Credit: BBC Sport
Should super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe lose to fellow titleholder Mikkel Kessler in their massive upcoming unification bout, the Welsh warrior could end his career a little earlier than expected.
For Calzaghe, the undefeated record is very important. This would explain some of the competition he's fought over the years, or, more accurately, some of the competition he hasn't fought over the years. When you're a 10-year champion, 35 years old, and the best win on your record (not just in terms of performance) really might be Jeff Lacy, then clearly, protecting the "0" was a little bit of an issue.
Now, though, he's matched up with Kessler. To be totally fair, Kessler has but a few really notable wins himself. But Calzaghe was offered many fights that were turned down, backed out of, or whatever else. Kessler has rarely been offered these bouts, and it was Kessler and his team that chased Calzaghe, and only after Jermain Taylor signed on to face Kelly Pavlik did we wind up getting the Calzaghe-Kessler matchup inked.
I know that I have perhaps too often questioned Calzaghe's record and his guts. But, as always, I do not question his ability. He should be considered the favorite against Kessler, and he shouldn't have been such an underdog in the minds of so many against Lacy.
Either way, Calzaghe says he has "two or three" fights left in his career. Should he take Kessler's undefeated record and titles, Bernard Hopkins has already made very clear that he would love to fight Calzaghe in the States next year. This could present a roadblock, as Calzaghe has never ventured out of Europe, and only once in his 43-fight career has he fought outside of the United Kingdom, when he beat Mario Veit in Germany. This, as you might guess, is another thing I hold against Calzaghe. It's no disrespect to European fighters or the level of competition over there. But Ricky Hatton knew he had to come to America to truly be regarded as one of the best, globally. Why has Calzaghe never really considered this an option? Why does it seem like he's done everything possible to avoid fighting in the States?
Hopkins has said, firmly, that he will not travel to the UK to fight Calzaghe, as he doesn't feel it necessary of him to make concessions for anyone. He's right, of course. And, just once, it would be nice to see Joe take anything close to a risk.
There is also the chance that he could fight Kelly Pavlik (which he has said he'd like to do, and has invited Pavlik to join him in Cardiff for the Kessler bout) or Taylor. Really, there are plenty of guys out there that would like to take a crack at Joe Calzaghe. Does Calzaghe want the cracks?
It's always been a wait-and-see game with Calzaghe and Frank Warren. He is a damn good fighter, maybe truly great. But he is also one of the sport's most protected champions. Kessler, like Lacy, has the chance to prove that. Lacy sure as hell failed.