Last Veit Before Prince of Wales Targets Lacy's Crown
Preview by Andrew Mullinder (May 7, 2005) 
Joe Calzaghe
Joe Calzaghe is a man running out of time. He recently celebrated his 32nd birthday, and while there are always exceptions that can prove a rule, history shows that Calzaghe can realistically expect no more than two years before time begins to terminally erode the physical qualities so important to his boxing. Under these circumstances, it is perhaps even more important that Calzaghe secures the defining fight which would finally validate the quality of his unbeaten record and fulfil the potential of his outstanding talent.

Perhaps Calzaghe has suffered through accident of birth. If he had been born 10 years earlier, his ability would have probably secured his entry into an outstanding group of British super-middleweights whose gripping fights and bristling rivalry thrilled a nation. If he had been born the other side of the Atlantic, his strong, unbeaten record would have probably seen him as a natural opponent for a range of pound-for-pound superstars operating in America between 2000 and the present day. In either case, a defining fight would have probably come Calzaghe’s way long before his 32nd birthday.

However, Calzaghe is operating in what many observers feel to be the lowest quality era in history for fighters weighing between 155 and 175 pounds, and his search for an opponent who could contribute a crowning achievement to his perfect 38-fight record has proved forlorn. In the meantime, Calzaghe must wait and bide time against fighters who the WBO deem mandatory challengers for his title.

And just when Calzaghe’s career is in desperate need of some sort of progression, things seem to have gotten worse. On Saturday, the Welshman must face Mario Veit, a fighter who he knocked out in 111 seconds almost exactly four years ago. It is a match that appears so unappealing that Calzaghe’s long-time promoter, Frank Warren, is not promoting the fight, and Sky Sports, who have exclusively screened his fights, are not showing it live. Despite his purse of almost US$1million, this may be Calzaghe’s professional nadir.

But there could be light at the end of the tunnel. Jeff Lacy, the undefeated IBF super-middleweight champion has been lined up as a potential opponent for Calzaghe. Lacy would probably enter a fight with the Welshman as favourite, and thus, provide the kind of defining test that Calzaghe has been looking for. If Lacy beats Robin Reid, Frank Warren has assured Calzaghe that he has “more or less done the deal with Showtime”. But it all hinges on Calzaghe beating Veit, which is no forgone conclusion.
At his best, Calzaghe is an excellent box-puncher who combines above average power, high work-rate, fast hands that can deliver blistering combinations and a granite chin to sometimes irresistible effect. And while he can be adept at boxing from range, recently, perhaps through a desire to impress or a contempt for ‘lesser’ opponents, he has adopted a devil-may-care attitude, attempting to overwhelm opponents with precipitous and often impatient attacks.

Ominously for Veit, he does not box in a way that appears suited to effectively combating Calzaghe’s style. He boxes in a measured, typically Eastern European way. His combinations do not seem to be delivered instinctively or smoothly and he needs time and space to box to his game-plan. However, time is a luxury he unlikely to have against Calzaghe, as it seems doubtful the Welshman will be able to resist the temptation to return to tactics based around all-out aggression against a man who he already knocked out inside one round.

Furthermore, Veit’s orthodox stance and upright posture make his chin an easy target for a fast-handed southpaw like Calzaghe. And these stylistic mismatches were ruthlessly exploited by Calzaghe in their first fight. The Welshman, sensing Veit’s nervousness, attacked with sustained aggression that had the German reeling back to the ropes. Calzaghe connected with Viet almost at will, and the German’s tendency to retreat in straight lines with his chin in the air proved fatal.

But Viet looks to have improved since that defeat, and if he survives Calzaghe’s initial onslaught there could be reason to believe the German might not be as overwhelmed as a cursory comparison of the style match-up may indicate.

Calzaghe has increasing trouble with his weight. The process of squeezing his well-muscled frame into the 168lb super-middleweight limit seems to have deteriorated from an unpleasant process into a debilitating nightmare. It appears impossible the privation Calzaghe bears in order to make weight will not have a damaging affect on his punch resistance and stamina. Furthermore, marital problems, contractual disputes, a lack of credible opponents, and a series of injuries have stopped Calzaghe fighting with anywhere near the regularity he would have hoped, and might have contributed to casual performances in his last two fights. But most of all, if Veit somehow manages to survive to the later rounds, he may be able to take advantage of German judging, which has, at times seemed scandalous.

However, despite signs that Veit might be fighting Calzaghe at the right time, class, and a style match-up that favours Calzaghe, should be enough to win this fight. While Veit has improved by winning 15 matches straight since his defeat to the WBO champion four years ago, he still has nowhere near Calzaghe’s experience against top and world-class opponents. Veit may have appeared to have polished and applied his skills impressively, but he has fought, for the most part, against opponents who will never reach the higher echelons of any division in boxing.

Veit will be better prepared for Calzaghe’s early onslaught this time. He will probably concede the first three rounds to draw the sting out of Calzaghe’s aggression, hoping to establish a rhythm behind his own jab as the fight enters the middle rounds. But, if making weight does not irreparably affect his performance, Calzaghe can exploit the same deficiencies in Veit’s technique that were so evident four years ago to establish the superiority of his own weapons. And while Veit should survive the early rounds this time, his resistance should be broken down by the sixth round.
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