Hopkins-Calzaghe Pre-fight Talk
This post is the cumulative email thread that some of us exchanged earlier today. It's a little bit untidy because the emails were sent in ways that often overlapped. I've tried to sort them out as best possible.
The initial email, sent by me, took exception to a boxing writer (not part of this group) who drew a comparison between Mikkel Kessler and Bernard Hopkins. The point that the writer was trying to make was that if Kessler could have success against Calzaghe by using his right, then Hopkins would have even more success. What follows stems from that email.
(Referring to Kessler's right) It's harder, faster and he throws more. No way Hopkins lets his hands go as freely as Kessler did versus Calzaghe.
Kessler was undefeated and full of confidence for the first three or four rounds. He grew discouraged pretty quickly. I agree, there's no comparison between Kessler and Hopkins. Of course, in defense of Hopkins, when Kessler used up the things he knew how to do, the fight was over for him. When what Hopkins tries early doesn't work, he'll try something else. It won't work either.
One thing did occur to me, though: Hopkins, playing against expectations, might come out of the gate very fast and try to nail Calzaghe with an uncharacteristically big shot in the hope of fooling Joe into believing that he punches harder than he really does.
The biggest misconception I'm picking up (at least from the US writers) is that if Calzaghe finds a bump in the road, he may become disconcerted. That's nonsense; this guy is rock tough. He's tougher than Hopkins, which is saying a lot.
I'd like to know everyone else's opinion, but I'm picking Calzaghe in a walk (116-112 or better.)
I guess I expect that the best Hopkins can reasonably expect to do is win 51% of the fight, which won't be enough to win it on the cards, and the worst he can do is to lose by a few points. So I guess I expect Calzaghe to win by a fairly close but not particularly controversial decision. Hopkins increasingly fights like the Italian national soccer team traditionally plays: forted up on defense, looking to stage the occasional run the other way when the other team overextends trying to score against the forted-up defense. That leads to a lot of close games, whatever the result.
That said, this is a case in which I'll be very happy to be very wrong, and to see Hopkins catch him and hurt him and surprise everybody. There's almost no fighter these days I think more of, and I love to see him succeed. I think that would be a major addition to his all-time credentials, by the way, going up to beat the best and toughest guy available. But I think to bet on that would be emotion, not sense. I think sense says that Calzaghe finds ways to keep it coming, and Hopkins doesn't do anything stupid, and that adds up to a close-ish decision for Calzaghe.
I marvel at Hopkins accomplishments, and as much as he'd be unbearable if he won, I'd like to see him pull it off. I also see the fight pretty much the way Carlo does. And win or lose, he's among my top five middleweight greats, based on head-to-head and accomplishment / credentials.
I just have this nagging suspicion that Hopkins (new physique notwithstanding, since Mackie Shillstone is the kiss of death to professional prizefighters) is much nearer the end of the road than people think.
That may be true--I don't know that I can tell--but I guess my sense of it is that with Hopkins the end of that road will be reached more gradually than most. He's so good at negating and stifling the other guy, which is not as subject to degradations of speed and strength as other skills might be, that I think the end of the road for him is more likely to take the form of a bunch of decision losses than it is to take the form of getting knocked on his ass over and over. I hope so, anyway.
I think so too. But he may have already reached that point. The Taylor losses might represent them. Let's face it, the Winky Wright fight was little more than a quick land grab by two old guys. Wright, talented though he is, has no business at 171 pounds. The one genuine blip on the descent radar is the Tarver fight. Is it just one very tough guy making one not so tough guy give up?
Hopkins has been very good in his late period choice of opponents, but Calzaghe seems all wrong. In order to beat guys nowadays, Bernard has to hustle them a little bit. I can't imagine Calzaghe falling for a scam.
As much as a Hollywood-style comeback win by Hopkins might sound tempting to predict, I just don't see it. Calzaghe is not only punching continuously, which everyone sees, but also incredibly accurately, both with leads and counters. His defense and conditioning are also superb. The only questions are the usual, i.e., any unrevealed injuries, and politics in the scoring.
Hopkins has been trying to be the ultimate con man, convincing everyone that 43 is just another number. I wish it were true, but it fucking ain't.
That's another reason I root for Hopkins. He's the same age as me, and while there really is no comparison between how he's spent his life and how I've spent mine, I like to see that there are people my age able to go 12 rounds with the best.
I think Hopkins will fight extremely roughly and use every dirty trick he can. I would not be surprised to see a DQ in this fight, or a
controversial finish involving a cut or a foul. Otherwise, Calzaghe wins
easy by UD or even a Hopkins retirement.
The thread continued with a lengthy argument between Frank and me, debating whether or not Bernard Hopkins deserves to be considered one of the top five middleweights of all time (Frank thinks he should. I think he shouldn’t.) But that’s a different discussion for a different post. Besides, tonight’s fight may have some bearing on our opinions in the matter.