Let there be no more doubts, period, about whether or not Joe Calzaghe is "legit," "proven," or anything else that may suggest his record isn't quite what it seems. Joe Calzaghe proved beyond any shadow of a doubt with his win over Mikkel Kessler that he is among boxing's elite.
I'd also like to make something else clear, too: Mikkel Kessler proved he was the clear No. 2 in the 168-pound division. Should Calzaghe leave super middleweight behind, Kessler is No. 1, and the only guy I think could give him any real trouble right now is Lucian Bute. Denmark's chief boxing export made a great showing on Saturday night -- he didn't do anything particularly wrong, and the only knock I could have is that he seemed to abandon a very effective uppercut, though that may simply have been Calzaghe adjusting and not giving him the looks that led to him eating Kessler's best punch of the night.
But Joe Calzaghe, again, put on a clinic. Kessler is a much more complete, more mature, more fundamentally sound fighter than Jeff Lacy. Calzaghe didn't make an example out of Kessler as he did with Lacy. I gave Mikkel four rounds, scoring it 116-112 for Calzaghe (official cards were 117-111, 116-112, 116-112). But there was a point in the middle of the fight where I knew that Joe Calzaghe wasn't going to lose without a home run shot from Kessler that caught him by surprise. For the 44th straight time, it was Joe Calzaghe's night.
It was a very enjoyable fight to watch, not a Fight of the Year contender, really, but a bout that lived up to the promise. It was competitive and very clearly, we were seeing two master craftsmen, who had almost nothing in common as boxers. Calzaghe's unpredictable style again was the difference. If Joe fought like Kessler does, he'd be a journeyman. But he fights unlike anyone else in the sport, and he's a champion. I can't imagine the hell that must be trying to prepare for Calzaghe. No one can really spar like the guy. You can't duplicate what he does.
Calzaghe has stated that he wants Bernard Hopkins next. I know this is going to be a big changing of my mind, if you've followed BLH for any amount of time, but I'm going to say it: If Bernard Hopkins refuses to fight Calzaghe in the UK, well, screw 'im. Yes, B-Hop is a Hall of Famer. And, yes, I still think it's a shame Calzaghe has never fought in the States. But does he NEED to? Now, I say absolutely not.
Hopkins has argued that he'll be selling the PPV. I guess? He's a bigger name in the States, but it's not like American boxing fans don't know Joe Calzaghe, and his name is bigger now than it was 24 hours ago. Plus, honestly, Calzaghe-Hopkins in Cardiff would do twice the live attendance than it would anywhere in the States. 50,000 people are not going to go to Yankee Stadium to watch Bernard Hopkins. They will not. I don't think Hopkins-Calzaghe in the States could do the 30,000 that Calzaghe-Manfredo did, honestly.
To all those that defended Calzaghe to me so fiercely in the past, I make no bones about it. You were 100% correct. I still think very little of Frank Warren, his promoter, but I'm through questioning Joe Calzaghe. Anyone that does it after last night is barking just to bark. What more could he do?
I also caught the Showtime card, though I didn't bother to score it. Well enough, since it was uneventful, and looking at the few thousand in attendance in Arizona for championship fights right after Calzaghe-Kessler made it all the more clear just how big of a national hero Joe Calzaghe really is.
Robert Guerrero retained his featherweight title in less than a minute, knocking out Martin Honorio with a straight left at 0:56. Honorio was clearly dazed even after standing up, and stayed that way as long as we saw him in the ring. Robert Guerrero is really a great guy, and I'm glad he won, with nothing against Honorio. If you haven't heard, Guerrero's wife is battling leukemia, and it must've been difficult for him to think about his job. Bad Left Hook sends our best wishes to Guerrero, his wife, and their family.
In the main event, WBC super featherweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez dominated Rocky Juarez to retain via unanimous decision. Juarez, now 0-3 in title fights (the other two losses were to Marco Antonio Barrera), fought valiantly but was hampered by a constant and heavy flow of blood into his left eye, caused by an accidental headbutt in the first round.
Now, I can't say for sure whether or not Juarez would've fared better against Marquez without the headbutt causing such damage so early, but my inclination is to highly doubt the idea. Marquez is, simply, a better fighter. I like Rocky Juarez, and I hope he just returns to featherweight as he had planned (he was supposed to be facing Guerrero, but took Jorge Barrios' place against Marquez), because I think his power could be a serious difference maker at 126 pounds.
But at 130, he winds up outgunned against the best in the division. He did great in his first fight against Barrera, but let's not forget that he was a late substitute opponent that Barrera had not prepared for. In the rematch, he was dominated by the smarter Barrera. Marquez did much the same, and beat Juarez up, to boot.
Marquez-Pacquiao II looks like it's absolutely going to happen, ignoring the Larry Merchant-planted rumor that Manny Pacquiao may fight Oscar de la Hoya at a catchweight in the mid-140s. The Golden Boy himself said after the fight that Marquez-Pacquiao has to happen -- that Marquez is the last Mexican standing for Pacquiao.
I pray it doesn't happen head-to-head with Vazquez-Marquez III, but that's probably too much to ask of the sport. I did have one idea, and it might be next-to-impossible to get done: Give Showtime a settlement for rights to the Vazquez-Marquez bout. Put both Marquez brothers on the same pay-per-view. Can you imagine Pacquiao-Marquez II and Vazquez-Marquez III on the same bill? Could you open your wallet fast enough for that one?
The story of Saturday, though, was Joe Calzaghe. In one of the biggest fights of this decade, Joe Calzaghe was the shining star. He's made a career of it. And it's time for all of Calzaghe's long-standing doubters to be man enough to simply tip your cap and appreciate that he's in boxing. He deserves that much.