Calzaghe-Jones Fight Preview

November 7, 2008

When discussing this Saturday's battle of the “Super Powers” bout between reigning Ring Magazine 175-pound and former Super Middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe, and former four division world title-holder and Pound-for-Pound Kingpin Roy Jones Jr., there are many intriguing questions, for which a simple answer isn't readily apparent.

1. Perhaps the first question which must be addressed is why are these two fighting, and more to the point, why now?

First off, this fight is actually seen as the matchup that made the most sense for both men. At age 39, the once seemingly invincible Jones has managed to rebound somewhat and rebuild some of the credibility he seemingly had lost forever after suffering brutal knockout defeats to both Antonio Tarver and Glencoffe Johnson. Due to a three-fight win streak and a clear-cut unanimous decision over aging Felix "Tito" Trinidad, Jones has restored not just his appeal as a legitimate title contender, but, perhaps more importantly, also his own belief in himself.

A win over the undefeated Calzaghe would certainly erase the shocking image of a prone Jones laid flat out on his back, staring at the lights. Furthermore, a convincing win by Jones would almost surely provide the perfect set-up for yet another bout over ten years in the making – a rematch with the ageless wonder and former Jones nemesis Bernard Hopkins (Jones previously won a unanimous decision over Hopkins in a Middleweight title defense before moving up in weight).

As for Calzaghe . . . well as far as the undefeated Welshman is concerned, a win over the still legendary Jones would cement his legacy as one of the top fighters, pound-for-pound of his generation, and would erase any critiques from naysayers stateside. For years, Calzaghe simply could not be convinced to even consider leaving the British Isles to fight.

Now in the twilight of his career – and openly mulling a retirement from the ring – Calzaghe is on the verge of defeating the two men generally considered to be the top fighters of the generation (at least above welterweight and under heavyweight), and in consecutive fights, no less. The smart money says that were Calzaghe to indeed emerge victorious Saturday night, we will have seen the last of the self-proclaimed “Italian Dragon.”

So, for both men, this bout is all about cementing legacy. Jones can permanently restore some of his lost credibilty. Calzaghe meanwhile, can cement his status as an all-time great and sure-fire Hall of Famer.

2. The next question is why watch?

Well, admittedly this fight ideally should have taken place about 10 years ago when both were in their primes, and in Jones' case, his reputation was intact. In any event, the old phrase "better late than never" seems applicable here. The fight is being contested for the Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight Title which Calzaghe wrestled from former Middleweight Champ Bernard Hopkins, and should present a very intriguing matchup of styles.

Calzaghe is a polished, skilled, extremely busy, slick southpaw. Which of course poses an interesting challenge to Jones, as two of his four career losses have come to left-handed fighters. The first loss, a controversial disqualification to Montell Griffin in 1997, saw a visibly frustrated Jones who was at times stymied by Griffin's awkward style. The second loss, of course, was to his old Sunshine State nemesis Antonio Tarver.

Still, Calzaghe’s “slappy” punches don’t appear to bring the same heavy-handed style as either of those two fighters, despite his 32 knockout wins. After easily handling a naturally bigger puncher than Calzaghe, in Trinidad, we could see a more bold and brazen Jones jumping in with hooks and uppercuts from unconventional angles, emboldened after tasting and taking what Calzaghe has to offer early on.

Jones, of course has never been a conventional fighter by any definition. Much like Muhammad Ali, Father Time has robbed Jones of much of his natural athletic ability, making Jones' technical flaws more apparent, and prone to exploitation. However, unless Calzaghe's work rate and conditioning are that far superior to Jones, Calzaghe won't be able to expose the chinks in Roy's armor because he will be unable to hurt Jones. That lack of power will prevent Calzaghe from earning Jones’ respect in the ring.

3. Who, if any, will hold the advantage, mental or otherwise, heading into the fight?

The question has been asked, will Calzaghe be overcome by the bright lights and electric atmosphere of Madison Square Garden? Well, its seems to be highly unlikely considering that in his last fight (and first across the Atlantic) he was anything but overwhelmed by the moment. Far from intimidated by Hopkins' tough talk and tactics, Calzaghe managed to pick himself off the mat after being decked by Hopkins early.

One need just imagine Calzaghe's thought process after finally deciding to fight outside the U.K. after a 15-year pro career, and then in turn being legitimately dropped mere moments into his first fight abroad, only to settle down, follow his carefully-crafted in-fight strategy, and control the pace for much of the night with his superior work rate. That composure speaks to his mental toughness.

Jones, once the epitome of the supremely confident gladiator, unbreakable in his will, and unshakable in the belief of his own greatness, has now had both his ability and fortitude called into question. However, many have sensed that Jones has re-dedicated himself to his craft and to the restoration of his legacy. Breaking from traditional Jones pre-fight policy, he has even brought himself to doing promotional work in the lead-up to the fight (and in no small part endearing himself to us in the media as a result).

So what does it all mean? That Jones has now made himself into a sympathetic figure? Negative.

After being forced after so many years to face his own mortality, Jones now has emerged from the valley of defeat a more grateful, appreciative, and yes, HUNGRY fighter. That hunger, and his obvious advantages in experience and speed, should be enough to convince the three judges at ringside that Roy is – even at 39– still the better man.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for

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