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Boxing Perspective: Calzaghe vs. Kessler

A Fifty-Fifty Fight?

There is a saying in boxing that reads, “you're only as good as your last fight.” For those people wishing to put stock in such an assessment, the mooted showdown between rival world super middleweight rulers Joe Calzaghe and Mikkel Kessler will have the look of a very winnable fight for the Danish boxer. The way he dismantled German southpaw and holder of the WBC 168 pound title, Markus Beyer, last Saturday, was mightily impressive.

Joe, on the other hand, struggled that very same evening with the extremely rough and tough Australian, Sakio Bika. Based on both men’s latest performances, Kessler has to be at the very least even money to emerge as the unified super middleweight king if and when he and Calzaghe meet.

But things don't always work out quite so simply. Yes, Kessler did away with his opponent far easier than did Calzaghe, but we cannot judge any fighter by one performance alone. Despite the importance any prospective prediction maker must put on recent form, the past achievements of a boxer have to be recognised also. And in the past, Joe has boxed so well, against better quality opposition than Kessler, that he himself will feel as though he is by far the better man.

Indeed, if a showdown between Joe C and Mikkel K had been scheduled to take place immediately after the Welshman’s awesome display against previously unbeaten American Jeff Lacy, Calzaghe would have been a massive betting favourite. How perceptions, not to mention reputations, can change with a single bout.

Now it is the Dane who is coming off a career best performance, while Joe is being criticised for the hard night’s work he had with Bika. With Kessler never having looked better, the
demands for a fight that will unify all major belts at 168 pounds simply has to happen. Forget about a Calzaghe - Hopkins bout, Calzaghe - Kessler is THE fight at anywhere near the twelve stone mark, for both the two boxers and the fans.

Let’s face it, any bout that can unify an entire division, champion-wise, is good for the sport.

So who will win?

The match-up is one of great quality, with both boxers possessing superb skills. Joe, 42-0 (31), with his southpaw stance and extremely fast hands, will be up against a fighter who has jarring power and an aggressive workrate. And both men are, of course, unbeaten.

The Dane holds the age advantage, being the younger man by some seven years, while “The Pride Of Wales” holds the edge when it comes to quality of opposition. As far as styles go, I'd say that Joe’s is the trickier to master, being the southpaw that he is. Still, he didn't look too tricky or cute last Saturday when he appeared to be more than somewhat easy to hit on the chin.

Certainly, his showboating and hand dropping are not adjustments to his game he would be
wise to adopt if and when he boxes Kessler, 38-0 (29), a fighter nicknamed “The Viking Warrior.” Almost always a smart fighter, however, Joe will surely box the would be unification match with a much tighter defence. Calzaghe is all but guaranteed to fight with the respect that deserves to be accorded the classy Dane too.

In what looks to me like a definite distance fight, this despite the quick and unexpected job Kessler did on Beyer at the weekend, I have to give a slight edge to Joe. Mikkel, in spite of his undeniable skill, has never been in with anyone quite like Calzaghe, or Chris Eubank or Jeff Lacy for that matter, both of whom Joe has beaten.

In the end I feel Joe’s greater experience against greater opposition will tell the story, as he drags Kessler into the deep waters of the late rounds. It has to be Calzaghe, by close, but unanimous decision. “You're only as good as your last fight”, be damned!

About James Slater

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