Sunday, November 9, 2008

Calzaghe Cuts & Conquers Jones

Only Rocky Marciano has assumed this pose more than Calzaghe

Some fighters will always have bad timing. No, their reflexes and timing of their punches may be on the target. But the said date of meeting true greatness may always be as elusive as their defense in their primes. This is something that the best of the best cannot help. Maybe Joe Calzaghe should have been phoning Mike McCallum a few years back when it seemed he would be the new millennium version of the former champion.

Like McCallum, who came along right after the Fabulous Four of the '80s--Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns--Calzaghe came after Roy Jones Jr., James Toney and Nigel Benn had left the middle/supermiddle weight divisions. But just like McCallum did agaisnt Donald Curry, there was one name from past greatness left for Calzaghe to nibble after; Chris Eubank. Like Curry, Eubank was already coming two losses to Steve Collins when they met. Calzaghe immediately dropped the reliable Eubank and earned a hard-fought 12-round decision. McCallum commenced to knockout Curry. Both McCallum (loss to RJJ was academic at the age of 39) and Calzaghe (who beat a 39-year old Jones) went on to have hall-of-fame careers.
McCallum and Calzaghe have much in common

But last night, Calzaghe got another chance to fight another fighter whose dominant days were well past behind him, though Jones was still seen as a live threat. This was no longer the dazzling Jones who, inappropriately had been compared to the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson, and also named Fighter of the Decade by the Boxing Writer's Association. Instead, this was a Jones who was coming off a three-fight win streak against decent opposition only after coming off three consecutive, convincing losses. Nevertheless, Jones still possessed speed and power and a wealth of world-class experience. Father Time would have to wait. And wait it did, but Jones still didn't respond.

For reasons known only to Jones, he did not go for the ko after dropping and hurting Calzaghe in the first round. Ever since Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson knocked Jones into the unconscious Jones, he has never has the zest to go for the close, even after dropping Felix Trinidad in his last fight. Not to say Jones, always a safety-first fighter, has been comatosing light-heavyweights. You'd have to go back to his 1997 rematch with Montel Griffin to truly see a one-punch ko to the jaw (sorry, Glenn Kelly does not qualify). After that round, Jones confidence and punch output left New York and went further than Pensacola.

From the second round on Calzaghe walked to Jones with his hands down and his confidence way up. He took a chance and it paid off. He began throwing his usual punches in bunches and by the end of the third round had proven to all that it would take a vintage Jones performance to make this close.

Unfortunately, being knocked out takes a toll on the psyche more than time takes a toll on physical reflexes. Jones, whose speed and power were still there, allowed Calzaghe to wade in arms down, and even taunt him,without throwing any meaningful punches. Maybe Jones should have looked at the .Robbie Peden-Nate Campbell fight to know how to deal with that situation.

Jones, whose been used to fighting fighters 10 punches slower than him, finally faced a fighter who would always throw punches and would not be discouraged. Jones fought back intelligently in the 5th round, pot-shotting Calzaghe with straight rights, but Calzaghe won the 7th with straight left hands and also opened up a cut on Jones' already swollen left eyelid.

By the 11th round Calzaghe had assured victory after sweeping all the rounds with his higher punchrate. Jones would need to go for the knockout to win. But Jones, who oddly was the one coming forward after his cut, was never used to having to do this and did not. Give Jones credit for coming forward, but give Calzaghe more credit for never resting on his substantial lead. Maybe in his prime Jones outclasses Calzaghe. Or maybe this would have been the same result more than 5 years ago. This is what happens when dominant fighters allow economics to pick their opponents. If Floyd Mayweather does come out of retirement, he may want to remember this instance.

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