Joe Calzaghe - Fighter of The Decade
Looking through the annals of time there has been many a great boxer. What it takes to be a great boxer is no secret; there are certain skills one can master in order to be able to win a title belt. However, to win a world title and defend that title for a substantial period of time takes a special boxer.
Recently Joe Calzaghe was voted as the fighter of the decade by ‘Ring 8’ this is a spectacular award considering some of the other fighters in contention. Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Roy Jones Jr and others all have many qualities which fight fans around the globe enjoy, but none of these men beat the Welshman to the award.
What makes Calzaghe a modern great? It’s clear he has bags of natural god given talent, but the same can be said for the other candidates for the award. Joe boasts a 46 unbeaten fight record which is a monumental feat in itself, its difficult to get through 46 fights with some top level opposition without getting tagged by a stray punch and not making the ten count. It happens time and time again to many elite level fighters, there are no guarantees in boxing and no safety nets. Taking Manny Pacquiao’s recent loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, he was boxing well (albeit knocked down in the third round) and seemed to be heading for another close decision or knockout victory, but instead was sent to sleep by a punch he never saw.
Styles and fighters make for interesting reading when considering who the best fighter is in any given period of time. Offensive fighters and be easy on the eye if they are powerful combination punchers who switch the point of attack to break down their opponents. Defensive fighters alternatively act more strictly upon the term ‘sweet science’ by not getting hit and countering on openings that are left by the boxer on the attack. Sometimes a fighter who is heavily favored can fall at the hands of an opponent who just seems to have their number. There have been many examples where a much fancied fighter goes on to lose to a fighter whose style provides problems which can’t be answered. Using this in mind you’d argue that Mayweather would be the counterpart to Joe Calzaghe and one would imagine he was the other frontrunner for the coveted award.
Mayweather himself has a beautiful round circle on his record and prides himself on his unbeaten record to date, though it’s frustrating when considering him as an all time great. The skill set is outrageous, timing, speed, defence and his own style are all vital to his stay at the top of the boxing pile. Though this is the case it is upsetting that he seems to cherry pick his fighters a little, he is a no risk fighter. Many of his opponents he chooses to fight once they have faded or showed signs of weakness. A fight with other greats in their primes may have gifted Mayweather the title of the greatest of all time, but unlike the brave Muhammad Ali, there is a viper quality about Mayweather which many can’t empathise with.
Joe Calzaghe on the other hand may have fought some of his opposition after they were in their primes but that can’t be said of all of his opponents. He took on two younger unbeaten fighters in unification fights (towards the end of his career) in Jeff Lacy and Mikkel Kessler. Jeff Lacy had been considered by many as the new Mike Tyson of the super middleweight division and it was easy to see why with his record going into the fight. Despite a suffering from a hand problem Calzaghe stuck to the challenge and outboxed his opponent in every department on the night. Lacy tried to pile the pressure and although Calzaghe is never one to fight on the back foot, let Lacy come and punished him with sharp combinations. It turned out to be one of the most dominant performances of his career and one of the best seen in a title unification fight. These two fights showed the level his boxing skills were at, unrivalled in his division arguably. What it also shows is why he may be considered top of the class over the other modern great.
Joe Calzaghe had a desire to win that can’t be instilled by any method of teaching. A Warrior’s heart, as well as his talent, is what separated him from the pack. Calzaghe wasn’t impossible to hit, nor did he particularly adopt a style where he avoided every punch that was thrown in the direction if his face, but he was aggressive and impressive in his offensive skills. He had a tendency for dominating fights through sheer speed and workrate. All things considered he took risks in fights, he didn’t mind taking leather to apply his own onto his opponents, and it is this risk taking style which excited fight fans. A brave style (if you will) for a man who managed to keep himself unbeaten and entertain millions, it would be easier to adopt a more defensive approach if you wanted to stay unbeaten and healthy.
Therefore Mr. Mayweather sit up and take note, you don’t have to be the best technical boxer of all time to gain recognition. Fans and critics alike all love to see a bit of bravery and risk taking, it is all part of showing the inner character of a fighter. Joe Calzaghe for technical skills may have only fallen behind Mayweather and Roy Jones Jr, but what he had was a burning ambition to win and it’s the manner in which he went about winning that won the hearts of the Ring 8 and many others around the world. Joe Calzaghe, take a deserved bow and enjoy.
By Gianluca Ferrari