Joe Calzaghe doesn't want to fight Mikkel Kessler, no matter what he says. And Jermain Taylor doesn't want anything to do with Kelly Pavlik, no matter what he says.
168-pound champion Calzaghe and 160-pound champion Taylor want to fight each other, because that's a safe fight where no one gets knocked out, no one loses that undefeated record against a fighter that was "below" him, and everyone makes some good bank. There's money there. HBO would salivate for the fight, even though the stock of both fighters has dropped thanks to a series of unimpressive opponents and boring fights.
Jermain Taylor is a damn good fighter, making his name with two controversial wins over Bernard Hopkins. Joe Calzaghe is also a damn good fighter, finally becoming the modern boxing, non-Oscar equivalent of a household name with his massacre of Jeff Lacy. Taylor even fought Winky Wright after he beat Hopkins, and went to a draw with him.
But since then, neither man has shown much at all. Calzaghe has dull wins over Sakio Bika and Peter Manfredo, Jr., and Taylor has taken routine, yawn-inducing decisions over overmatched, undersized 154-pounders Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks.
Boxers make a habit nowadays of claiming money as their sole reason for fighting anybody, and in all candor, it's not really useful to be negative toward them about that line of thinking. The business of boxing is so utterly out of whack that that's really the only way to properly manage your career. The promoters and -- worse -- the sanctioning bodies have made it that way. And it's hardly like many of boxing's great legends didn't hand pick opponents and purposely ignore more deserving fighters.
So why be annoyed? Because it's human nature to want to see the best matchups, and to want to see proud champions who fight the top contenders, guys who have earned these fights.
Kessler is every bit the champion Calzaghe is. At 39-0 with 29 knockouts, he has a fine argument for being the true No. 1 super middleweight in the game. He demolished Markus Beyer to unify the WBA and WBC titles, and then made mincemeat of a very tough Librado Andrade in March, on his HBO debut.
Kessler deserves the fight against Calzaghe, and everyone knows it. Now it's time for Calzaghe to step up to the plate and make it happen.
And Kelly Pavlik? We might be talking about a true rising star here. He's personable, he's a pleasure to watch in the ring, and he's good. Let's not make any bones about it: Kelly Pavlik beat the living shit out of Edison Miranda, making Miranda look no better than Jose Luis Zertuche, Lenord Pierre or Bronco McKart did in Pavlik's three previous bouts. Pavlik is a legit middleweight with power in both hands and a crushing straight right. And Jermain Taylor hasn't fought anyone with Pavlik's knockout power. Hopkins had it once, but it's not Bernard's nature or strength anymore.
Taylor's last two fights have been against 154-pound fighters, which isn't the worst thing in the world, but it's also not going to help him against Pavlik. Ouma, to his credit, didn't run from Taylor. Taylor, to his discredit, never really seemed to truly hurt Ouma. Spinks was an abomination, and anyone that thinks Cory Spinks won that fight should reconsider their boxing fandom. I don't want to get into it and go on at length (though I could), but if that's the type of performance you think wins a fight, you're nuts.
Pavlik deserves the fight against Taylor, and everyone knows it. Now it's time for Jermain to step up to the plate and earn back the respect he once so richly deserved as the middleweight king.
Back to the money issue about this fight, too. Taylor wants the most money. Fine, great, good. But there is money to be made in a fight with Kelly Pavlik. Pavlik is a native of Youngstown, Ohio, which isn't that far off from Taylor's preferred city of Memphis. Taylor/Pavlik could draw a gate in Memphis. Cory Spinks didn't draw in Memphis because Cory Spinks couldn't draw flies to shit. Who in their right mind would pay to see a Cory Spinks fight? If you're his family -- which covers most of his fans -- you probably get a free ticket.
I do like Jermain Taylor and Joe Calzaghe, and somewhere down the line, I'd probably love to see them fight. Stylistically, it makes for a really interesting bout, I believe. But right now, Taylor needs to fight Pavlik, and Calzaghe needs to fight Kessler. There's just too much of a duck factor involved if they don't, and neither guy winds up looking like much of a champion.