Las Vegas seems a long time ago and the fight between Joe Calzaghe and Bernard Hopkins seems equally distant. But with time comes perspective.
It was a close fight with a lot of holding and grappling between the two fighters. In the end I scored it 114-113 for Hopkins. I really didn’t think those punches landed by Calzaghe were effective.
Effective to me means the punches are causing some damage. Hopkins had no sign of damage when I talked to him.
It wasn’t a convincing win, but Calzaghe was deemed the winner by two of three judges. At the post fight press conference Hopkins pointed out that Calzaghe was “busted up” and then pointed to his own face that was unblemished.
“Just look at him,” said Hopkins as Calzaghe sat within 10 feet of him to the side on the platform. “I got beat tonight, but not by Joe Calzaghe. I can deal with that.”
Though Calzaghe seemed slightly miffed by the comments he remained calm for most of the conference.
“I respected him before and I respect him now,” said Calzaghe who now is the Ring light heavyweight champion. “There’s no animosity at all. There never was.”
Though I felt Hopkins had the edge it doesn’t mean it was a robbery.
Once again you had a fight where one guy throws a lot more punches and has the appearance of landing them. Hopkins faced the same dilemma against Jermain Taylor and lost twice. Calzaghe used the same tactic and benefited too. Whether they landed or not, the Welsh fighter at least willingly tried to win the fight at all cost.
Calzaghe took the risk even though he was dropped by a laser right hand in the first round. He gets big props for that.
Hopkins reminds me of Archie Moore – though not the same boxing style – both fought past 40 years old and literally used their head to do damage too. Very clever stuff.
I remember seeing a film of Moore’s fight against Rocky Marciano and how he put his head into the Rock’s face and that seemed to give the Brockton Blockbuster pause. Of course he figured it out and eventually stopped the Mongoose later on.
X, short for the Executioner, knows all the tricks and probably invented a few of his own during his long career. He reminds me of old pro wrestler Freddie Blassie who would be shaking his head at a referee admonishing him while beating his opponent with the other hand. That’s Hopkins.
Sure he butted Calzaghe, hit him with low blows, and tried to muscle him around. But the fighter from Cardiff did the same thing. This is the fight business.
Calzaghe could have complained and could have looked to the referee, but the kid just kept fighting. It was good to see that he’s no softie.
So what’s next for both fighters?
Lots of my fellow boxing writers who witnessed the fight feel that Hopkins showed his age for the first time. They say he tired badly and allowed Calzaghe to run over him. I didn’t see that. I simply saw Hopkins being Hopkins.
It’s the same fighter I saw many years ago battle against Antwun Echols in 2000 in Las Vegas. Nothing has changed except the years on his birth certificate. He still fights a conservative step-by-step pace that is fascinating for me, but boring for others. He makes others fight his fight. He did the same against Calzaghe.
Calzaghe normally fires twice as many punches against anybody else in the world. Hopkins made it a grind-it-out fight like a football team taking it to the ground instead of the air. He’s a master of that style that puts imaginary glue on opponent’s shoes.
The Philadelphia warrior could probably beat several of the other top light heavyweights if Calzaghe doesn’t get to them first.
Now Calzaghe may pitty pat a lot with his punches, but he’s tougher and stronger than he looks. On several occasions he out-muscled Hopkins in the clinch despite being the slightly smaller man. He’s got cockiness too. Nothing is more important to an athlete than self-confidence. Calzaghe has loads of it.
Two weeks ago Antonio Tarver grabbed the IBF light heavyweight title away from Great Britain’s Clinton Woods in a 12-round affair. In the same fight card, Dawson barely defended his WBC title against former champion Glen Johnson.
Gary Shaw, whose company promoted last week’s fight card, said he would not mind if the winner between Dawson and Tarver fight the Hopkins-Calzaghe winner. It could happen but it’s really up to Calzaghe.
Sitting ringside during the Calzaghe victory was former heavyweight titleholder Roy Jones Jr. who has returned to the light heavyweight division. The speedy Floridian made it clear he would fight Calzaghe or any other fighter.
Too bad Jones wasn’t like that when he held the title. He avoided a number of light heavyweight fights and several former opponents including Hopkins and James “Lights Out” Toney that would have made great fights. He chose to fight ordinary fights. Though he fought and beat Felix Trinidad last January in New York, does he have anything left for a Calzaghe?
Hopefully Calzaghe meets the winner between Tarver and Dawson. If not, perhaps another go against Hopkins who floored the Welsh fighter in the first round.
The light heavyweight division remains in top form.
Dropped in to see Brooklyn’s Zab Judah work and spar in Las Vegas. It’s amazing to see his smooth as butter moves and lightning reflexes. Though he doesn’t have a world title, he remains one of the elite fighters on the planet.
His father Yoel Judah allowed me to peek at his son sparring with a couple of local fighters. Zab has speed and more speed and the footwork to go with it. Pretty nasty stuff if you’re the opponent.
In about four weeks Zab will be trading bombs with Pomona’s Sugar Shane Mosley. It could have happened 10 years ago but some things need time. If you have slow reflexes than it’s going to be very difficult to catch their combinations with the naked eye. You may want to tape the fight and watch on slow motion to catch these cats in action.
Title or no title it’s worth going to Vegas to see in person.
O’Neil Bell lost his bid to fight for the title when he was stopped by Poland’s Tomasz Adamek in the seventh round in Warsaw, Poland last Saturday.
Bell, a former cruiserweight world champion, was expected to beat Adamek. But the Jamaican fighter was floored in the first round and never seemed to recover.
Adamek will now face American boxer Steve Cunningham, the IBF cruiserweight titleholder.
JCC Jr. on ppv
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. meets Italy’s Giuseppe Loriga in a 10-round junior middleweight contest on Saturday April 26. The fight will be shown live on pay-per-view from Queretaro, Mexico. Chavez did not show for the press conference on Sunday in Los Angeles as expected. But Loriga was in attendance.
Chris Byrd skinny
Former heavyweight world champion Chris Byrd is now fighting at light heavyweight. He looks rather gaunt at the 175-pound weight level, but it remains to be seen if he still commands his boxing skills that enabled him to win the heavyweight title twice. He lives and trains in Las Vegas. Banner Promotions recently signed him. Hopefully he still has his legs 'cause the guys at 175 are quicker than those behemoths.
Great Britain’s lightweight sensation Amir Khan attended the Joe Calzaghe win over Bernard Hopkins. Khan is looking to make a move against the American lightweights who control the division.
David Haye to Golden Boy?
Cruiserweight world champion David Haye attended the fights in Las Vegas last Saturday too. He’s looking for a new promoter to lead him into the world of heavyweights. Could it be Golden Boy Promotions?