Joe Calzaghe Fails To Electrify In Cardiff

11.09.05 - By Fadi Khawaja: The evening begins to kick in, the crowd fills out, the warm up bouts get the crowd pumped and as the heat begins to set in you find yourself becoming engulfed in that fight night atmosphere. This evening progressed as promised only to fall short at the last step. The warm up bouts featured prospects such as Kell Brook and Kerry Hope; it was their job to get the momentum for the evening going.

The prospects did their part but the evening really started when middleweight Tony Doherty, from Chadderton, made his entrance. Doherty, a twenty two year old with a 14-0 (7) professional record brought a strong following with him and they were to play an influential role in the outcome. This is the first time I was seeing Doherty but had read about him so was intrigued to what I would see. He was being matched up against Taz Jones (8-2-3) who one reporter assured me could spoil the evening for Doherty. Jones carried a respectable record having lost to prospects but having also ended the unbeaten streaks of four fighters.

In the opening round, Doherty impressed me with his defence as he blocked shots with his elbows, outer glove, inner glove and moved his upper body to evade shots. Despite displaying an array of defensive manoeuvres he was not making Jones pay. He would make him miss but he would not capitalise and thus was getting outworked. Doherty was on the back foot firing some good solid counters but his nose had been bloodied, a sign that Jones pressure was getting to Doherty and his punches were finding a home. I begun to get concerned for Doherty unbeaten record as he had dropped the first two rounds. That being said, it was his first ten rounder and I thought he may have been feeling the guy out as the fight did look like it was unfolding into a chess match.

The third stanza again saw Doherty being outworked and he was beginning to be cornered. It got me thinking and I remembered the three lines of defence are hands, body and feet. Doherty was well schooled in the first two but his feet were not matching up thus allowing him to get caught, cornered and outhustled. Finally in the fourth round Doherty begun to let his hands go which made it an even round on my card. In the fifth I noted a fan shout ‘come on, Tony, step it up’, I agreed. By this point Doherty had found a home for a right hand that he was looping over the top. With my card reading 0-3-2 Doherty, Jones finally looked to have dropped a notch.

Up until the sixth, he was continuously on the offensive letting his hands go. After noting ‘Jones seems to have tired’ he turned the seventh his way landing an array of punches with Doherty not landing anything of note in return. The eighth saw the fight break out as Doherty was back in the fight.

The tide had turned and Jones was now the one begin backed up for sustained periods of time. Jones begun to look tired and at points seemed slightly hurt. Going into the final two rounds the fight was going to be close but Doherty would be the one to finish strong. He had permanently assumed the offensive stance, which previously had belonged to Jones and he was landing the harder shots which had Jones looking hurt once or twice. The final two rounds saw Jones punch output drop, this was the key weapon in winning him the fight early on.

I found Doherty to be switch hitting a lot; I suspect he may have hurt his left hand because he wasn’t letting both hands go to close the show. Doherty hands had dropped a little indicating that though he had turned the tide he himself was tired. Once the bell had rung the decision was awarded to Doherty by a score of 98-94. I had it 4-4-2 but Doherty turning it on down the stretch and his fans screaming their lungs out undoubtedly won it for him.

Doherty had set the tone for the night and it was only going to escalate from there with Amir Khan up next. Having seen pictures of the weigh in, it seemed Baz Carey was an angry man. When Carey was waiting for Khan to enter the ring he still appeared to be bottling up his anger but unfortunately it was to be of no use as he never got a chance to put his emotions into action. From the first round to the last Khan mercilessly pounded Carey as if it was a four round heavy bag session in the gym. In the first he bloodied his face and the round looked identical to the last with Khan repetitively letting his hands fly at Careys high guard and finishing to the body. This saw Carey’s guard begin to drop in the second, which allowed Khan to find a home for his head punches.

The third round saw Carey flustered by Khan’s hand speed with his only answer being to cover up. Khan continued methodical assault in the fourth sealed a shutout. Khan showed he could fight on the front foot cutting off the ring and letting his hands go. He showed every punch to the body and showed great potential for some rib breaking shots in the future. His stamina in four rounds was much more impressive than that of more experienced fighters. In light of all of Khans promise he is plagued with flaws. For the second fight in a row I have seen him get wild and caught off balance. His two lines of defence are pulling back with his chin high and making his offence his defence. Khan looks to be developing into a kid who will rely on his talent rather than skill. I fear he may go down the path of Muhammad Ali relying too much on his talent rather than the Floyd Mayweather route of being a pugilist specialist.

At the lower weights, he will be made to pay for mistakes as the talent pool is deep at which ever division he chooses to fight in be it Lightweight, Light Welterweight or Welterweight. Amir Khan’s flaws are flagrant but so is his talent so hopefully as he grows as a professional he will continue to improve.

The grand finale was upon us and the stadium was humid, packed and loud. This was the coup de grace but it failed to hit the mark. The first round saw Calzaghe come out boxing with a good strong southpaw jab. Calzaghe picked up on the fact he is stronger than Ashira and went on the offensive, bossing Ashira around on the inside. At one point he let off a barrage
of punches indicating he wanted an early night. Calzaghe got the crowd interested when a straight left made Ashiras knees buckle.

The fight was in the bag as every time Ashira would step in Calzaghe would simply pick him off with his fast jab. As the fight progressed it saw Calzaghe disrespect Ashira but not directly. Initially he came out with hands high but the right hand quickly dropped. It is something Roy Jones Junior does; when his opponent is threatening, he’ll fight with his hands up but as soon as he works them out or they are no longer a threat, down the hands go. Being the bigger fighter Calzaghe got physical making it an affair on the inside but not reminiscent of Corrales-Castillo.

In the third round, Calzaghe was outworking Ashira but his shots were landing on the gloves and so he should have gone to the body as it seemed the most open place. I noted ‘if JC turns his shots over he can finish’ but this is a flaw that has been with Calzaghe for a long time and will not change. He loops his shots, landing with the inside of his fist but he hasn’t got the footwork of Roy Jones to be able to continuously be at correct range with his feet so that the knuckles land. Calzaghe was made to pay once when he traded a looping hook with compact hook from Byron Mitchell, this saw the latter winning that exchange, dumping Calzaghe on the seat of his pants for the first time in his career.

Midway through the fight Calzaghe and Ashira fell into a pattern; they elected to trade on the inside with combinations that had no conviction on them. Ashira reminds me of Joe Frazier but he lacks the work rate, strength, trademark punch and chin to competently carry out this style. Like Muhammad Ali in the Frazier rematch, Calzaghe leaned or clinched Ashira when he started to bob and weave low to get on the inside. After the midway point Calzaghe’s style of fighting became repetitive. It saw him establish dominance with his right hand so to dictate the pace, a pace a fellow reporter called ‘boring’.

I talked to the reporter seated next to me and we highlight on Calzaghes punches lacking power and allude to the fact it is no secret he struggles to make weight. Much like Winky Wright versus Felix Trinidad the fight became repetitive to the extent that if you’ve seen one round you’ve seen them all. Calzaghe and Ashira are giving me nothing to write about so my eyes began to wonder. As I looked around I saw Frank Warren and Don King look at each other and sigh, it goes to show that even though promoters have vested interests, they still see the same fight everyone else does. I note in round ten that in the past few rounds every time Calzaghe comes back to his corner he shrugs as if to say ‘it is not working’. Perhaps his father was asking him do something but he was not being able to put the instructions into action. The finishing was protocol; the fight was never in doubt, it was a shutout.

I was intrigued to whether Calzaghes hand was injured or whether he was weight drained because I was expecting a twelfth round surge to try and close the show but my wish was not granted. Calzaghe with his fast hands is a talent but it is possible his best days are behind him or his hand possibly being injured really did hamper his performance.

So there you have it, the show didn’t finish with a bang but it was a good evening with a solid under card that followed the script.

It was the night of the undefeated as everyone on the bill who won was undefeated except for Gary Lockett who was technically undefeated having an avenged his split decision loss to Yuri Tsarenko.

Article posted on 12.09.2005

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