The Sun Rises Again*: Boxing Commentary
02.08.07 - By Christopher Roche: This edition contains guest commentary from undefeated Long Island, NY welterweight Tommy “The Razor” Rainone. “The Razor’s Edge” appears near the end of the column.
Article posted on 02.08.2007
Boxing Questions (and answers): 1) After he fights Mikkel Kessler, will Joe Calzaghe answer Bernard Hopkins’ call?
After Hopkins’ unanimous decision win over Ronald “Winky” Wright, “The Executioner” called out none other than Joe Calzaghe. Calzaghe has some business to attend to against Mikkel Kessler on November 3, but I do not believe Calzaghe needs to even defeat Kessler to make a match with Hopkins.
Since Hopkins is past forty and Calzaghe will soon be pushing the big 4-oh, I think their fight could be billed the “Battle for the 401-K Title”, i.e. a battle to increase the size of their retirement accounts.
If Calzaghe defeats Kessler, the Hopkins fight makes a ton of sense for him financially, and since neither Calzaghe nor Hopkins has anything left to prove in boxing, they could put on an intriguing show, which would pay both men handsomely. If Calzaghe loses to Kessler, but puts forward a good performance, the fight with Hopkins still makes sense, because Calzaghe is not going to return to the contender trail, and I do not think he and Hopkins are worried about matching up for belts or weight classes. The Hopkins vs. Calzaghe match would be more about pride, bragging rights and money. However, if Calzaghe is knocked out or completely dominated by Kessler, then the Hopkins fight loses most of its luster and would not happen.
I believe Calzaghe will defeat Kessler in a convincing manner. I have said it before, and I will say it again, Calzaghe’s style is too difficult for Kessler to overcome. Kessler is a very conventional fighter, and I believe his style is too rigid to adapt to the enigma that Calzaghe will present. Further, I do not believe Calzaghe will have any problem figuring out Kessler’s style, and even though Kessler has youth and power, I believe Calzaghe’s craftiness and skill will overcome those attributes and Kessler’s Oh will unfortunately go.
2) Since Kessler and Calzaghe are matched up in a potential Fight of the Year, why in the world am I talking about Calzaghe vs. Hopkins?
Calzaghe and Hopkins are being talked about simply because Hopkins is in the news right now, and he brought up the scenario. Hopkins presented a dream scenario of having the bout in Yankee Stadium (the Stadium), in the Bronx, NY, which would be a great way to say farewell to that beloved facility. The Stadium is closing after the 2008 baseball season, and a bout in 2008 with a huge crowd would be a wonderful final year event. The Stadium held many great boxing events over the years, but with the present reality that is boxing, financing for big shows generally comes through casinos, especially here in the U.S. Our large stadium shows are rare, but a super bout in the Stadium would provide wonderful symmetry for the storied facility.
A Calzaghe vs. Hopkins bout in the Stadium would also be the biggest way that America could welcome one of Europe’s bonafide sports stars. We already welcomed David Beckham, and with the exception of his huge contract and his wife’s reality show, hardly anyone in America noticed, and those that did notice Beckham did not care about his skill as a soccer player. Calzaghe would be welcomed solely for his athletic ability and not his spouse, the size of his contract or a reality show.
Finally, a Calzaghe and Hopkins bout would hearken back to the Golden Age of boxing. The undefeated champion from Europe taking on the tough Philadelphia brawler in the Stadium is like a scene out of the 1930’s. If the dollar stays where it is, thousands of fans from Europe would be able to exchange their Euros and Pounds and purchase fight tickets, hotel rooms, meals and pub excursions at bargain prices. New York has almost never been cheaper to visit for our friends across the pond, and seeing Hopkins and Calzaghe duel in Yankee Stadium is material that can be shared with children and grandchildren many years from now.
3) With his win over Carlos Baldomir, did Vernon Forrest just serve notice to the Junior Middleweight and Middleweight divisions that a new sheriff is in town?
I was present when Forrest sent shockwaves through the boxing world with his first win over Shane Mosley. Forrest is the type of fighter who does everything well. He can box and hit. He is tall, so his opponents have a tough time getting to him. Forrest has an excellent chin, and he has beaten world-class competition. Despite his excellent attributes as a fighter, Forrest sort of flies under the radar. He does not make a spectacle out of himself. After his win over Baldomir, for example, he credited his opponent with a tough challenge, and he did not call anyone out. He was honest and down to Earth about his victory.
I realize Forrest lost badly to Ricardo Mayorga in their first bout, but Emmanuel Steward said that part of the problem was Forrest was fighting with one hand, since he had a bad shoulder injury. I saw that bout on television, and it did not appear Forrest was as focused for that bout as he normally is, and Mayorga was somewhat unheralded at the time. Forrest was riding high after two wins over Mosley and during his ring walk for the Mayorga bout he was rapping and dancing into the ring. When he got into the ring, Forrest never appeared to have his legs under him. He of course was knocked out early in that bout, but in the rematch, he lost a very controversial majority decision. Other than Mayorga, Forrest has beaten every man he ever faced. In addition to his greatness as a professional, Forrest has a stellar amateur background, so fundamentals and skill have never been in doubt.
Forrest looked to be 100% healthy against Baldomir, and if he stays that way, he will not be beaten any time soon. With Buddy McGirt calling the shots in the corner, Forrest will never be outfoxed, and with his newfound health, he will not be overmatched. Since Jermain Taylor is moving out of the middleweight division, a vacuum is surely to emerge, and since there is not a lot of money to be made in the junior middleweights, Forrest could be winning a middleweight crown sooner rather than later.
Fight I Would like to See and Why
Alfonso Gomez vs. Andre Berto: Gomez is a man who comes forward and is not a huge puncher. Berto is a man who comes forward and is a huge puncher. Gomez is coming off the biggest win of his career over Arturo Gatti, and Berto just passed his biggest test against Cosme Rivera. Both men have a lot to gain from fighting each other, and they are both on the rise. A collision course is very logical, and the fight would be very entertaining. Moreover, both men would be tested, and while Berto would probably be a favorite, he would not be an overwhelming one.
Berto, for his part, undoubtedly sent a scare through his team, when he was knocked down at the end of round six, but he came back and finished strong. The knockdown did not change my perception of Berto as a great prospect, despite the negativity in the media that followed, however, I was disappointed that his team waited until he was in trouble to change his glove. Changing a glove after a knockdown is very suspicious, since it bought Berto extra rest. Further, it was reported the glove was torn as early as the second round, but nothing was done until after the knockdown at the end of the sixth, and it seemed like the move was against the referee’s wishes.
Quote of the Week
"I landed over 1000 clean punches on Lacy and right now I'm punching harder, faster and more accurate than ever before so I wouldn't be surprised if I doubled that figure on Kessler."-Joe Calzaghe (quote appeared on Fightnews.com)
The funny thing is I wrote my analysis above before reading this quote.
Injustice of the Week
The injustice of the week is that I recently wrote an article about fighter’s nicknames from the last thirty years, and I did not include Roberto Duran’s or John Mugabi’s. I can understand the outrage surrounding Duran’s “Manos de Piedras” being left off, but was John “The Beast” Mugabi really a great nickname? I received several e-mails regarding Mugabi being left off, but I note that “The Beast” converted to Christianity at the end of his career and changed his name to John Paul Mugabi.
Duran’s nickname arguably loses a lot of its zing when translated into English, but since he is an all-time great, the omission is somewhat inexcusable.
We recently returned from our first trip to Portland, Oregon. One of our stops out there was the National Craft Beer Festival (oregonbrewfest.com), which is the largest Craft Beer Festival in the United States. For those of you unfamiliar with the beer scene, Oregon is the breadbasket for craft beer in the United States (Oregon has a nice wine country too). It seems like everyone in Oregon brews his or her own beer, and Budweiser is a somewhat dirty word. Because of Oregon’s leadership in the craft beer market, most of the beers at the festival come from Oregon or the surrounding states. In fact, only a few of the 72 entries are from the East Coast.
Since I hail from New Jersey, which is Bud, Coors and Miller country, we do not have a great familiarity with craft brews. However, our lone representative at the festival, Flying Fish (flyingfish.com), availed themselves very well. Flying Fish pretty much stole the show, as everyone buzzed about their “Bourbon Barrel Abbey Dubbel”. I worked the Flying Fish tap for two shifts, and everyone wanted to know where the great tasting beer was from, and when I proudly told them “New Jersey”, their faces filled with surprise. It is safe to say that New Jersey sent shockwaves through the Portland craft beer establishment, and I raise my glass to Gene Muller and all of the employees at Flying Fish on a great job representing themselves and our fine state. We had a wonderful time out West, but I am glad to be home, because I could not take any more New Jersey jokes from the Oregonians.
The Razor’s Edge (By: Tommy “The Razor” Rainone 8-0, 2 KO’s)
Boxing is far from dead. There is a ton of talent around and a lot of these guys are now facing each other. A lot of boxing writers and would be boxing writers like to jump on the bandwagon and bash boxing and what they perceive as the current state of the sport because that is what they are used to hearing. I think a lot of the negativity in boxing today directly stems from the media and writers who find it all too easy to bash fighters and a sport that they have not the slightest idea as to how tough boxing really is and what kind of sacrifice and dedication goes in to being a fighter.
I have a read a couple of decent articles written lately by other writers talking about the bright side of boxing and the many intriguing match-ups that are on the horizon and how although the heavyweight division is weak the rest of the sport is very strong. That is what we need more of from the media.
I will be taking reader submissions and answering them in this space. Please e-mail me at email@example.com with questions and commentary, and we will include as many as we can. Please include your first name and hometown for publication and type the word “Column” in the subject line.
*This column is inspired by the premier novel of the twentieth century, Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Hemingway spoke highly of the sport of boxing, and he participated as both a fighter and a referee. Every other week this column will humbly pay homage to the man who helped glorify the fight game back in its early stages. With a little hard work, the Sun Will Rise Again for Boxing, as together we can restore the sport to the top, one fan at a time. Thank You for reading the column.
The next edition will appear on August 14.
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