Joe Calzaghe, by common consensus the world’s best super-middleweight, managed to remove the final obstacle in his path before a mooted November meeting with rival IBF champion Jeff Lacy, but not before injuring his left hand in the process, which may have curtailed efforts to get them together after all. After an aggressive and purposeful start, Calzaghe seemed to sag a little in the middle rounds when Evans Ashira did not crumble under the pressure, and, hindered with the injury to his left hand, cruised his way to a points decision.
There was never any danger of Joe losing, and the scorecards were suitably wide with Ashira not managing to even share a round (120-108 twice and 120-107), but you cannot help but imagine what would have happened if it had been power hitting Jeff Lacy in there with one of these guys. On this form, I don’t think many people would argue that Joe would be in trouble. And as tough as Ashira looked, he had been blasted out in two rounds just two fights ago, and I get the feeling Calzaghe was expecting to do the same.
“Basically, I was sharp for two or three rounds but my left hand went in the fourth round. It was excruciating pain. I’m not sure when I can fight again.” He told ITV television afterwards.
I had noticed Joe was not using his left hand from about the 6th round, when the tempo suddenly took a dip. Before that, Calzaghe had been bulling the shorter African (who looked about two weight divisions smaller) around the ring and unloading heavy combinations. Ashira, with promoter Don King on hand at the Cardiff International Arena, Wales to support his charge, fought back hard in the opening few rounds, but his work-rate slipped as the rounds went by. By the 7th round the two were virtually conducting a sparring session, and Joe’s vociferous Welsh fans sat quietly until the final bell.
Opinion at ring-side was lukewarm for Joe. He had at least come through it with a win to notch up his 40th straight victory…but with the hand now injured, it looks like Joe’s big coming out party against Lacy will have to be put back again. If it is, this will mark yet another big opportunity for Joe that will have fell by the wayside. Who can forget his last minute forfeiture of a match with Glencoffe Johnson, at the time the IBF Light-heavyweight Champion? That time it was a back injury, but many people are still becoming somewhat pessimistic of Joe Calzaghe’s chances of ever landing the big fight his considerable talents deserve.
As for Evans Ashira, the middleweight was in way over his head here. Having campaigned at 160lbs for his whole career, he looked dwarfed by the towering Welshman, and just could not do anything on the outside. His only chance was winging away with shots as Joe crowded in to unleash combinations on the inside…but the problem was that Ashira has never been a knockout hitter, and he was not able to cause any significant damage to Calzaghe (unless you count the hand injury, that is!). Whilst Don King had sang his praises before the fight, with two losses in his last three fights it looks as though Ashira has found his level. He is a solid little workhorse, but anyone expecting to campaign successfully at world level should see him off, which Joe Calzaghe managed to do here effectively one handed.
I wish Joe a speedy recovery…if only for the reason that I am desperately hoping the Calzaghe-Lacy fight, which promises to be one of the British matches of the year, can be somehow rescued and rescheduled when Calzaghe’s hand is better.