Calzaghe-Manfredo: what's next?

By Alex Stone


Calzaghe-Manfredo: what's next?

Personally, I hate being wrong, but I will always be the first to admit when I am. This past weekend I was the only writer on Boxingtalk who predicted Peter Manfredo Jr. to beat Joe Calzaghe. Boy, was I way off on this one. I guess it must be an Italian thing, you know, stick with your heritage. A while back I was also one of the very few writers who picked Paulie Malignaggi, another Paisan, to out-box Miguel Cotto… wrong again. However, in defeat Malignaggi did nothing but raise his stock as a professional fight; he showed that he had balls, responding well to adversity and showing the world that he did indeed possess the tools to eventually become a world champion. Last weekend though, Manfredo certainly did not boost his once rising stock as a name fighter. He appeared scared, trigger shy, afraid to engage Calzaghe for the good chance that he would get hit. I still think that Manfredo has the skill to beat Calzaghe, and I also believe that many outside factors contributed to his poor performance this weekend.

First, and most importantly, was the loss of the great Freddie Roach from Manfredo’s corner. Roach is currently down in Puerto Rico working exclusively with Oscar De La Hoya for his mega fight with Floyd Mayweather in May. Though Roach had only been working with Manfredo for his last two fights, the pair formed a bond, and the improvements made by Roach were evident. Manfredo had begun fighting with more speed, more power and all around better skill. Roach certainly ranks among the best trainers in the world, ever; the loss of his presence – and his uncanny skill to pick apart even the most complex opponents, such as Calzaghe – had to greatly deteriorate Manfredo’s confidence. After all, one of the main reasons Manfredo even got a shot at the title was due to his spectacular knockouts against Scott Pemberton and Joey Spina, which were possible largely because of Freddie Roach.

Resuming the role of head trainer in Manfredo’s corner was his father, Peter Manfredo Sr. who is a very good trainer, but nowhere near the level of Roach. Manfredo and his father have had a history of arguing in training and that was a major reason why the initial switch was made to Roach. Another issue to address was all the hype surrounding an all-time great, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, and the fact that he would act as an advisor in the corner of Manfredo. While Leonard may have been one of the greatest fighters to ever put on a pair of gloves, this does not necessarily mean that those skills will carry over into the art of training a fighter.

Personally if I was Manfredo, I would have pulled out of the fight the second I found out that Roach was not going to be in my corner. I would have thanked Calzaghe for the opportunity and told him that I’d be glad to get it on… once my world-class trainer returns from Puerto Rico. Of course, giving up the kind of payday Manfredo got is a lot easier said than done.

Manfredo is not totally dead in the sport though, there are still many opportunities left for a comeback and another title shot. He didn’t suffer a brutal knockout - considering the fight was unjustly stopped because Calzaghe played patty-cake on Manfredo’s gloves – and he is still a young fighter with room for improvement. All excuses aside, I was truly wrong and the fight was headed toward a legit stoppage anyway.

Calzaghe will now hopefully go on to bigger and better thing, fights that actually matter and other things of that sort. Talks now have it that Calzaghe will go after Bernard Hopkins if he has a successful day “turtle hunting”  against Winky Wright - which is by no means an easy task. Yet at the same time former pound-for-pound king Roy Jones Jr. is calling the champions name as well. Wait a minute though; I have a great idea… LIGHT BULB!!! Rather than watch a 35-year-old guy (Calzaghe) duke it out with a 42-year-old defense orientated fighter (Hopkins), or beat down on a deteriorating 39-year-old (Jones), why not have Calzaghe, considered the legitimate world champion at 168 fight the only man that really matters; a young, undefeated, hard hitting animal in Mikkel Kessler, the owner of the WBA and WBC titles in the same division.

Many give Kessler a good chance to dethrone the longest reigning champ in the sport. Both men are extremely popular in Europe and though it probably would not take place in America, both fighters would walk out with a very large payday. However, it seems that Frank Warren, who promotes Calzaghe, will be delay the fight as long as possible.

Manfredo, on the other hand, is now going to have to decide what to do with his career. Will he take his big paycheck and call it a day? Most likely not. Manfredo will go into comeback mode and continue his quest to the top. Manfredo’s manager should set him up with carefully picked opponents, good fighters such as Omar Sheika, and then make the fight that will be the key to get him back into title contention… a bout with Jeff Lacy.

Lacy may not want to fight Manfredo. Unless he has transformed into a very good, technically sound boxer – which I highly doubt – I think he will see that Manfredo’s boxing skills could possibly spell deja-vu. Manfredo must make it impossible for Lacy to turn him down. Have a couple of fights and get past opponents such as Robin Reid and Omar Sheika and then press the issue with Lacy. They will have both beaten the same guys, both lost to the same champion and will both be looking for another title shot. It could be billed “Fight for the Future”  Maybe I should have been in advertising.

As for the other major fight last weekend, Joshua Clottey certainly established himself as a major power player in the welterweight division. His domination of Diego Corrales should put fear into any of the top contenders or champions at 147. Clottey could be in line for another shot in a rematch with WBO titlist Antonio Margarito, or someone else if the WBO title becomes vacant. Unless Clottey once again breaks his hand, or otherwise injures himself, I see him walking away with that belt around his waist this time.

Corrales now needs to figure out what he is going to do. Immediately after the final bell rang, ending the ten rounds of punishment that Corrales sustained on Saturday, his trainer asked “What do you want to do? Do you want to move down to 140?” This may very well be a sign of the end of Corrales’ career, seeing as he claimed he could no longer get down past 142 pounds. However, it is possible that Corrales simply bit off more than he could chew in his welterweight debut. In the past, Corrales had been stopped three times by lightweights, so it is no surprise that a heavy-handed welterweight such as Clottey was able to have his way with Corrales and eventually send him to the canvas, twice.

Though he was virtually shut-out on Saturday, Corrales was able to turn his bout with Clottey into the ultimate oxymoron, by making the fight a “competitive shut-out”. Corrales landed his share of punches in bunches, but the more telling blow came from Clottey. It seemed apparent that Corrales’ power simply didn’t follow him into his new weight class.  No matter what Corrales decides to do or what weight he figures to compete at, one thing is for sure, I look forward to his next fight. He is a crowd pleaser who is incapable of being in a boring fight.

Next on my wish list… Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo throw the rules out the window, both weigh in anywhere south of 170 - or whatever freaking weight they want - and finally have that long anticipated rubber match.