ringside on fight night and is certain that his man can provide the upset. This should provide the challenger with more confidence and show the champion that he's not just coming to make up the numbers.

But Calzaghe will start an overwhelming favourite against a man who is a natural middleweight and two fights ago was floored three times before getting stopped in the second round against Maselino Masoe when challenging for the vacant WBA Middleweight title back in May 2004. Ashira's best wins have been against Fredrik Alvarez whom he stopped in the 11th round, stopping the usually very durable Jerry Elliott in the 9th and out-pointing the undefeated Quentin Smith on the undercard of James Toney's challenge to WBA Heavyweight champion John Ruiz.

That type of experience does not seem enough when challenging a champion who has reigned for nearly eight years and made sixteen defences of his title, which includes victories over former champions Charles Brewer, Richie Woodhall, Robin Reid, and Byron Mitchell. Other big wins for the Welshman have been against Mario Veit, whom Calzaghe destroyed inside a round in there first meeting back in April 2001, Omar Sheika who was halted in the 5th and interestingly enough, went on to give Jeff Lacy a tough encounter five years later, and of course the night "The Pride of Wales" won the title, beating former champion Chris Eubank on points in a terrific fight.

But like all champions Calzaghe has had his poor performances to go with the good, especially when outpointing David Starie back in 2000 and more recently his twelve round win over the Egyptian Kabary Salem in what was a dirty fight. Calzaghe, who normally has a cast iron jaw, has found himself on the canvas in two of his last four fights. Byron Mitchell floored him with a high right hand, but was stopped in the same round in an amazing comeback. It was the right hand that did the damage again when Kabary Salem decked him in 4th. While Ashira may draw confidence from this, it has to be said that Calzaghe's head was clear almost instantly after the knockdowns. The champion also took some thunderous shots from Brewer and Reid, which he walked straight through. Ashira's power isn't amazing, having stopped 13 of his 24 victims and they were all at middleweight.

Calzaghe also has excellent speed and power and is generally an all round world class fighter. The challenger's only hope it seems is if the Champion has overlooked him, which is a possibility seeing as the Lacy super fight is close at hand, but even a below par Calzaghe will be a very tough man to beat. With the fight going out live on national television in the UK and the fact that Calzaghe needs to make a statement after Lacy's pounding of former opponent Robin Reid, I would be very surprised if Ashira can last past the 4th round in what should be a one sided early stoppage for the Champion.

Article posted on 07.09.2005

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