Calzaghe vs Hopkins: Could it Happen?

14.06.06 - MICHAEL KLIMES: The Similarities: A month a go (in my last piece for ESB) I wrote that Joe Calzaghe’s career was somewhat of a disappointment, due to a plethora of factors like his late birth relative to the other boxers in the talent rich era of middleweight and super middleweight divisions of the 1990s, his fragile hands and inability to find the big fights against his two great contemporaries: Roy Jones Junior and Bernard Hopkins.

Calzaghe has stated he wants his last three fights to be against the best opposition possible, with all the lucrative rewards that this entails and frankly he deserves it. After Bernard Hopkins’s highly considerable victory against Antonio Tarver I cannot help but raise my eyebrows. In my previous article I said a match between Calzaghe and Hopkins would not make sense from either side because, ‘it is hard to see a clash between Calzaghe and Hopkins (at this point in time) creating the vast sums of cash wanted by both men.’

However, this might have changed with Hopkins’s flawless victory against Tarver. Like Calzaghe against Lacy, people were questioning Hopkins and many gave the ‘Magic Man’ a nod of encouragement in his chances against the former middleweight maestro. Like Calzaghe, Hopkins completely dominated his adversary, giving such a one sided performance that all fans were left blinking in astonishment. Hopkins, as all boxing greats do pulled twelve rabbits out of his hat instead of just one. He was the magician of every round.

Hopkins’s stamina and conditioning were exemplary just as Calzaghe’s were in fighting Lacy. Their careers’ in retrospect are also similar. Both were the men to beat in their divisions and were champions in the traditional fashion by pursuing their legacies at one weight instead of weight hopping. Hopkins made twenty defences, Calzaghe has made eighteen, both fought the best their eras had to offer and both have seemed to suffer from the problem of just being a bit too good for their times. They were also grossly underestimated for most of their careers, have had to work very hard to prove themselves (harder than most) and only got the purses at the very end (well Calzaghe has not yet).

Hope and Styles

I was worried that even without Calzaghe’s injured hands he was losing momentum with a lack of suitable opponents for his previously scheduled 8th July defence. His injury might be a blessing in disguise. It is my firm belief that he should pursue a fight with Hopkins at all costs. For once it might be the Gods of Chance are smiling at both these fighters who have rarely had luck.

Calzaghe needs a challenge like Hopkins to bring out the best in him. He rises to challenges and does not sink to them. A fight with Hopkins (if marketed properly) is sure to sell tickets as each is coming off stunning wins. If a tie up between Calzaghe and Hopkins does not sell (in either the United States or Britain) then I do not know what will sell a boxing match. This could be a potential super fight because each combatant has a difference where it matters most in this sport to make an explosive encounter: Styles.

After the massacre of Tarver, Hopkins concluded, ‘I could have moved up to this weight five years ago and I've always been good against southpaws.’ He proved that with the excellent use of his right hand, which is the text book punch to neutralise a southpaw. The question is though, has Hopkins ever faced a southpaw of Calzaghe’s prowess and precision? My personal opinion is no and Calzaghe has never squared off against as an effective counter puncher as Hopkins.

Each brings such a bundle of qualities to the table that could make this a salivating contest. Hopkins has a solid chin and pristine counter attacks. Calzaghe has the overall speed, accuracy and skill to give Hopkins trouble. If Calzaghe attacks Hopkins and puts him on the back foot we could witness a rare fusion in boxing, a highly technical chess match with some superb set moves. There could be lots of pulsating exchanges. With both being proud gladiators this would a scintillating showdown and that is what boxing needs: Two boxers of the highest level who can push each other.

Potential Pitfalls

There is one word in boxing that can ruin everything: Politics. Money, contracts, location and God knows what else can send a worthy fight into a black hole. From Calzaghe’s perspective there is always the hand problem and Hopkins at this stage of his career will not wait. He has clearly signalled he will not fight beyond forty one and he might want to end his career on a high note.

Nevertheless, the money and obstacle of Calzaghe could entice him into climbing between the ropes. Hopkins, though, has a lot less motivation compared to Calzaghe and he has always given a hundred percent to his craft so he might just walk away if he feels his heart is not in it. He would not want to put the ointment in the Tarver memory. After all, he did say, ‘I wanted to make history in the middleweight division and then go up and fight the winner of Roy Jones v Tarver - that was my plan last year and I've completed that.’

Hopkins does not have anything more to prove but as a fan I cannot help but see a positive thing from clash between these two boxing superstars.

In life, sometimes it is important to be spontaneous and just seize the moment. Calzaghe and Hopkins have just had two beautiful moments and the rapper Eminem summed up Hip-Hop and boxing in his song Sing For the Moment better than I ever could, ‘That's why we seize the moment try to freeze it and own it, squeeze it and hold it
Cause we consider these minutes golden.’

I hope this moment could happen, say at Madison Square Garden?

I welcome your comments.

Article posted on 14.06.2006

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