This weekend in Scotland, WBO super middleweight titlist Joe Calzaghe defends his crown against Kabary Salem. At one time Calzaghe was thought of as a rising star who would carry on the legacy of other European standouts like Nigel Benn, Chris Eubank and Steve Collins, who all had distinguished runs as super middleweights. Unfortunately, his run as a 168-pound titlist, has been anything but super. Unlike the above mentioned trio, instead of engaging in defining fights, in recent years he has too often engaged in meaningless title defenses against guys named Mger Mkrtchian, Tocker Pudwill, Miguel Jimenez and Will McIntrye.
Every once in awhile the talented Calzaghe will take on a recognizable name like a Byron Mitchell, Charles Brewer or Richie Woodhall. But that's as high as the tide has gone in his career, which is now being defined more and more by unfulfilled promise and unmade fights.
This past summer he was to have taken on Glen Johnson for the WBC light heavyweight championship. But eventually Calzaghe would pull out and Johnson would then go onto face Roy Jones – and proceed to knock him out in September. I guess it's true, one of the secrets of succeeding in life is just showing up and being there.
Johnson was ready and willing, Calzaghe wasn't. Now, Johnson is a fighter that matters, Calzaghe an afterthought.
The shame is that Calzaghe is a talented boxer, who many still consider to be the best super middleweight on the planet – something I still agree with. And he's only 31 years old. It's a bit premature to say that he's died on the vine, but it's clear, he's been ripe for a long time.
And unlike past years you can't say he doesn't have any challenges at 168 pounds, which is historically a shallow division. Now there is a Jeff Lacy, who just recently won the IBF title with an impressive performance against the solid Syd Vanderpool, and WBC interim champion Danny Green. Both Lacy and Green bring exciting styles to the table and are ready and willing to make fights.
In many respects what is going on with Calzaghe mirrors what is happening with junior welterweight Ricky Hatton, who like his stablemate has built up a record of 37-0 and a history of drawing well in Europe. Hatton, it's been said, could fight a cadaver and sell out the M.E.N Arena in his hometown of Manchester, England.
But unfortunately, as he continues to skirt real opposition, like Calzaghe, he is becoming more and more of a regional fighter, whose fights hold little interest to those outside that area.
I used to joke that Hatton was feasting on Sharmba Mitchell leftovers, as he had a habit of facing fighters after they had lost to the respected Mitchell. But look at his mark. His last bout was a fifth round stoppage of Michael Stewart – who had just lost to Mitchell – and Carlos Vilches, Ben Tackie and Vince Phillips were beaten by Hatton soon after they had been vanquished by Mitchell.
Hatton was supposed to face Mitchell in June as they co-headlined an April doubleheader on Showtime, as a prelude to their collision course. But alas, negotiations bogged down and Mitchell took a tune-up fight on his way to a rematch with Kostya Tszyu. As for Hatton, well, he went on to beat Vilches and Stewart (Mitchell leftovers) and as of now has no real plans of taking on any of the other marquee junior welters.
Like Calzaghe, Hatton looks to be a guy that can really fight and he has an all-out action style that is pleasing to the eye. But as his career moves on without any meaningful contests, he moves further and further from the consciousness of the boxing public. Even his loyal fans in Manchester seem to be running out of patience with their favorite son.
The bond that both Calzaghe and Hatton both share is that they are promoted by one Frank Warren, the most dominant promoter in Europe. Who in addition to being their promoter, also doubles as their manager – which is perfectly legal in Europe.
Warren and his crew bristle at any criticism of the way they have moved the careers of Calzaghe and Hatton. They've been known to send emails threatening lawsuits against those that question their moves. What's even sadder is that those in England actually take those threats seriously. I guess his company really is the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in England.
But this cannot be denied – while he has continued to milk his cash cows dry, he milked it so dry that Showtime, which in the past had continually broadcast their fights back to the States, has run out of patience with Warren and currently has no plans of showing any of their future fights till they step up.
Which means they may not be in the Calzaghe or Hatton business anytime soon.
As a manager Warren is doing his job. Taking the path of least resistance and making the easiest fights for the most money for his boxers. But in doing his job as a manager, he may have hurt his own cause as a promoter.
Plenty of big fights are being made in the game of boxing, meanwhile Calzaghe takes on a guy who lost his last fight to a Mario Veit.