Friday, October 30, 2009

Joe Calzaghe: Best of the Era

I posted earlier this year about what a great loss to boxing the retirement of Oscar De Lahoya had been. I have failed to mention the retirement of who I believe was the greatest pound for pound boxer of my time, Joe Calzaghe. He retired in early 2009, but I held out hope he would do what all boxers seem to do: unretire. I have given up hope.

Calzaghe retired undefeated with the vast majority of his wins coming at the Super Middleweight level. And while this is not the level that one typically thinks of when he thinks of great boxers, Calzaghe owned it, nay, dominated it. He retired at a clean 46-0 and this includes winning a unification bout with then undefeated Mikkel Kessler. It is still the only loss on Kessler’s record. This fight, which Calzaghe won comfortably is a perfect example of how great he was. Kessler, who had never been defeated, said this afterward: “his punches weren’t particularly hard but it was confusing when he hit you twenty times.” Calzaghe’s hands were the quickest I have seen for a man his size and that includes Mike Tyson. Calzaghe was amazing. In the Kessler bout, CompuBox registers 1,010 punches thrown by Calzaghe doubling his opponent.

The real shame is that the broader audience never really got to enjoy Calzaghe because it was not until the end of his career did he venture out of his weight class for the big money fights. I remember how much Bernard Hopkins was celebrated when he defended his title 20 times. Calzaghe defended his 21 times. Third highest total in history for any weight class. Oh yeah, Calzaghe beat Hopkins a few years ago as well. Hopkins was dominated by Calzaghe in the middle and late rounds hitting Hopkins (according to CompuBox) more than any other fighter Hopkins had ever faced. Calzaghe never got tired. Never.

Calzaghe ended his career by beating an other big name: Roy Jones Jr. He too was battered by Calzaghe.

Some complain that Calzaghe did not have those mega-fights. But that was because the American superstars would not travel to England, and Calzaghe focused on defending his own title rather than jumping weight classes for pay days. He was stripped of his title (IBF only) when he went for a pay day against Peter Manfedo Jr. I watched that fight and it was a joke. I do think the ref stopped it early and that Manfredo was not real hurt. But even after only two rounds there was no way to justify Manfredo being in the same ring with Calzaghe. Calzaghe beat all the big names that came to him. Not just Hopkins and Jones Jr., but also the ones that were big names until he crushed them. Jeff Lacy was a heavy favorite before he was dispatched. He beat former champions Chris Eubank, Charles Brewer, and Robin Reid, and while an amateur Calzaghe apparently beat Chris Byrd, who would go on to be the World Heavyweight Champion.

Calzaghe was just a great fighter. He threw punches, and then threw more punches, and probably threw some punches you missed because they were that fast. I like Joe, followed his career, and now I am going to miss him. So will boxing.


GB said...

I would be reluctant to call Calzaghe "the best of his era". His division was quite weak, he got lucky draw against Reid, and his two best wins are past prime Hopkins and shot Roy Jones.