Hopkins-Calzaghe: The Impending Domination of a Living Legend
By Stephan Hawkes: On April 19th, Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight Champ Bernard Hopkins will face his most dangerous opponent of the last 15 years when he squares off against undisputed Super Middleweight Champion Joe Calzaghe at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. This intriguing match up of linear champions is one that finds boxing fans divided as ever.
Article posted on 09.02.2008
Overtones of national pride (similar to the build-up of Mayweather-Hatton) have already infiltrated boxing message boards and there is no doubt that this will become more prevalent leading up to the fight. Add to this a not-so-subtle racial suggestion by Hopkins himself and you find the boxing public divided even further. Regardless of all this conjecture and posturing there should be little doubt as to the outcome of this Mega-Fight.
In this article I will outline that for almost every category one might use to judge this contest, the clear winner of this bout will be Joe Calzaghe. I understand that he will more than likely be the betting favorite come fight night, but we all know that Bernard prefers the underdog role in his big fights. People will point to his victories against Antonio Tarver and Felix Trinidad as a good reason not to count the old man out. Unfortunately for Hopkins, this fight is a mismatch in Calzaghe's favor.
Hopkins is a methodical counter puncher who loves to fight at a slow pace and Calzaghe loves to fight every minute of every round even when he clearly has a fight won (see Calzaghe-Lacy, 12th round). Calzaghe's non-stop style is FAR more impressive to judges than Hopkins' calculated style. In his two fights with Jermain Taylor, Hopkins could only convince 1 of 6 judges that he deserved the nod. This was largely due to the more visually pleasing style of Taylor and his willingness to push the action. Calzaghe is more pleasing and more action packed that Taylor has ever been and he will not be intimidated by Hopkins the way Taylor was.
Bernard Hopkins might as well be the poster child of the granite chin. Other than his 1994 draw with Segundo Mercado in which he was knocked down twice (largely due to not training at altitude for the fight, which took place in Ecuador) the man knows how to take a punch. Calzaghe's chin would seem to be the weaker of the two, but only by comparison. It should also be noted that Calzaghe has been fighting larger men for his whole career and usually responds to being hit by throwing more punches. Hopkins didn't get anywhere close to knocking out undersized Winky Wright in his last fight and his last knockout was against the much smaller Oscar De La Hoya in 2004. With Hopkins' limited punch output, Calzaghe will most certainly be standing at the
People will point to Hopkins ability to fight inside and his effective use of the clinching as reasons that he will beat Joe Calzaghe. The problem is Calzaghe is a brilliant inside fighter and is so fast that he is unlikely to get caught up in the Hopkins clinch. When I picture this scenario playing out in my mind I see Calzaghe getting in and out quickly, landing crisp uppercuts and just to have Hopkins chase him to try and clinch, with Joe landing bunches of clean shots while going backwards. I'm sure that Bernard will try to make it an ugly fight, but Calzaghe knows how to dictate the pace and style of a fight just
as well as Hopkins. Anyone who thinks you can beat Calzaghe by throwing a straight right and clinching has never see Calzaghe fight.
This is clearly a category in which the 35 year old Calzaghe has the advantage over the 42 year-old Hopkins. However, it should be noted that neither man has ever endured any kind of serious beating and both men could leave the sport of boxing tomorrow relatively unscathed.
Anyone who saw Calzaghe's last fight against Mikkel Kessler would have a hard time denying that the man is at the top of his game. He outworked his much younger opponent and elevated his fighting to a new level whenever Kessler tried to take control of the fight. In stark contrast, Bernard Hopkins' last fight against Winky Wright was an ugly and uninspired affair. Hopkins looked sluggish, flat-footed, and old. This fight should be all the proof anyone needs to know that Hopkins will be outworked by Calzaghe.
This is the only category where Hopkins truly has the edge. The only reason I don't bet my life savings on Calzaghe to win is because of recent horrible decisions rendered at Golden Boy events. Anyone with two eyes knows that Steve Forbes beat Demetrius Hopkins last March and yet the scores were 118-110 (twice) and 117-111 in favor of the Golden Boy fighter Hopkins. In addition there was the November 2007 decision for Joel Casamayor (recently signed to Golden Boy) over Jose Armando Santa Cruz that was embarrassing for the sport to say the least.
Luckily, my prediction for the fight is that Calzaghe will dominate Hopkins so thoroughly that this kind of robbery will not be possible. Calzaghe is a pure fighter and he is arguably the best in the world. His style is almost impossible to beat and when I imagine him fighting other top P4P fighters (based on skill and not size) I don't see him losing to Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, or Bernard Hopkins. Floyd (as good as he is) doesn't fight fast paced enough, Manny isn't quite skilled enough, and Bernard is too old and calculated. Come April 19th, expect Joe Calzaghe to embarrass a living legend and put a stamp on his own legacy.
**Side Note** Personally, I hope that Calzaghe unifies the light heavyweight division before retiring and I hope that Hopkins rematches Roy Jones in the final fight of his great career.
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