“I will never let a white boy beat me.”
That was Bernard Hopkins’ retort to Joe Calzaghe’s premonition that he would best Hopkins should the two ever meet in the ring.
Just under two weeks ago the two met and Hopkins did let a white boy beat him.
I use the term “let” because that was what Hopkins did in my opinion not only allowing Calzaghe to get back into the fight, but take over the fight in the middle and late portions of the fight.
All of this came after Hopkins dropped Calzaghe with a simple right jab around 75 seconds into the fight.
After that Calzaghe took over using his speed to combat Hopkins’ more tentative, defensive strategy in a way that “Winky” Wright could not last summer. The reasoning for that is actually quite simple: what Calzaghe gave up in age compared to Wright, he made up for in experience.
The win moved Calzaghe to 45-0 including 21 successful defenses of his Super Middleweight title—a title Calzaghe still possesses. His legacy as Europe’s best boxer ever seems to be sealed with the win over Hopkins and the more and more likely possibility that he will retire undefeated.
Like most of Hopkins’ recent ventures into the ring, the fight was not a thrill-a-minute fight more than it was a standard 12-round fight, more of a marathon than a sprint.
The eighth and tenth rounds proved to be the most exciting and dramatic of the fight as those were the rounds where Hopkins showcased the fire and energy that saw him take apart Antonio Tarver in 2006. It was also the rounds that proved to any doubters that Calzaghe could go toe-to-toe with Hopkins and survive.
Low blows became a factor later in the fight, but no points were deducted for low blows during the fight. Calzaghe delivered two to Hopkins, one who’s effect was under suspicion, and another that referee Joe Cortez and most of the people watching didn’t even see happen. Hopkins, on the other hand, delivered two in succession behind Cortez’s back in the tenth round with Calzaghe’s back to Hopkins’ corner.
Despite the fact that this was Calzaghe’s American debut and he was fighting a respected and known name in America, he was still a 4-to-1 favorite going into the fight, and the result proved that it was a safe bet.
The so-called controversy that I referred to in the title has to do with the scoring of the fight. While two of the judges for the fight and myself saw no problem with scoring the bout for Calzaghe, one of the judges and many at ringside did score the bout 114-113 for Hopkins. While I found no problem scoring the bout for Calzaghe, I did make note that the third, sixth, seventh, and tenth rounds were potential “swing rounds” where the scoring could’ve went either way. In light of that, the controversy is justified, but isn’t blatant enough to suggest anything other than that two of the people whose opinions mattered the most must’ve scored those swing rounds for Calzaghe. With the recent Pacquiao/Marquez rematch as an example, big fights these days seem to be getting harder to score.
Calzaghe landed 232 of 707 punches in the fight (33%). The 232 punches landed were the most landed against Hopkins since Roy Jones Jr. landed 206 in their 1993 bout.
On the other end, Hopkins landed 127 of 468 punches (27%) showing a clear difference in activity, which not only reflected the difference in the fighters’ approaches, but also the scoring of the fight most likely.
With the win against Hopkins, Calzaghe’s next fight may be one of the most talked about possibilities in boxing. Kelly Pavlik was thrown out there as a potential opponent and with his two wins against Jermain Taylor, he has gained the same respect that Calzaghe has gained in the eyes of American fight fans with the win against Hopkins.
The most likely next opponent for Calzaghe looks to be Roy Jones Jr. With Jones’ entertaining win against Felix Trinidad in January, Jones is back in the boxing spotlight and is looking to prove that he still has enough in him for a comeback. Calzaghe will likely still be looking for vindication due to the closeness of his win against Hopkins and when it comes to money, there would be no bigger fight at this moment below the heavyweight division.
My take on Hopkins’ pre-fight comments: it was Bernard being Bernard.
In their time, Ali, Duran, and Don King have said far worse and more offensive things to hype a fight. Plus, Calzaghe can’t even be considered a traditional “white boy” because of his foreign residence. Hopkins’ has carved a niche for himself during the last fifteen years as probably the best player of mind games in boxing. The pre-fight flag throwing and rice & beans incidents with Felix Trinidad were far more potentially offensive and far more effective tactics to get inside an opponents head than pointing out they’re a different skin color than you.
Not only that, but Hopkins knocked out Trinidad when they met; he was not so fortunate in Las Vegas when he and Calzaghe finally locked horns.
It should be noted, but likely won’t, that the most prophetic statement—and thus the one that should be taken from this fight—came from Calzaghe in response to Hopkins’ now famous/infamous comment. Said Calzaghe, “If you fight me, you will lose.”
In Las Vegas, Joe Calzaghe turned into a punching Nostradamus and earned sweet vindication for all that should’ve been recognized before.