By Cliff Rold
After a nearly insultingly dull undercard, Calzaghe-Jones came off as a super event if not super fight and the intrigues continued in a post-fight press conference where questions were asked about future fights and the future of Boxing at HBO.
Before the final bell had sounded on Calzaghe’s resounding win, thoughts were already turning to what the future might hold. Calzaghe has hinted strongly at possible retirement with a victory over Jones but was less than definitive at the post-fight press conference. Questioned at the press conference by ESPN’s Dan Rafael about what was left after his success against Hopkins and Jones, Calzaghe stated “That’s the sort of answer I don’t have an answer for right now. I’ll go away and evaluate. I don’t really like to do rematches,” he continued, referencing Hopkins and a familiar face in the crowd, Mikkel Kessler (41-1, 31 KO). Pointing at the Danish WBA Super Middleweight titlist and 2007 Calzaghe decision victim, Calzaghe joked, “There’s old smiley over there. Look at Mikkel all the way man.”
Kessler laughed, and called back at the champion, “You better,” in terms of a rematch but Calzaghe had other ideas. “Maybe you should fight Hopkins man. I’ll tell you what; I’ll promote it. You fight Hopkins man. I think that’s a good fight.” Kessler continued to smile and said, “I’m ready.”
Speaking to media after Joe had left the podium, Kessler made clear he’s willing to move up to Light Heavyweight for a chance at Hopkins (49-5-1, 32 KO) or his desired rematch with Calzaghe. “Of course I would go up. My weight is Super Middleweight (168 lbs.). I just have to know a couple months before so I can build up more muscle so I can be right for that weight class.”
Asked about rumors of an injured right hand before his loss to Calzaghe, Kessler showed off a scar running from knuckle to wrist where surgery to repair the hand had clearly taken place. Mogens Palle, Kessler’s Danish promoter, was also in the house at Madison Square Garden and further commented on Kessler’s potential plans. “His dream fight is the rematch with Calzaghe but he wants to fight anybody, the big names. If he can’t fight Calzaghe, he can fight Hopkins.” Asked about the possibility of IBF Light Heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson (27-0, 17 KO), Palle made points about Dawson needing more exposure before such a bout could be realistic.
Calzaghe of course was also asked about Dawson both in the ring and at the press conference where he simply stated that he’d like to enjoy his victory over Jones before having to figure out what’s next.
Should Calzaghe end his career undefeated, and stay retired, he’d join a very short list of men to do so, most notably Heavyweight Rocky Marciano and Strawweight Ricardo Lopez, both of whom occupy space in mythical debates about the best of all-time and on the walls at Canastota. Asked how he felt he measured with those men in historical terms, the champion humbly stated only that it would be up to others to decide.
When asked later if he’d seen the replay of his knockdown and realized he’d been dropped less by a punch as much as from the rest of Jones lower right arm, Calzaghe smiled and joked, “Yeah I seen it, but, uh, it (still) hurt,” before shrugging his shoulders and laughing.
One major player who’d certainly be interested should Calzaghe continue to ply his trade is HBO Senior Vice President Kery Davis. On the evening’s event he noted, “I was almost watching (Calzaghe) fight Roy Jones using Roy Jones’ style. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if these guys had fought five years ago. The fan in me wished for that. Joe was clearly the better man tonight and deserves all the credit.”
On Calzaghe’s future he stated, “I think Joe has a tough decision because he has said he wants to walk away and I don’t know how many challenges Joe sees out there. I think Joe is a guy who is driven by challenges. If he sees a challenge out there, I think he’ll step up and accept it but if not he might walk away.”
More than the future of Calzaghe, the future of Boxing in the U.S. took a hit this week as Spanish-language network Telefutura cancelled one of the game’s most important shows, “Solo Boxeo.” Given the strong Latino fan base of Boxing in the U.S., and the shows ability to expose fans to rising Latino stars, more than a few have expressed great worry. Davis was asked about the state of televised Boxing in the U.S., particularly in light of reports of record low Boxing ratings on HBO.
“I can’t speak for the other networks but as far as HBO we’re still as committed to Boxing as we’ve ever been. Ratings are a function of many things. Without understanding the business, people watch television differently today than five years ago.” Asked if implied services which change viewing patterns, like DVR, TIVO and On Demand, could accurately be tracked for real viewer and use numbers, Davis continued, “All that stuff is being developed. You’re comparing apples to oranges when comparing ratings now to ratings five years ago.”
“That’s why, from our standpoint, we are happy with the way Boxing is performing on our air. Would we like to do bigger numbers? We always do. We want the biggest audiences possible, but Boxing is still performing on our network extremely well. We’re a subscriber based system so when the consumer tells us that one of the reasons they get HBO…that’s the best way, when we do our subscriber questionnaires…people tell us Boxing remains one of the top reasons people subscribe to the network. So Boxing is strong and doing well on HBO.”
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org