|Sharkie’s Machine: “Calzaghe Beats Hopkins by Split Decision”
By Frank Gonzalez Jr. exclusive to Doghouse Boxing (April 20, 2008) Photo © German Villasenor
The Prince of Wales, Joe Calzaghe (45-0, 32 KO’s) brought his unbeaten record and thousands of his fans, including Tom Jones, who sang what might’ve been Wales’ national anthem to Las Vegas Saturday night to witness his Split Decision win over Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KO’s) in Joe’s first fight here in the USA.
During the run up to the fight, HBO ran a show called, “Countdown” which featured both fighters and their
preparations for this fight. One of the most notable things on “Countdown” was Bernard telling Calzaghe, “I will never let a white boy beat me!” Calzaghe answered, “If you fight me, you will lose.”
It was an ugly fight as Hopkins did an excessive amount of holding and employed his usual compliment of dirty tricks, like holding and hitting, leading with his head and pretending to be hurt by a low blow that would had nothing on it. Fans booed his entrance and booed his antics in the ring.
The fight started with Hopkins landing a clean right straight into Calzaghe’s chin that put him on his butt. Calzaghe got up quickly and was tentative afterwards for a few rounds until getting into his rhythm and outworking and out landing Hopkins with constant aggression that proved effective.
Luckily, this fight was not on Pay-Per-View.
They felt each other out for a moment, Calzaghe pressed forward, Hopkins waited to counter. They traded shots and Hopkins clinched against the ropes until the ref broke them. As Calzaghe came in, Hopkins’ landed a clean right and put Calzaghe on his seat. Calzaghe up immediately but was tentative and Hop landed another right. They brawl in close, ref brakes them. Calzaghe kept coming forward, throwing one at a time. Calzaghe’s nose bled from a small cut caused by a Hopkins punch. 10-8 Hopkins.
In the corner, Enzo Calzaghe told his son, “You’re letting him bait you in for that kind of punch.”
Calzaghe the aggressor and exchanges with Hopkins against the ropes. Referee Joe Cortez working hard already. Calzaghe landed two low slapping punches, no warning. Hopkins held every time Calzaghe got close enough. Hopkins landed a nice straight right. Hopkins overreacts to an unnoticed low blow. Hopkins used his left arm to hold Calzaghe when in close and punch with his right. Calzaghe countered with the same. 10-9 Hopkins.
Ref warned Hopkins corner about hitting behind the head.
Hopkins boxed outside, moved and came in with shots aimed at the body, scoring too. Hopkins held and hit until Cortez broke them. Calzaghe gets Hop in corner and flurries with slapping punches. Crowd roars. They trade and both score. Calzaghe started finding his rhythm and exchanges dirty shots with Hopkins. Ref warned Calzaghe and crowd booed. Hopkins landed more telling shots and matched athleticism with Joe.
Freddie Roach tells Hopkins that Calzaghe’s a sucker for the right hand.
A sloppy start with Calzaghe chasing Hopkins, who held and hit when possible. Cortez getting a work out. Calzaghe starting to wrest control of the tempo as they brawled into the ropes, where Joe scored. The ref said, “Brake!” And Hopkins threw a punch that landed. Ref paused action to warn both to, ‘keep it clean.’ Calzaghe chased Hopkins round the ring, dropped his hands, taunting Hopkins in. Hop scored nice off the ropes with counter punches. Lot of wrestling initiated by Hopkins. Calzaghe pressed forward and punched his way in and out. Calzaghe landed a left at the bell. Hopkins hit Calzaghe from behind, right in front of Cortez, who broke them apart yet again. Momentum starting to shift as Calzaghe started landing more and forcing Hopkins to fight his fight instead. 10-9 Calzaghe.
Calzaghe jabs his way into Hopkins, whose only direction is backwards and sideways, always away from Calzaghe. Calzaghe showboats a little as his confidence starts to soar. Hopkins eats some leather as Calzaghe landed a nice left and a flurry of little shots. Calzaghe forcing Hopkins to keep busy. Hopkins back against the ropes as he is committed to defense as Calzaghe pressured him. Hopkins to the body. Calzaghe landed a series of lefts to the head and after the bell, Hopkins kept punching. 10-9 Calzaghe.
In the corner, Roach told Hopkins, “I need more than one at a time, throw combinations!”
Calzaghe stalked Hopkins. Hopkins backed up and held when Calzaghe got close enough. Calzaghe pressure starting to bother Hopkins, who holds after throwing any punches. Calzaghe started using his jab to move Hopkins around. Hopkins, one punch and hold, every time. Calzaghe shoe-shined Hopkins until the bell, Cortez got between them and pushed Calzaghe, who went to the floor. Cortez 10-8?
Cortez told Hopkins corner, “Bernard, I don’t want any more of those tactics, I don’t want to take any points. I want a clean fight!” Then he went to Calzaghe’s corner and said the same thing. Calzaghe’s father was screaming at his son to pick up the aggression.
Calzaghe landed jabs and got Hopkins on the ropes. Calzaghe landed more and more, Hopkins held more and more. Hopkins led with his head and continued to hold. No warnings from the ref either for all the holding. Calzaghe got the better of the exchanges and Hopkins was less and less effective. Calzaghe dropped his hands then went after Hopkins against the ropes. Calzaghe landed slapping shots. Hopkins landed a short right that buckled Calzaghe’s balance. Too little too late. 10-9 Calzaghe.
More of the same as Calzaghe pressured Hopkins, whose path was the ropes as he backed up and waited for counter opportunities. Calzaghe landed a clean left to the face. Hopkins held. Calzaghe threw combinations. Hopkins landed a right then backed up. Calzaghe a left, Hopkins a right. Calzaghe threw more, landed more and Hopkins is tricky but doing so much less. Calzaghe rallied with punches and scored and taunted Hopkins to the bell.
Roach told Hopkins, “You need to throw more combinations.”
Calzaghe has his spacing down, his confidence up and his rhythm working as he landed a straight left on the face of Hopkins. Calzaghe flurries, Hopkins held. Calzaghe harassed Hopkins with little punches that keep Hopkins going backwards. Hop landed a nice right. Calzaghe landed a bigger right. Calzaghe in control. Calzaghe landed another straight left. He mimicked Hopkins, dropping his hands and was even winning the psychological battle at this point. 10-9 Calzaghe.
Enzo Calzaghe screamed at Joe, “You won the last four rounds in big style, I think this guys ready to be knocked out. TRUST ME! TRUST ME! TRUST ME!”
More of the same, with Calzaghe controlling the tempo, forcing Hopkins backward and popping punches. At one point, they got close, Hopkins turned round and with Calzaghe behind him, he did a little taunting dance in front of Hopkins backside. Prior to the theatrics, Calzaghe threw a slappy uppercut toward the body that was low but didn’t have any steam on it but Hopkins played it to the bone, taking a knee and pretending to be in pain, while taking a few minutes to get some oxygen as the crowd got restless and annoyed by his bullshit. Calzaghe bounced around, spread his arms in askance of “what?” The crowd complained as Hop milked the clock. Calzaghe incited the crowd, walking back and forth, bouncing around, waving the crowd in…and drawing cheers in his direction and jeers in Hopkins’. When action finally resumed, it was back to work for Joe, who kept the pressure on. Hopkins landed a straight right as he jumped in to deliver it. Hopkins rallied a bit but always held whenever Calzaghe got close enough. Hopkins did score some decent shots. Calzaghe scored some too as Hopkins landed two low shots opposite side of Cortez. Calzaghe kept fighting. The long rest helped Hop get some energy back. They traded to the end. Good round for both guys, Hopkins gave a good effort late. I’ll call it even, 10-10.
Calzaghe pressured Hopkins and they traded shots until Hopkins held. Calzaghe landed a sneaky right as they tussled inside. Calzaghe landed a clean combo to Hop’s face against the ropes. Calzaghe’s pressure made Hopkins try another; ‘I got hit by a low blow’ routine, but Cortez didn’t stop the action. Hopkins rallied and they traded, both landed. Calzaghe outworked Hopkins and landed more often. Hopkins did some good work but just not enough to win the round. 10-9 Calzaghe.
Calzaghe’s corner, possibly fearing a bogus decision, tells him, “You got to STOP him!”
Calzaghe reached out to touch gloves but Hopkins didn’t share his enthusiasm, they commenced to brawling and Hop landed one and Calzaghe landed about five. Hopkins tried to land the straight right, charging in with it on a few occasions. Calzaghe keeps Hopkins outside and kept punching. Calzaghe landed a nice left, Hopkins landed some good shots, Calzaghe countered well and Hopkins held. Calzaghe had too much energy and Hopkins didn’t have enough. Calzaghe bounced and punched, Hopkins darted in with combos when he struck. Calzaghe, in charge since about the fourth round, kept taking it to Hopkins as they slugged to the bell. The crowd cheered wildly. 10-9 Calzaghe.
The Judges scores were; Adelaide Byrd 114-113 for Hopkins. Chuck Giampa 116-111 Calzaghe and Ted Gimza had it 115-112 for Calzaghe.
Though Hopkins lost this fight, he fought a hell of a fight for a guy 43 years old. Big George Foreman would be proud! He looked very strong at Light Heavyweight, though he looked to weight about 190 when he stepped into the ring. There were no postings of the fighter’s actual weights for this fight so you can only guess.
During the post fight interview, Calzaghe was asked about prospective fights with the likes of Middleweight Champion Kelly Pavlik or the “rebounding” Roy Jones Jr. I think Joe is too fast for Pavlik and too busy for Jones, but who knows? Kelly is young and strong and a good technical fighter. Roy Jones Jr. should fight a long, long, long awaited rematch with Bernard Hopkins before anything else. That is a fight that could be on PPV too since anyone who loves boxing would want to see that rematch. Without his former speedy reflexes, I can’t see Jones beating Hopkins. If pressed to call that one, I’d say Hopkins to win by early TKO. Hopkins is still a great fighter. Jones hasn’t been a great fighter since he stopped fighting the best fighters back in 2001. What a shock it would be if Jones could beat Hopkins. What a shock it would be if Jones actually fought Hopkins again.
Calzaghe has some bad habits in the ring, like arm punching and flailing his shots and not throwing straight, power punches. Calzaghe has lots of stamina and athleticism that carries him well. Imagine if he could tweak his punching style some? He’d be most dangerous! But twilight may be setting on Joe’s career soon. With 45 wins and zero losses, that’s a hell of an accomplishment even with so few of his opponents being of any significance.
It’s probable that Calzaghe will only fight the biggest names that will bring the biggest purses, as is typical for fighters at that late stage in their career. But it’d be nice if he fought the top dogs at LHW, a division typically shy of much talent. Properly motivated, Calzaghe would likely beat Tarver, or Zsolt Erdei, the phantom WBO titlist who hasn’t fought anyone of note so far or the lucky Chad Dawson, who really lost his last fight against Glen Johnson but got a gift decision anyway. Dawson needs to give Johnson a rematch or he will lack credibility with fans that have functional memories.
Joes not a big puncher but he’s a busy fighter that has always found a way to win. His swarming style will be a tough proposition for any elite fighters.
It’s been a good year for boxing and we’ve had some great fights so far. It would be great if each division had a tournament to determine who the actual Champions in each division are, but that might be asking too much.
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