Calzaghe Wins The Big One

By Tom Donelson
Updated: November 4, 2007

GlovesIOWA CITY, Ia. — Throughout most of their careers, Larry Holmes and Bernard Hopkins were never truly rated as great champions despite their ability to beat everyone in front of them.

Holmes had to follow the charismatic Ali and when he beat Ali in 1980, he beat an old Ali far beyond his prime. His defining fight came against Gerry Cooney, a vicious left hooker, seven years his junior and four inches taller.

Holmes fought his best fight and came away with a 13th round TKO but this fight lost its luster historically after Cooney’s career went south and the tall left hooker never fulfilled his potential.

As for Hopkins, his defining fights came against Felix Trinidad in 2001, Oscar De La Hoya, and Antonio Tarver to win the light heavyweights. Critics were quick to mention that both Trinidad and De La Hoya were not natural Middleweights so it took the Tarver fight to convince fight fans and boxing historians that Hopkins indeed did deserve to be included in discussion of great champions.

Mikkel Kessler was to be defining fight of Joe Calzaghe’s career. His defining fight was suppose to be his demolition of Jeff Lacy, but he has yet to truly return to the elites of the Super Middleweight division. Kessler proved to be a worthy adversary.

Kessler, like Calzaghe, was undefeated and no other Super Middleweight could beat him. This was the most logical fight and Kessler came in the fight seven year younger, one inch taller and his reach exceeded Calzaghe by two inches.

Kessler’s biggest strength was not his physical assets but his power and technical skills. Calzaghe never faced an opponent as wily or tough as Kessler nor had he ever faced a fighter with Kessler’s skill. This was a fight that could easily describe as a tossup despite being held in Calzaghe’s back yard in Cardiff, Wales.

The first five rounds were essentially even rounds. In the fourth round, Kessler nailed the Welsh fighter with an uppercut that stunned Calzaghe. He threw a heavy volume of punches, but Kessler more accurate punches kept Calzaghe off balanced.

Great fighters find a way to win the big fights. Against his toughest opponents, Ali found a way to win and Sugar Ray Robinson triumphed in tough fights after his prime by adjusting to his opponent. Calzaghe adjusted as well.

His weakness was that he often stood square in front of his opponents and on occasion, he would be off balance after throwing volume of punches and Kessler took advantage of this with sharp accurate straight rights and upper cuts.

After the fifth, Calzaghe stood more sideway with his right shoulder ahead, thus giving Kessler smaller targets to hit. In the sixth and seventh, he boxed and moved; confusing the Danish combatant. Kessler’s rhythm was disrupted and Calzaghe accurate jabs bloodied Kessler’s nose.

The eighth round was the key round of the fight as Kessler came out smoking and forced a brawl. Calzaghe weathered the storm and with a minute left, a vicious right hand hook to the body sent Kessler reeling back to the rope.

Stunned, Kessler was saved by the referee as Mike Ortega stopped the action to admonish Calzaghe about hitting and holding. This brief respite allowed Kessler to survive the round.

Calzaghe’s effective jabbing dominated the rest of action and his quick combinations overwhelmed Kessler’s ability to counter. He retreated through the ninth, 10th and 11th round.

Kessler fought the final stanza like a fighter possessed, but his desperation was not enough to win the fight. Even though he took the 12th round, Kessler lost too many rounds to take a decision.

This fight was significant for many reasons. The most obvious was to demonstrate Calzaghe greatness. Kessler fought well and used his skills to the utmost but as Kessler quipped before the fight, “Joe Calzaghe skills spoil your boxing.”

Max Kellerman added, “You can do everything right against Calzaghe but it still end up wrong.” I can’t think of any other fighter who could beat Kessler except Calzaghe and the reason is simple- Calzaghe is a great fighter.

This still is yet another demonstration that much of the new talent in the heavier divisions from Middleweight and up are coming from Europe. The top two Super Middleweights are European and you look at the top ten in any division, and you will find a preponderance of European fighters.

And as Calzaghe quipped, “Hopkins and WInky Wright could not attract 10,000 people in Vegas for their fight.” The Calzaghe-Kessler attracted 50,000 plus fans and can anyone think of an American fighter that could bring 50,000 plus to any arena or for that matter 35,000; which is what the Calzaghe-Manfredo fight attracted a few months ago?

Europe is challenging America as the top venue for boxing and one reason, European fighters are equal and in some cases better than their American counterpart.

Good fighters mean good crowds.