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Joe Calzaghe: An All Time Great?

Posted 11-09-2008 at 04:27 PM by The Monk
I have followed Joe Calzaghe’s career for the last seven years and from the first fight I saw live, against former title holder Byron Mitchell, I have been a fan. In the Mitchell fight Calzaghe showed the heart of a champion as he rose from the canvas to stop the heavy hitting Mitchell in the same round. The hand-speed and power I saw that night was something different from the rest of the stale British boxing scene, it was something special.

The defence against Mitchell was just one of 21 successful title defences of his beloved WBO world title over an almost 10 year period. Included in his dominance at 168lbs were wins over former world titlists Robin Reid, Richie Woodhall, Charles Brewer and highly regarded prospects in Omar Sheika and Mario Veit. However, mixed in with these legitimate opponents were several obscure and undeserving foes. Names such as Branco Sobot, Will Mcintyre, Tocker Pudwill and Evans Ashira do nothing for Calzaghe’s resume other than pad it and rack up meaningless title defences.

At this point it is worth noting that the other undefeated Super Middleweight champion at this time, Sven Ottke of Germany, was not so willing to get into the ring with Calzaghe in a fight that undoubtedly, in my mind at least, would have ended in a one sided beating in favour of Calzaghe.

Whatever your point of view on Calzaghe, it was obvious to all that the lack of a career defining unification fights were starting to harm his legacy. Calzaghe also craved recognition on the other side of the Atlantic which up until to the summer of 2006 was yet to be his. This was all to change when Calzaghe demolished the unbeaten, much hyped American power puncher Jeff Lacy. It was a night to remember for Calzaghe as he put on a boxing clinic to strip Lacy of his IBF world title.

A couple of defences followed until Joe signed for the biggest fight of his career. He would face the unbeaten Danish world champion Mikkel Kessler in a fight which many people expected him to lose. Yet again though, Calzaghe proved his doubters wrong as he used his superb boxing skills to box his way to a comfortable UD; Calzaghe had now won every major belt at 168lbs and laid down a legitimate claim to be the best Super Middleweight of all time.

A major criticism of Calzaghe was that he may have avoided the main threats to his unbeaten record from the US, Roy Jones Jnr and Bernard Hopkins, as well as not crossing the pond to showcase his talents to a US audience. With nothing else left to prove at 168lbs Calzaghe decided it was time to make his way across the Atlantic and come face to face with his long term possible opponents. In his fight against Hopkins the Welsh Dragon tasted the canvas early, but came back strong down the stretch to take a razor thin decision against the 43 year old modern great to become the Ring magazine Light heavyweight world champion. On Saturday night Calzaghe faced his second legend in Jones Jnr and again tasted the canvas early before taking over in the second round to lay a sustained beating on Jones that boxing fans thought would never happen.

Calzaghe has said it is his intention to retire after the triumph against Jones, and after 46 fights and 46 wins who can blame him, but the question that are often discussed when it comes to Calzaghe is whether he has done enough in those 46 fights to be considered an ATG.

Both sides of the debate have their views, both sides of which I can sympathise with.

On one side are the people who say that Calzaghe has been a protected fighter whose resume is far too padded to be considered as an ATG, and whose two final wins came over opponents with an average age of 41. While on the other side people point to Calzaghe’s utter dominance at 168lbs as well as being ring magazine champion simultaneously in two divisions. Both sides to the argument have a strong case.

I have thought long and hard to whether I consider Joe Calzaghe as an ATG. I think he is a particularly hard fighter to decide on. For me though, even though he is unbeaten in 46 fights and achieved so much in the sport there is still too much room to pick apart his career to consider him an ATG. There is the resume which has many weak names on it. But in my opinion the major flaw in Calzaghe’s career is the time he chose to fight Hopkins and Jones Jnr. I believe to be considered an ATG Calzaghe needed to have fought both in the early 00’s when both were in their prime. However, Calzaghe still has the opportunity to be considered an ATG in my mind. He needs to take on one more foe, an opponent that is in their prime and hungry, this man is Chad Dawson. I have seen a lot of dismissing of this fight, but I would love to see it and truly believe it would cement Calzaghe as the greatest British fighter of all time.

Although I don’t consider Calzaghe as an ATG at this point I still see him as a first ballot Hall of famer as well as the greatest 168lber of all time. He is an unbelievable talent who on his day was unbeatable. If he has retired, as he says he has, he will be missed and a huge void will be left behind to be filled. Joe will always be one of my favourite fighters and I hope people on both sides of the ATG debate understand point of view.
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  1. Old
    Shambleton's Avatar
    I agree with most of what you've put but I'd have to say that Chad Dawson would be a waste of time.
    He could go on and on fighting undefeated up and comers and eventually he'll grow old overnight and end up looking sad like Roy Jones did last night. I think we can all agree that we don't want Joe to finish his legacy like that.
    I also agree that Joe's fight list has some **** names on it and probably causes people to question his status as an ATG. I would have to say to these people that Hopkins and Jones probably wouldn't have fought Joe in their primes and the most he could do was beat them when he did. Also it bodes well for anyone when the only claims that people can make that they have ducked fighters, are made about fighters who are long past their prime whilst the 'ducker' is still fighting at the top of his game.
    Someone like Joe is always going to receive criticism, he's too flashy and his style shows some really good fighters up to make them look almost average. Fan boys who don't like to see their fighters lose by a wide margin are always going to go through his resume with a fine tooth comb and cling to any reason to call him a bum that they can find. I think though that most intelligent fight fans hold their hands up and agree that he is a great fighter.
    In my mind he is certainly a British ATG and possibly the best to come from the isles but we'll have to see where he decides to go from here to say for sure if he is an 'all time' ATG!
    Great blog though Monkey son. It was an enjoyable read to be sure.
    Posted 11-09-2008 at 05:17 PM by Shambleton Shambleton is offline
  2. Old
    The Monk's Avatar
    Thanks for the reply Jambo...

    On the Chad Dawson point...I think in a perfect world Joe would like to retire in Cardiff after putting on a masterclass against a fellow champion in their prime, well at least thats how i'd like him to end it. For me, beating a shell of Roy Jones is not the way i'd hoped it would end for Joe.

    There is no doubt a lack of options around for Joe; Hopkins? well the age excuses would be used by the haters, Froch? far too unproven, Abraham? maybe, I just see it as a mismatch thought to be honest. That leaves Dawson, who I see as a legitimate threat to Joe, and someone, if Joe beats, would cement him as an ATG. I can see how people can say that Dawson is unproven, but I believe in years to come Chad will work his way up the P4P rankings.

    I can understand why the majority of people aren't interested in the fight though.
    Posted 11-09-2008 at 05:43 PM by The Monk The Monk is offline
  3. Old
    Benny Leonard's Avatar
    Good read. I would say that the Hopkins fight not coming off wasn't Joe's doing...unless you want to say that his promoter should have offered a ton of money just to make the fight happen.

    However, I do think Roy was there to fight and Joe didn't bother, for obvious reasons: Roy was in his prime and unreal.
    Prime Roy is the fighter that could have made him an "ATG" by your standards...but he didn't take that risk.
    Posted 11-09-2008 at 06:35 PM by Benny Leonard Benny Leonard is offline
  4. Old
    Bernard Hopkins said it all in the lead up to there fight "Joe is the biggest fraud in boxing history" One can only be judged as a true all time great by the fighter in question (JOE) fighter other live opponents at their peek of their careers and physical ability. Thus creating what we call in the game a "super fight". sugar ray had Duran,Hearns,Hagler ect. And we can look at other fighters who have rightfully earned their place as ATG only by matching them against fighters at there peek. Joe has a long record of fights 46 and one could say as a barometer of his success could be measured by his bank balance. common knowledge joe has earned no where near the amount of money his record or his claim of boxing greatness should suggest. Who is going to pay big purses to watch uninspiring fights, which most of his fights have been. compare ricky hatton who has earned and fought in comparison much more dangerous opponents he is far better off cash wise. both have huge fan base so i could only assume the promoters were unwilling to pay joes highly inflated sums he wanted for fighting easy opponents.

    Joe has something that no other boxer in the super middle or light heavy division has...that is he is super fit and has a capacity to keep up a high work rate that is unseen in those divisions. coupled with a solid chin and contrary to what joe always says he has average punch power. This he uses to overwhelm his opponents. When your throwing a 1000 punches in a fight thats too much for most boxers unless you have a murderous knock out punch that could end a fight at any given time.

    Yes Joe to call your self a legend you would need to have fought Hopkins many years ago and Jones. Im not going into the fighters he could have fought or should have fought as true boxing pundits and joe and his dad know this. Boxing has changed since yesteryears gone are the times when you called out an opponent to see who really was the best. Joe needs to take a leaf out of Floyed Mayweathers book... he fought and beat fighters that had earned there place and all in there prime, he took big risks but believed in his ability even though a shrewd manager would say Floyed fight this guy you get the same money but less risk !!! i cant see joe's father saying saying that !!!. Yes Joe is a fraud !! yes he is a very good boxer, yes he is a very nice guy, but no joe is not a all time great far from it. We need to look at the hall of fame really look at the fighters in there and see who they fought then ask yourself can we really consider joe too be included among those men. NO !!!
    Posted 11-10-2008 at 06:41 AM by dave.kind777 dave.kind777 is offline
  5. Old
    Joe also goes on about his style of boxing !!!! well joe has only one style HIGH WORK RATE !!! his punches are sloppy and slaps. HE has a world class work rate for his division
    Posted 11-10-2008 at 06:52 AM by dave.kind777 dave.kind777 is offline
  6. Old
    The Monk's Avatar
    Thanks for the reply Dave.

    I think you have several good points. I agree about Joe needing to have fought Bhop and Rjj in their primes. Seeing the shell of Rjj get pummeled by Joe on Saturday was not a enjoyable sight. It was not the Roy Jones who was near unbeatable about 10 years ago, far from it. A Calzaghe - Jones fight while both fighters were in their primes is a fight which I would like to see more than any other, obviously its too late now.

    I have to disagree with what you say about Joe and the not being good enough to be in the hall of fame. I definately think his career has been a hall of fame career, yes it has negatives, but its positives outweigh them for me.
    Posted 11-10-2008 at 10:02 AM by The Monk The Monk is offline

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