With his win over Mikkel Kessler, Joe Calzaghe has put himself into position to grab a fight with one of several dangerous opponents. Knock Calzaghe all you want for fighting sometimes inferior opposition in the past (though at this point, again, I don't think many fighters line up as more than inferior competition for the Welshman), but he and even Frank Warren are now showing that they want to finish Joe's career with marquee bouts.
There is a small army of fighters that could be on the list to face Calzaghe in 2008. Here are some of the mentioned names.
Calzaghe already said at the post-fight press conference, seated right next to Kessler, that this is not likely. "I don't really like rematches, especially against a guy like this. He's young and he's going to get better." Immediately following the bout, a classy Kessler humbly said that were he to get a rematch, he'd just train harder and do the best he could, acknowledging that he lost the fight fair and square. He also noted that he didn't think Joe had much power, but that it's "confusing" when a guy throws so many punches. For the record, Calzaghe threw a mind-boggling 1,010 shots in the fight, a staggering figure for super middleweights.
I'd watch it, though. If Joe can't land one of the big-name Americans, revisiting Calzaghe-Kessler would hardly offend me, because outside of Lucian Bute, I can't think of a single other super middleweight I really think there's any need to see Joe fight.
B-Hop is the guy Calzaghe and Warren want. Frank Warren wasn't shy post-fight about it, either, offering Team Hopkins every advantage to sign the contract. Warren said Hopkins can pick the date, pick the venue, pick the weight, and pick anything else he wants. We all know Hopkins is second-to-none in belaboring negotiations, and that it's no small feat to actually get him into the ring. I'm not saying I think Bernard ducks anybody, as Warren made a show of hinting. I'm just saying what we all know to be true. Bernard Hopkins can be a world class pain in the ass.
HBO has already also gone on record: They'd rather have Calzaghe square off with the winner of the Pavlik-Taylor rematch. Personally, I wouldn't. I love the idea of Calzaghe-Pavlik or Calzaghe-Taylor, and I think the chance of dramatic knockout is higher in those fights. But Hopkins was able to out-think Winky Wright in his last fight. To me, there are four true chess masters among boxing's elite: Mayweather, Hopkins, Wright, and Calzaghe. Watching Hopkins and Calzaghe do physical and mental battle with one another might not be up everyone's alley, but personally, I'd jump at the chance.
Kelly Pavlik or Jermain Taylor
As stated, the winner of Pavlik-Taylor II is what HBO seems to want, but HBO only has so much control over anything. Of course, they could offer a much better deal for Calzaghe against one of these two than they do a fight with Hopkins, but do you think HBO is going to turn down Hopkins-Calzaghe?
Calzaghe has been very complimentary toward Pavlik since his win over Taylor, inviting him to Cardiff for the Kessler fight and saying he'd love to fight him afterward. But now that Pavlik-Taylor II is on the calendar, it's more of a wait. Taylor could very well defeat Pavlik at 166 pounds, which would give Taylor all the momentum to move to 168 officially and challenge King Joe. I like both fights on paper. Taylor is a phenomenal athlete and a good puncher, and I don't think stamina would play any role for him against Calzaghe. Joe's constant motion wouldn't wear Taylor out, as he'd more likely be content to just throw punches in bunches alongside Calzaghe.
Pavlik is what I like to call a "smart plodder," a guy without great footwork or speed, but who uses what he does have -- power and good fundamentals -- to the maximum, the same as Miguel Cotto uses his granite chin and body attack or Juan Diaz uses his astounding punch rate and hand speed. Plus, I think Pavlik's an even stronger puncher than Kessler, and that his power would easily translate to 168, as I think Kelly may be ultimately destined for even 175.
Roy Jones, Jr.
Calzaghe has mentioned Roy a few times of late. Any possibility here hinges on a few factors, all in Roy's court. First of all, he has to beat Felix Trinidad in January. Convincingly. Roy has to put on a star re-making performance, because he has fallen down the ladder pretty substantially. But, if he does wipe up the undersized Trinidad (and I think he will, the weight is just too damn high for Tito), and the fight does good PPV numbers (which I think it will), then there's nothing stopping Jones-Calzaghe from happening other than Jones, like Hopkins, being a pain in the ass. To his credit, he has been uncharacteristically pleasant and accommodating in the build-up for his fight with Tito.
If Hopkins proves too big of a hassle to deal with, Jones could step into the void.
Another name Calzaghe dropped recently. Forget it. Tarver isn't any sort of real draw anymore, as Hopkins erased the memories of Tarver stomping on Jones. Antonio Tarver no longer carries any real weight. He's an overhyped fighter whose pro career is notable for being the perfect matchup to puzzle Jones and being one of the many Hopkins victims who had no answer for "The Executioner." Calzaghe-Tarver does not interest me at all -- Joe would slaughter him.
If I had to place a wager right now, it's that we will see Calzaghe-Hopkins on the east coast of the States, either in B-Hop's hometown of Philadelphia or somewhere in New York City, most likely Madison Square Garden. The pipe dream of Yankee Stadium isn't happening. They'd have to put three major fights on the same card to have that headline a Yankee Stadium card that could do the live gate you'd want out of something that ballsy.
For now, we wait to see what comes of the Hopkins challenge. And knowing Bernard, bring a snack. It'll be a while.