20-20 Hindsight: What's Next for Calzaghe and Hopkins, Close Doesn't Mean Controversial and More

Even though it was much more of a chess match with boxing gloves than a slugfest, Saturday's fight between Joe Calzaghe and Bernard Hopkins wasn't totally devoid of drama. From the time that Calzaghe hit the canvas thanks to a quick but powerful right to the moment the split decision was announced, there was definite suspense.

It wasn't the type of fight to show to friends who aren't boxing fans to try to sell the sport though, and that's due in large part to Hopkins' defensive wizardry. Even in his 40's, The Executioner is quite simply the best defensive boxer I've ever seen, adept at not only blocking, slipping and evading punches, but also at controlling tempo and spacing. It's nearly impossible for opponents to line him up for anything significant, and his ability to fire off the ropes at the very last second is remarkable. Add in his timely clinches and his subtle (and not so subtle) tactics at extreme close range and it becomes an intimidating package for any opponent.

Against Calzaghe, Hopkins just didn't have enough offense to go with it. Too much jumping in without scoring, not enough of the jab and a real lack of weapons other than his counter right and body shots in close. You got the feeling that the fight was there for Bernard to win if he had just summoned up a little bit more of an attack, especially in the middle rounds when he admitted to pacing himself.

And lest we get too carried away with what Hopkins didn't do, proper credit needs to be given to Calzaghe for what he did. Joe is a rarity in the fight game in that he's a pressure fighter who can actually make in-fight adjustments. So many guys who come forward with high work rates just don't have a Plan B if things start going wrong - we've seen it recently with Paul Williams and Juan Diaz. Calzaghe's shown that he has a deeper bag of tricks against Mikkel Kessler and now against Hopkins, and that's what makes him the champ that he is.

As for the decision, there are no doubt people who think Hopkins should have won. There's nothing wrong with that, as there were a number of close rounds that were tough to score. But calling the decision controversial is just plain wrong, just as it was when Glen Johnson did it after his loss to Chad Dawson. A true robbery happens when one boxer clearly outclasses the other - say, nine rounds to three - but loses on the scorecards. That didn't happen to Johnson and it didn't happen Saturday either. Close doesn't equal controversial.

Hopkins asserted after the fight that the fans know he won the fight, but I don't expect a public outcry, and I'm sure he knows that deep down inside. He understands so many facets of the boxing game that he must realize his style just isn't fan-friendly, especially at this point in his career. If this is indeed the end of the road, he won't be able to say he never lost, but he will be able to say he couldn't be beaten decisively, and with the competition he's faced, that's saying something.

Calzaghe seems to have plenty of options for his next fight, though my brother Uatu made a good point when he suggested that he should really be thinking about only one or two more big fights before calling it quits. So much was made of Hopkins' age that it was easy to lose sight of the fact that Calzaghe is 36.

A fight with Kelly Pavlik would be appealing but dangerous for Calzaghe because even though he has the skills to befuddle The Ghost, getting caught by a right hand in that one would probably mean lights out. For financial and name recognition reasons, Roy Jones makes even more sense, and offers the Pride of Wales the best chance to put another big-name win on his resume.

1 comment:

uatu said...

If Bernard's plan was to take him to deep waters, and age didn't effect him as he claims, then what happened might even be worse. He took Wright, Tarver, and especially Taylor to the end and drilled them repeatedly with the right. In Taylor I and II there looked like a chance that Taylor would get Ko'd. Tarver was swollen and battered. Calzaghe-perfectly fine. Which means that at the end, if Bernard's energy level wasn't a factor, that he was simply not fast enough to hit Joe.