24.10.03 – By Chris Curry: WBO super middleweight world champion Joe Calzaghe returns to the ring on December 6th for the fourteenth defence of his crown. Calzaghe has had a year of up’s and downs and must be feeling the lack of motivation for his fight against the WBO’s number one contender, Mger Mkrtchia. Mkrtchia rose to the position to challenge Calzaghe by defeating Freeman Barr in three rounds. Barr was the long time WBO number one, who was cast aside as Joe looked for more lucrative fights in the division. During that period it was hoped Barr would be defeated and take the burden of a defence away from Calzaghe.
Mger Mkrtchia took that away from Joe, in his own right Mkrtchia earned his position as number one with the WBO by beating their appointed top contender. Number one contender with the WBO he may be, reality is, Joe has just been presented with another burden. It gets to a stage in a champions career that the sanctioning body they represent cannot elevate their status any further. The triumph, joy and new recognition that the title belt had brought when first fastened around their waist becomes a distant memory as the double figures of defence’s clock up. This is the case for Calzaghe who is finding a defining fight, a unification match or a new challenge still far from his grasp.
Joe had spent the first part of this year inactive and in June, Bryon Mitchell fired Joe’s cylinders roaring and had the blood rushing through the champions veins in a way he’s craving for now. Mger Mkrtchia can expect a similar onslaught to what Mitchell received, but Joe cannot expect that same blood rush as he plays games with his mind to highly motivate himself to halt this next challenge.
Mger Mkrtchia is really going to feel world class on December 6th. Joe has only boxed two rounds this year and I cannot see many more getting added by the end of it. Mkrtchia turned pro in the year 2000 and brings a record of eighteen wins, thirteen by knockout with one defeat. Born in Gumni, Armenia the twenty six year old resides in St. Petersburg, Russia were most of his bouts have taken place. Eastern European Boxers are mostly known for they’re upright stance and many novice pro’s fight with a similar style. Mger Mkrtchia has boxed nearly his entire career against novices in St. Petersburg. When facing Calzaghe, Mkrtchia will be faced with the world number one, a southpaw with fast hands and a hard punch. Calzaghe will not have to go looking for Mkrtchia and it has all the makings of a short nights work.
2004 has to be a key point in Joe Calzaghe’s career in which its time to open new doors. In the early stages of the year we could expect Calzaghe to make a fifteenth defence of the WBO one hundred and sixty eight pound championship. Personally I believe the timing is correct to leave the weight class behind. With no big fights in the division any closer, I think the re-newed motivation of a new challenge and a campaign in the hundred and seventy five pound, light heavyweight division would be time better spent. It could be argued a rounded fifteenth defence is a better way in which to depart, but I’d think a win over a major title holder seven pounds up would be much more rewarding.
The light heavyweight division has wide open doors at the moment. Long standing WBO light heavyweight world champion, Dariusz Michalczewski was comprehensively beaten by Mexican, Julio Gonzalez. Michalczewski was going for his forty-ninth win as an undefeated professional when the well he had be going into more and more finally dried up. Gonzalez is a strong, durable busy fighter who’s only defeat came against Roy Jones Jr on points. He has an excellent recovery rate and is a serious player in the light heavyweight division today. Roy Jones Jr dominated one hundred and seventy five pounds superiorly and when he vacated the undisputed championship, Antonio Tarver won the vacant WBC and IBF world championships against Montell Griffin. With Roy winning the WBA Heavyweight title against John Ruiz, it is uncertain what Roy will do after he proves a point against Tarver in November. There is a firm chance they could become vacant in the months ahead.
At the moment in the light heavyweight division, it is all new champions. No fighter has a clear dominance in the weight category and Roy Jones Jr may be drawn towards his WBA heavyweight title or indeed cruiserweight rather than staying too long in old ground. The ideal route into the division for Joe is through newly crowned WBA light heavyweight title holder Silvio Branco. Branco has expressed interest in fighting Joe, with Calzaghe welcoming the prospect of fighting for a WBA version of a world title. Branco lost to Sven Ottke back in 2000 and also in a European title fight before defeating Mehdi Sahnoune for the WBA title. Silvio presents the perfect route in. Never has the timing been so correct for Joe Calzaghe to step up in weight. So in 2004, how does fifteen defences or Joe Calzaghe “Two Weight World Champion” sound?
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