10.20.04 – By Jeff Day: The super-fight that Welshman Joe Calzaghe craves and surely deserves appears no nearer to coming to fruition and this Friday (October 22) in Edinburgh, Scotland, the WBO super-middleweight king of 7 years makes defence number 15 against rough house fighter Kabary Salem.
Salem, at 36 and with a professional record of 23 wins (12 inside), 3 defeats and 1 no contest in 27 bouts may not instantly strike fear into Joe, but the champion will no doubt have been made aware of the Egyptian’s capabilities by his handlers. At 31 and having been a pro for 11 years, Calzaghe has seen proposed fights against Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones, Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson fall by the wayside for one reason or another.
Should the WBO king be victorious on Friday, he will have beaten Chris Eubank’s record of 14 ‘World’ title defences made by a British boxer.
It is well known within the trade that Joe is finding the 168lbs limit tougher and tougher to make and one hopes for his sake that he does not regret moving up to light-heavyweight sooner rather than make what looks a routine assignment on paper turn into a disastrous career move, especially as he has compiled 37 wins in as many fights.
Calzaghe has already defeated several men who would be or would have been at the time considered better than the Brooklyn based challenger: Eubank, Robin Reid, Omar Sheika, Richie Woodhall, Charles Brewer and Byron Mitchell.
However, it is the name of Mario Veit that appears to be the most convincing reason that the champion will prevail. In April 2001, German Veit was destroyed in a single round by a rampaging Calzaghe. Veit was undefeated in 30 fights, yet was floored twice and unceremoniously hammered.
To make the result look even better, it remains Mario’s only defeat and he has since gone on to win 14 straight. Included in these wins is a split decision win over Kabary in May this year. The win over Kabary was booed loudly by Mario’s home crowd in Dortmund, Germany. Remarkably, due to reasons known only to the WBO, Veit is now Calzaghe’s official contender!
The win was not without controversy though, as Salem had two points deducted in round 5 for head butting. In fact in the 7th round, he clashed heads with the referee and broke the referee’s nose!
His previous bout in March this year actually ended in a no-decision when after an accidental head-butt in the first round, his meeting with Rudy Markussen in Denmark was halted.
Kabary turned pro in January 1997 and has annexed the NABF super-middleweight, NABO super-middleweight and NBA super-middleweight belts. The fight with Markussen was for the WBO Inter-Continental title. (Apologies if you are drifting in to a deep sleep)!
The most recognisable names on his resume are Richard Grant in his third pro bout (it was only Grant’s 5th pro fight), which Salem won on a 3rd round stoppage; Eric Harding (lost pts 6) in August 1997 and Antwun Echols (lost pts 12).
In September 1999, Kabary defeated Randie Carver in a bout for the NABF super-middleweight crown by 10th round TKO. It was to prove a tragic victory, as Carver died as a result of the injuries he sustained in a gruelling fight.
The challenger will be a rough, rugged opponent for Calzaghe who could have trouble handling him if he has not prepared to the full. Salem must have an excellent chin, as Echols has 26 stoppages in his 30 wins, yet Salem lasted the full 12 rounds.
His record would show that he is very durable, lacks power and can be naughty – to say the least – with his head. This could turn nasty and the referee will need to be alert to any of the Egyptian’s antics. In the lead up to the fight, Salem stated that he cannot hope to win a decision in Britain and that he will do whatever it takes to win.
Calzaghe is a seasoned pro and no doubt will be quite adept at dishing out the rough stuff as well as take it. His fights with Brewer and Mitchell (when Joe was floored for the only time in his career) prove that the champion has the intestinal fortitude required to ‘suck it up’ when required.
It is likely to be rough and almost certainly there will be cuts as heads come together. Look for Joe to take a clear decision after 12 incident packed rounds.
On the same card, local hero and former British super-featherweight champion ‘Amazing’ Alex Arthur meets Ghanaian Eric Odumase for the IBF Inter-continental super-featherweight bauble.
It will be Arthur’s second fight since his shock defeat by Michael Gomez almost exactly a year ago. Odumase has been beaten previously in Britain by Pat Mullings and Scott Harrison.
Alex’s previous bout was a one round win over Michael Kizza, so expect him to take a few rounds to shake off the ring rust.
Eric is a tough cookie, but I expect Arthur to prevail in the 8th round.