17.10.03 – By Janne Romppainen:Judged only by the numbers, Dariusz Michalczewski is one of the very best active fighters in the world right now. He is unbeaten at 48-0 and thusly only one victory shy from Rocky Marciano’s legendary record. He has scored 38 knockouts. He has been the lineal titlist of his division already for six years. He has defended his WBO light heavyweight championship successfully for twenty-two times. Yet few fighters in the world get more harsh critics than “The Tiger”, the 35-year-old Polish light-heavyweight champion.
Michalczewski has received the criticism for several reason. Many point out that apart from two fights he has never fought outside Germany and he has never gone to the United States where the biggest fights are made. . Some are willing to remember Michalczewski’s first fight against Graciano Rocchigiani back in 1996. In that fight, Michalczewski was losing the bout until Rocchigiani clocked him with a seemingly harmless punch in the seventh round. Michalczewski went down twice from the punch and could not continue, which allowed him to escape with a disqualification victory. Many still think that he acted that night and that thusly he should indeed have a loss on his record. And of course, when there is a question about Michalczewski, Roy Jones’ name pops up sooner or later. Even though the American long-time fellow champion has caught his share of the criticism too, many of his fans point out that Michalczewski’s best victories have been against fighters whom Jones had beaten already.
These critics, though they often are unnecessarily harsh, do have some point in them. Michalczewski has indeed fought in Germany for all of his career even though he could have gone to the USA. He probably should have lost to Rocchigiani in their first bout. And yes, some of his best wins are against Jones’ old opponents. Michalczewski defeated Montell Griffin, Richard Hall and Derrick Harmon after Jones had beaten them, though it should not be forgotten that he also won the former champion Virgil Hill before Jones did.
This however should not erase the fact that Michalczewski has achieved a lot himself, more than he usually gets credit for. Nobody can go as far as he has by just running away from fights. And if the fighters mentioned have lost to Roy Jones then what? They are all good, respectable foes nevertheless. A loss against a man like Jones shouldn’t count against anybody, nor should it count against a man who fights the very same opponents.
Michalczewski is again fighting a “Roy Jones leftover”, as the critics put it, when he faces the Mexican Julio Gonzales on next Saturday, at 18th of October. Technically speaking that is true since Jones defeated Gonzales back in 2001. But even though that is the case, Michalczewski is not looking to get an easy way to reach the fifty victories he wants to have on his record. Julio Gonzales is one of the best fighters of the division and stylistically a real threat to the champion. Gonzales’ record is 34-1 with 22 knockouts, meaning that he has only lost to Jones. He is a bigger puncher than the numbers might suggest, he has a very good punching power in his either fist. He also takes a good shot which he demonstrated against Jones and also against the likes of Julian Letterlough. He is younger than the champion, he is tall, rangy and certainly willing to win. In fact, there is very little about him that would give a cause for bashing Michalczewski.
Many experts have said after Michalczewski’s two fights against Richard Hall that he has declined quickly from his prime years. After all, Roy Jones had very easy time against Hall while Michlczewski twice got all he could handle from him before winning. Considering Michalczewski’s advanced age that wouldn’t be a surprise but there is more than that. Stylistically Hall was very bad opponent for Michalczewski just like Gonzales will be. As we know, Michalczewski takes the fight to his opponent. He leads face-first, often eats a lot of punches to land his own and tries to wear down his opponents. This style has brought him victories but it has also brought him many tough fights. Roy Jones on the other hand befuddled Hall totally with his speed. Hall is dangerous when he can fire his punches freely but against Jones that was not the case.
Jones also outboxed Gonzales easily with his speed, but that won’t be the case with Michalczewski. He will go right at him, which means that Gonzales will be able to land his counterpunches. So in all probability, Michaelczewski’s tactics will play right on Gonzales’ hands just like they did against Hall. After that, it comes down to which fighter is the tougher. So far Michalczewski hasn’t found his match, but eventually that day will come if he continues his career long enough. Will the man who stops his march be Gonzales remains to be seen.
Michalczewski will start the fight as the favourite but I don’t think he will win easily. Gonzales is a very live underdog and with a victory here he would rise to the top of the division along with Antonio Tarver (and Roy Jones if he is to come back to his old division) so his motivation shouldn’t be a problem. I am not brave enough to pick the upset here though. I think Michalczewski will start in his usual, plodding manner, perhaps even lose the first four rounds as he did in his last fight against Derrick Harmon. Then at the middle rounds he will gain speed and starts to put the heat on Gonzales. He will have his face bruised and bloodied once again, but I think he will come through and win, perhaps by a unanimous decision.
Whatever you want to say about Michaleczewski’s record and his opponents in the past, you have to admit that he isn’t taking the lightest possible road here. He could easily have two more fights against lesser opponents and reach the 50-bout mark like that, but instead he is willing to tackle top-10 contenders. To me, that is something to applaud for. Michalczewski is not going to fight at the top level for long anymore and he might not be the best fighter of his division anymore (even after Jones is gone, that is) but he still has created a career that deserves respect. Maybe, if he scores another good victory on Saturday, more people will remember that.
The fight between Michalczewski and Gonzales will be played through the live webcam on Saturday.