One Mo', Joe? - Boxing
By Coyote Duran, (Nov 13, 2008) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Bob Kolb)  
After Saturday night's World Light Heavyweight Championship bout between still-undefeated and former champs Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones Jr., respectively, new attitudes surfaced like dead fish after 'South Park's' Uncle Jimbo and Ned threw grenades in the lake.

Many were revelations about Calzaghe himself if you can rely on the viewpoints of message board traffic.

Most feel Calzaghe has the most choices of any fighter his age and age is a viable point of argument. Like Jones, Calzaghe is 'up there' if you consider age vs. occupation. Remember when HBO's Larry Merchant referred to Bernard Hopkins as a 'geriatric' during the Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad Undisputed Middleweight Championship bout in 2001? Like Calzaghe is now, Hopkins was the ripe old age of 36. If you choose to compare Hopkins' career at that point to Calzaghe's now, you might be hard-pressed to believe that it's any less accomplished than the 2001 'Executioner's.' It might even be more.

In looking at Hopkins' career in 2008, you'll find a mish-mash of circumstance culminating in the 'Just when you think he's finally done...' category that never holds water. It's frustrating because of the fighter he's been and has become. Fans of 'B-Hop' couldn't have the best of him from pre- and post-Trinidad because of the evolution he needed to age with His Sport. Once Hopkins beat Trinidad, he slipped into safe mode knowing that every middleweight mandatory (and that's what they were. Let's be honest) worth his salt would be gunning for his black-hooded skull, turning it up only when fans were well past 'write-off' mode. These instances could be best summed up in Hopkins' wins over Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik. Despite Hopkins' age, at the time, Calzaghe's win over the former Light Heavyweight Champ was still the stuff of boxing lore. That's even without the wins over then-two-belted Mikkel Kessler and Jones.

That's right. Jones. You shouldn't make yourself believe that Roy Jones Jr. was the 'throwaway' farewell opponent Calzaghe was waiting for. At the same time, Calzaghe might just hang 'em up tomorrow. We don't know for sure although, sometimes, we think we can call a fighter's every move. We tend to live vicariously through our favorite fighters so it becomes a latent second nature to think we know what's best for our careers. Half the time, we're right.

Jones wasn't the 'throwaway' because he wasn't going anywhere unless he wanted to. Yes, that category pretty much includes 99% of fighters; past, present and future. But Jones, for losing against Calzaghe, did it his way. In that way, his comeback was a success. Perhaps if he went the same, cautious route right after being knocked out by Tarver in their second fight...well, it doesn't have to be illustrated but reality offered different. Maybe he thought he could turn back time by being wiser. Unlike Hopkins, it was too wise, too late.

But consider what was done with the time spent coming back. The practice was good. Good enough to make one a lot more than a 'throwaway.'

Yes, Jones is past his prime but attention always falls on those suffering from such a malady; especially when the infirmed is as accomplished as Jones. But no fighter, no matter how past his best he may be, loses everything that made him special. There will always be a little flicker where the flame used to be and with what he's got left, Roy Jones Jr. has nothing to be ashamed about. Can there be another slow-roasted comeback for the one-time Pound-For-Pound best? No. A farewell fight against another light heavyweight fringe contender? If Jones wants. Hopefully, it's the furthest he wants to go.

Joe Calzaghe's always going to have critics 'til the day he hangs 'em up. Even afterward, not unlike any fighter someone thinks might suck. He never took on the best. He didn't step up quickly enough. He retired too soon. Add whatever you want to the litany because it's all been said anyway. The aforementioned message boards had it all; post-fight. And there was also the good that came from the fight and its potential end to a solid Hall Of Fame career. Calzaghes' most significant fights were title wins and defenses against Jones and Hopkins at light heavy and Kessler and Jeff Lacy at super middle; all within less than the last three years. The last fighter who did so much in the last stage of his career (despite being victimized by near-obscurity) was Winky Wright. Where Wright is now, however, is entirely contingent on his own decisions. Just like Calzaghe; but seemingly backwards. By the same token, just like Hopkins; but with obviously different degrees of success. Though, is it wrong to call them kindred spirits for their respective accolades as well as their steadfast criticisms? Nope. It's our make-up to make the distinction. Remember, we know what's best.

Let's say Calzaghe doesn't retire. There are obvious conclusions to come to when you've got only so much time left in your own career view. None of us will agree 100% but if I had my druthers, Calzaghe's last fight would be against IBF titlist Chad Dawson. If I thought I was alone in that assessment, I would certainly be deluded so let's see why:

1.) Dawson's the last name challenge to face. For what it's worth, 'Bad Chad's' the only titlist who has enough mustard to warrant that real shot at a World Championship. Before you wind up the hamsters to start e-mailing and accusing me of hypocrisy due to my Ring Magazine leanings, I'm giving props to the titleholder, not the title. Dawson just happens to hold the IBF belt. He doesn't need it. If he did, Dawson would've defended the WBC belt against undefeated Adrian Diaconu when Diaconu was finally ready instead of vacating it for the October shot at then-IBF titlist Tarver. But the belts, admittedly, get one paid and Dawson's no different. This isn't to say Dawson's not smart. If he wasn't, he wouldn't have taken the chance. Like a slick gigolo who bounces from woman to woman like a tawdry neighborhood rumor, Dawson wouldn't think twice about dropping the red belt for a chance at Calzaghe. Calzaghe answered the question on who's the best in his dual division so, realistically, who's left for Dawson to face? And it isn't like Calzaghe doesn't like a nice, shiny alphabet strap every once in a while. How long did he hold the WBO 168-pound belt? 11 years? 65 years? What difference does it make? He held it for a long time and that means even he thinks alphabets have their merits...

2.) There's no point in entertaining the thought of rematches against Jones and Hopkins. Why? Whatever Calzaghe feels he needs to get done, he can do himself and not do 'by way of.' Sure, Glen Johnson’s name has come up more often than not because of his less-than-convincing loss to Dawson in April but everyone knows that beating The Man who beat The Man isn’t going to make you The Man. That turd has never been sufficiently flushed (or to be specific, statistically substantiated). It really serves little here at this juncture. Beating Bernard Hopkins isn’t going to make Calzaghe the automatic winner over Kelly Pavlik; regardless of the fact that Calzaghe beat Hopkins before the latter defeated Pavlik. And if this is really ‘Super Joe’s’ last hurrah, facing and defeating Johnson would accomplish little more than gaining more doubt in the haters’ eyes. And there will be the fan’s who believe Dawson did enough to beat Johnson. Tarver-Johnson IV? Why not. If Tarver’s got one last gallon in the tank, post-Dawson, then maybe he should match it again against Johnson who’s got at least twice that much and call it an IBF eliminator. In fact, Johnson, the perennial tough-as-nails workhorse just beat Aaron Norwood Tuesday night. When you keep that busy, at the age of 39, with better results than most, you’re in damn good position for anything. Johnson, of course, is one of those ‘better late than never’ fighters (like Calzaghe and Winky) and his stretch can be reasonably compared to Bernard Hopkins’ based solely on late-career accomplishments; not all-encompassing facets. It’s kind of a subtle no-brainer; if there is such a thing. Could be worse. It could be Johnson-Clinton Woods IV…

3.) If you host at Millennium Stadium, Dawson will come. Half the battle in organization and promotion is done if you believe Dawson’s comments the day after Calzaghe-Jones. Dawson’s reference to Calzaghe “drawing the curtain on his great career in front of his family and friends and 70,000 fans” has got to get Joe’s senses burning. This would be the one goodbye gift that those who knew what Calzaghe was made of in the beginning truly deserve. Hey, Madison Square Garden is great. So great, there’s been four of ‘em! But let’s be honest here, do you REALLY think Calzaghe calls it quits in NYC? Win or lose, there’s no place like home, Dorothy.

Unfortunately, Joe Calzaghe won’t ascend to the Canastota’s pantheon without a little name-callin’, under-the-breath talkin’ (Thank you, Fort Minor). Neither will Floyd Mayweather Jr., Oscar De La Hoya or Bernard Hopkins. We’re used to it. But if the World Super Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion wants to pack it up and go home, he has every right to. We rather he didn’t, of course. We want Calzaghe-Dawson whenever you cats can get around to it because, remember, we know what’s best.

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