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Ring Magazine






Concannon's Corner

Personal Biography

Joe Calzaghe Proves He's the Best at 168…  Nearly, but not Quite

  By Paul Concannon

Saturday’s WBO Super-Middleweight title brawl between Joe Calzaghe and Byron Mitchell featured two of the most thrilling rounds in the division’s history, short, but most definitely sweet, it was what you fine folk in the USA would refer to as a ‘fun’ fight.  It was a thrashing machine versus a wrecking ball as Calazghe waded into the heavy-handed Mitchell.  He’s not always pretty to watch as his hooks and uppercuts fly in from the bleachers, but boy oh boy, when in this mood the WBO champion sure is exciting. 

After six and a half months on the sidelines following his second round stoppage of overmatched Tucker Pudwill the clearly pent-up Calzaghe was straining at the leash to get at the challenger. Mitchell, who had dropped his WBA title on a disputed decision to IBF boss Sven Otkke in March, was a quality challenger who would not be dominated easily. 

After a tense opening minute Mitchell survived two cracking left-crosses to score with a big uppercut and some useful body-shots only to be left on unsteady legs by a blazing barrage from the Welshman.  Each man rained in heavy swings with the champion being the more accurate and busier, again leaving the American a bit wobbly on the bell; it was the champions round, but the cultured bombs of the challenger were already looking dangerous.

Calzaghe went straight on the attack in round two, connecting with more crosses, hooks, uppercuts and even a few jabs for good measure.  Mitchell responded with some quality body punches and a superb right cross to send the champion down for the first time in his career!  Calzaghe lurched up and looked in bad shape as he took the mandatory eight count. Upon resumption, Mitchell pounced, and landing with a superb left hook and some brutal body punches.  It was a pivotal moment in Joe’s career, but instead of holding he began throwing punches as the challenger backed him to the ropes.

In a wild trade, Mitchell narrowly missed with a monstrous looking right hand-left hook only to walk in to a perfect left cross and fall face first into the ropes!  The home crowed roared the amazing turnaround as Mitchell wobbled up at eight looking shaken.  Both went out throwing bombs but the WBO champion, making his 13th defense, would not be denied and after scorching the challenger with several crashing combinations, the referee rescued the wobbly American with 25 seconds left in the round. Whew!

So, with an incredible win against a credible opponent Calzaghe proved he could come through moments of real crisis to prevail, the mark of a true champion.  It would be easy to pronounce the Welshman as the best at 168 right now and true to say that JC destroyed a guy that just went to a split with rival champion Sven Ottke, but being an old fashioned type of guy, I want to see it happen in the ring first. 

Now, Ottke may well be the dullest champion to ever come out of Germany, and his competition in that regard includes some real snooze merchants like Henry Maske, yet one thing that cannot be denied about the tricky southpaw is his effectiveness.  Ottke is undefeated in 19 world title fights and boasts the IBF and WBA title belts in his list of credentials, his beaten opponents includes Charles Brewer, Thomas Tate, Byron Mitchell and a whole host of international contenders.  Now Ottke may win boring, as his razor-tight and sleep-inducing victory over David Starie recently illustrated, but the German, to his credit, has turned back boxers, punchers, speedsters and brawlers (not to mention a few journeymen) in his 18 title defences-the mark of an adaptable and clever champion.

The situation with Calzaghe and Ottke mirrors the Middleweight division of the seventies when Carlos Monzon and Rodrigo Valdez ruled in tandem.  Like the current champs these two Latin giants (Monzon was Argentinean, Valdez Columbian) were seen as being on similar levels of ability and each turned back several common foes.  When the two outstanding titlists finally ran out of opposition, they did the honourable thing and fought each other.  The result was two epic fifteen rounders; Monzon won the pair of them and duly retired with nothing left to prove.

Personally, I think Calzaghe can match Ottke for speed, chin, skill, power and is by far and a way the better puncher of the two.  I feel he would hand out a beating over the distance and put the arguments to bed once and for all, but this, like any other opinion, is simply conjecture. 

I speak as a fight fan that is tired of excuses and promotional up-tightness, I don’t care who is to blame, and my message to Joe Calzaghe and Sven Ottke is simple, just fight!  Tell your promoters you will except no other match, take a 50-50 split and meet on neutral soil-let’s say America, and do it soon.  This sport is full of if-onlys, but this is one dream bout that deserves to happen for the good of the boxing. 

The balls in your court guys...