Big Fight Predictions – Part 2: Calzaghe Versus Kessler

joe calzaghe01.11.07 - By Neil Goodman: The 3rd November will undoubtedly lead to some early fireworks, as the Welsh Wizard faces off against the Viking Warrior. Yet again Calzaghe enters what should be his career defining fight; just how many does he need to have before his credentials can go unquestioned?

When Calzaghe decided to wage war against Charles "The Hatchet" Brewer; that was meant to be his career defining fight. Joe battered Brewer for 12 rounds; not without taking a few bombs in return, but he could not finish off the tough man from Philly.

The fight against Byron Mitchell was initially thought to be another career defining outing. This fight saw Calzaghe knocked down for the first time in his professional career; though having said this, he did not stay down for long! Calzaghe rose from the canvas looking a little more than shaken and not stirred; but rather than do the sensible thing, he chose the rage back at the ‘Slama from Bama.' The end result being a second round TKO victory for the Welshman with Italian roots.

It is probably worth noting that is the last time we last the credible Mitchell in the professional ring.

I guess it is fair to say that it is then perceived that Joe then trod more water, until his next supposedly career defining fight. In reality, judging by a normal yard stick, Joe repelled the credible challenges of Mkrtchain and Veit (too name two of his opponents). Veit actually being beaten twice; once by a conclusive 1st round KO.

As time has gone on the expectations levels surrounding Calzaghe have risen and risen; but he has suffered from as a result of having to defend his World Boxing Organization belt. Double edged sword time; whilst Joe should not have to give up his lightly regarded title (as it does have some commercial clout); all the time he holds the belt then other champions / challengers can disregard him, because they only want to fight for one of the big three title belts (World Boxing Council, WBA and International Boxing Federation). The fact of the matter is, you can forget about the WBO belt, Joe has three strikes against his name: he is a southpaw, he is good and he is Welsh!

That is not meant as a knock against the Welsh, I, myself used to live in Cardiff. But rather that home comforts have perhaps played against Joe’s quest for international recognition. There is a strong argument which says whilst Joe’s the champion, the challengers should go come to him; but many of the big names have been reluctant to step into the Dragon’s den.

Calzaghe has been linked with many names over recent months; Woods, Jones, Froch and even Hopkins have all been mentioned. After a period of protracted negotiations, Frank Warren has managed to temple Kessler out of his native Denmark (where a majority of his fights have taken place).

Kessler, with his WBC and WBA belts in tow, comes to the party with strong credentials. On the face of it, once you have drilled down the combatants’ respective strengths and weaknesses, it is difficult to pick a winner (with any degree of certainty). Credit must be given to both men though for putting themselves on the line; Joe could certainly be forgiven for seeing out his remaining days as champion by bolstering his retirement fund with defences against the likes of Manfredo. Kessler, as already mentioned, is coming away from home and brings two prestigious belts and an undefeated record to the fray.

We know all about, or should do by now, the strengths of Calzaghe. He is a fast handed southpaw, with an excellent dig in either hand. His work rate and stamina are first class and his wealth of championship level experience is beyond question. Additionally, put him in front of his fiercely patriotic countrymen (even in Manchester) and he rarely disappoints (when he feels sufficiently threatened). On the flip side, he has hit the canvas a couple of times; although I not sure how much we can read into the knockdown against Salem. Calzaghe also frequently suffers from trouble with his hands. Finally, the level of competition faced in his last two outings may not have been ideal preparation for the younger and taller Kessler.

Many respected observers of the sport are tipping Kessler to be the next big thing. He is a champion of growing stature and whilst he was expected to beat Markus Beyer, the manor of the victory marked his out as danger man. He is tall, strong and equally quick handed as Calzaghe. Perhaps most importantly, he is also the right side 30.

If you do want to be critical though, all is not rosy in the Kessler garden. For a young champion, he has not been particularly active of late; 5 fights in 3 years. Furthermore, whilst the competition has been respectable; he has certainly not faced anyone either of the calibre of Calzaghe or who Calzaghe would not have beaten (with some ease).

So, in this, the acid test for Kessler can he tame Calzaghe?

This fight is very difficult to call; it is difficult not to sense that Joe with a legacy of injury woes, will not come apart against a young and confident challenger. But at 35, it is only 19 months since Calzaghe turned in a career best performance, landing 1006 punches against Lacy. Whilst I do not believe Joe will prevail by such a wide margin against Kessler; with the finishing post almost in sight, I think Joe can bring his big fight experience to the fore. I can see him starting in his usual bull in a china shop fashion, forcing Kessler onto the back foot. Kessler will undoubtedly have his moments and Calzaghe may even need to get off the canvas again; but I believe he will do whatever it takes to go 44-0.

Finally, I would like to mention the sterling work of Enzo Calzaghe. Not once does the name of Calzaghe Snr get mentioned in the same breathe, as the other leading trainers in the world. The stable under him now is looking very health; with names like Pryce, Maccarinelli and Reece blazing a trail for welsh boxing. All credit to Enzo and his determination to bring out the best in his boxers.

Article posted on 02.11.2007

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