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Calzaghe, For Legacy, Needs To Fight Pavlik

BY Michael Woods ON June 24, 2008
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You almost did it, Slappy Joe. You almost had me retire that endearingly applied moniker that I’ve attached to you over the last year or so, as I’d come to more completely appreciate your style and your substance, as one of the top five pound for pound boxers in the world.

But now comes the  news that you are spurning an offer to scrap with Kelly Pavlik, and instead seriously entertaining stepping  in with faded Roy Jones. And with your stubborn public insistence that Pavlik is the one shrinking from the prospect, Slappy Joe, you are hemorrhaging credibility, and some of the admiration you have rightfully collected from admiring fightwatchers.

You hit that P4P mark with your November 2007 win over Mikkel Kessler, in my eyes, SJ, and I do believe it’s entirely possible that you deserved to be on pound for pound lists before the Kessler win.

Maybe you deserved to be elevated when you boxed Jeff Lacy’s ears off, in March 2006 and laid ruin to his career prospects with a masterful display of ring generalship.  That was a wakeup call for us Statesiders, who sometimes, I admit, fall prey to a subconscious bias towards pugilists who toil on our soil. We can’t effectively assess somebody if out scouting report is based on a few dusty YouTube clips (and that sad inevitability will likely continue, as I am not wise to the methods used by these techno-whizkids who know how to view any fight, as it unfolds, as long as it is being televised on some broadcast outlet, even if that outlet is in Kazakhstan).

So maybe some of us were late to the pro-Joe party, and should’ve seen the light earlier.

But maybe, just maybe, some of us should be reconsidering where we rate SJ on our pound for pound lists, and maybe bump him down a few notches, and reinstate our tiniest-bit mocking  but mostly all-in-good- fun tag, “Slappy Joe.”

Because if Joe Calzaghe truly does want to take on 39-year-old Roy Jones, instead of beckoning young gun Kelly Pavlik into a truly meaningful faceoff between a wizened vet and the sport’s freshest buzz generator, then the Welshmen must temper any talk about his rightful place atop the P4P heap, when he downs Jones. If he really wants to face Jones at light heavyweight, instead of inviting Pavlik, the middleweight king, up to his stomping grounds, super middleweight, then Calzaghe will be squandering the vast sum of goodwill he has accrued from keyboard tappers and fightwatchers on these shores.

"I am now a free agent with no contract and intend to be self-managed from now on,” Calzaghe (45-0) told the South Argus Wales newspaper.  “I am the only person who can make negotiations for my next fight. Regarding that fight, I am not in negotiations with Kelly Pavlik, despite reports to the contrary. My intention is to fight Roy Jones Junior, a four-weight world champion fighter. That would be a special event for me against a legend of the sport.”

If by “special” Calzaghe means “exceedingly lucrative and non-threatening,” then the hitter is spot on.

Jones, lest you forget, can bring his quick hands out of mothballs for a total of maybe 10% of a round these days, and could not stop supersized welterweight Felix Trinidad when they faced off in January.  Anyone would concede he is a legend, as was the last past-his-prime pugilist Calzaghe tamed, 43-year-old Bernard Hopkins. But RJJ’s best days were back when the Lewinsky scandal was fresh news.

Roy Jones will put up a decent fight, last 12 rounds against Calzaghe, and then both men can issue each other heartfelt hugs, for conspiring to engineer a fight which paid them both handsomely, without necessitating that either man suffer a scratch.

I must add that of course I understand, and applaud the undeniable truth that this decision is Calzaghe’s, and nobody elses. It could even be labeled the smart choice, if by smart you mean  “most money with least risk.”

But please, SJ, if you do the dance with Jones, don’t insult our intelligence, and spew any nonsense about Pavlik not wanting this match, or him not being ready for you, or any other patently ludicrous assertions.

We’re all more likely to accept the choice of the aged and toothless slickie, SJ,  over the unbeaten Ohian whose mind is fixated on securing a stoppage with an almost OCD-like fervor, if you don’t subscribe to that James Thurber line, “You can fool too many of the people too much of the time.” I will tip my cap to you, and promise to permanently retire my use of “Slappy Joe,” in fact, if you simply come clean, and admit that you don’t want to risk your blemish-free record against the cannon fire of Pavlik, and at age 36, you realize that you’ve lost some luster, and a fight with Jones is the more sensible activity from a risk/reward-ratio basis.

A fight with Pavlik, who is quite likely near the Everest crest of his ability and confidence, at age 26, would be a splendid career capper, SJ. Handing the pride of Youngstown his first loss, and dispensing another stellar slugging symposium for fightwatchers would elevate you on P4P lists, and more importantly, quell any lingering talk by detractors who offer that you didn’t fight enough top tier battlers in their prime to justify a career-encapsulating mini-bio as anything other than a stellar UK-region boxer.

Take some time, think it over, Slappy Joe. In Column A, a lucrative but legacy disenhancing fight with Jones. In Column B, an also lucrative fight against the game’s brightest new star, and the retirement of my usage of the nickname “Slappy Joe.” More than I think you realize, SJ,  your legacy hinges on you choosing B.

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