Hopkins-Calzaghe: My Two Cents

By Mike Samuels


Hopkins-Calzaghe: My Two Cents

Heading into the mega fight between Joe Calzaghe and Bernard Hopkins most people would agree that the Welshman is faster, stronger, younger and more willing to mix things up inside the ring than Jermain Taylor, Winky Wright or Antonio Tarver - all three of whom lost to The Executioner.

      What most boxing purists won't do, however, is anoint Joe Calzaghe the clear-cut winner of April 19th's showdown. That notion, in itself, makes this championship fight one of the most intriguing match ups of the early calendar year.

      For all that Calzaghe and Hopkins lack in common - the classy kid vs. the street hustlin' bad boy --- it is perhaps the one thing that they do share together that makes picking a winner in Saturday's fight that much more difficult.

      On the biggest stages of their careers, they were supposed to lose.

      Whether you go back to 2001 and Hopkins perfect executions of Felix Trinidad or you move ahead to his two most recent bouts against Winky Wright and Antonio Tarver, most people ring side, press row, or home on the sofa figured it was a shoe-in that the old man wouldn't see his hand raised in victory.

      And even if you throw in the two close losses with Jermain Taylor, the biggest Hopkins critics would have to admit that Taylor didn't 'do enough' to take the belts from the longest reigning Middleweight champion since Carlos Monzon.

      On the other side of the pond one need not look any further than the hype surrounding Joe Calzaghe's title defense against then rising American star Jeff Lacy. Not many people gave Calzaghe a chance at winning, let alone dominating Lacy in one of the most one-sided fashion's any boxing fan has ever seen. Looking back at Calzaghe's November win over Denmark's Mikkel Kessler and one would find much of the same doubt cast upon Calzaghe's merit as a champion. This doubt, despite most American's having never seen Kessler except for on message boards and boxing websites throughout the years.

      In the end, two men are left standing.

      Joe Calzaghe. Bernard Hopkins.

      Once again boxing fans are left trying to decide if Joe Calzaghe's competition and run as Super-Middleweight champion is impressive enough for him to deliver against Hopkins. Those on the other side of the fence are trying to figure out if Hopkins will finally 'get old' at 43 years of age. Or will Hopkins and his slow, methodical style finally be beaten to the punch by the Welshman's “punches in bunches” youth and strategy.

      Hopkins-Calzaghe has all the ingredients to make it a great fight. Both men have always risen to the occasion, especially when the odds have somehow been stacked against them. Hopkins is a throw back fighter. He is bred right out of the old school molding. He has never looked at excuses, much the way his fans will if he is beaten on Saturday, for answers to his shortcomings in the ring. He's simply prepared for every challenge the same, not letting the bright lights and thick pockets of his last seven years of success get in the way of the world's best fighters or a fighter limited to that of a Tough Man contest. Bernard Hopkins is a constant professional. He's never been flashy or flamboyant or even crowd pleasing. But once inside the trenches he somehow finds a way to cross the finish line before his opponents. Those betting that the race against time will catch up to Hopkins need to jog there memory a bit. The only thing that beats Joe Calzaghe on Saturday night is Bernard Hopkins - nothing else.

            Joe Calzaghe's undefeated run over the last decade plus is something he doesn't want to give up, especially when he makes his debut in the United States for the first time in his now 45th professional fight career. Many Americans don't buy into what Calzaghe has been selling for all these years. Bernard Hopkins can lose this bout and still walk away with a pass to the Boxing Hall-of-Fame. The pressure is much greater for Calzaghe, who has been waiting and waiting for the chance to shine outside of his home turf. The question isn't whether or not Calzaghe can handle the pressure, it only comes down to whether or not he is a better fighter than Bernard Hopkins. The lights never shine brighter than in America, and on Saturday Joe Calzaghe will be given the chance to shine brighter than any Super Middleweight ever has in the history of the division.

      The talking stops now. The predictions stop here. Only Joe Calzaghe or Bernard Hopkins can erase the doubt cast upon them one final time.

      For once, at the end of the night someone's doubt will ring true.

      Who, you might ask? I don't think anyone has the slightest clue.

      Enjoy the fights. That's the least one can do.



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