|Calzaghe's dismantling of Jeff Lacy is still fresh in the minds of most.
Don't worry, most people aren't.
We can say this for Manfredo: He's not afraid to take a fight on someone else's home turf, even if most of us don't think he's deserving of being Calzaghe's challenger. This is, of course, more than we can say for the man who twice beat him, Sergio Mora, who bickered his way out of a shot at Jermain Taylor's middleweight title by refusing to fight in Memphis. Mora will now walk around with the stigma of being an ungrateful TV star more than a legitimate contender in the boxing game. Manfredo, at the least, won't have to deal with that.
There's not a lot to really get into with this fight, though. Pretty much everyone believes Calzaghe should -- and will -- walk his way through Manfredo in an easy defense of his belt, having put down another questionable challenger. But this has been the story of much of Calzaghe's career. Iffy opponents and accusations of ducking fighters have followed the Pride of Wales around for years, even after his scintillating destruction of Jeff Lacy in March of 2006 in what was almost certainly the most dominant performance of the year.
Recently, we saw Mikkel Kessler hammer Librado Andrade in Denmark, another home field win for one of the 168-pound division's elite fighters. Rumors have already circulated that after Calzaghe beats Manfredo, he will fight Colombian powerhouse and IBF champion Alejandro Berrio (26-4) instead of taking on Kessler, which is the one fight at 168 that almost everyone would like to see.
Maybe some of the rush and near-disgust regarding Calzaghe's choices of opposition stems from the fact that Calzaghe is 35 years old, and time catches up with everyone. Despite some of the negative attention Calzaghe gets, no one will argue that he's not a superb boxer -- one needs look no further than that Lacy fight to see a masterpiece in his library. He's a frustrating, technically sound champion, and he's legit.
But Manfredo? No disrespect is meant to the other Pride (this one of Providence), but his best win is who? Joe Spina? Scott Pemberton? He lost twice to Mora, and he doesn't have the type of track record where you can really form the argument that he deserves to be in the ring with Calzaghe. Honestly, I hope he makes a surprising fight of it, at least that way we get our time's worth out of it. But chances are that Calzaghe totally outclasses him and sends him back to the drawing board. There's only so far that reality TV fame can take a fighter. At some point, they have to actually beat somebody.
I've said this before and I'll probably say it again: The super middleweight division could be one of the most interesting in boxing. Calzaghe/Kessler is arguably the best 1-2 head-to-head that any division can offer. Unfortunately, this fight isn't going to do much to improve its position for time spent in the limelight.
Maybe Manfredo proves us all wrong, and we eat crow and proclaim his arrival as a true contender. Probably not, though.