The recently-discussed potential showdown between unbeaten stars Joe Calzaghe of Wales and Kelly Pavlik of Youngstown, Ohio, is one of great significance for all boxing fans, no matter where they're from. We're talking about two of the best and hottest fighters in the sport.
One man, Calzaghe, is already a great with a ticket almost certainly punched for Hall of Fame entry when he decides to hang up his gloves. The other, Pavlik, is a 26-year old that has the inimitable, hard-to-find it -- the tangible skills and intangible grit, earnest nature, and easygoing personality that might make up one of the great fighters of our time.
Both have fought recently. Calzaghe, the world super middleweight champion, dethroned world light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins via close decision in Las Vegas, the Welshman's first trip to the States for a fight in his long, storied career. With the win, Calzaghe improved to 44-0, and in one fight, took hold of his second division.
Meanwhile, Kelly Pavlik, the world middleweight champion (and arguably the most white-hot name in the sport), was training to face another of the fighters in the camp of Joe's father, Enzo Calzaghe. That man was Gary Lockett, a ridiculous WBO mandatory with an unproven 30-1 record. While we all knew it was a blatant mismatch and that Lockett had no chance (Pavlik was a -2000 favorite), the entertaining part of the build-up was hearing Enzo snipe back and forth with Pavlik's trainer, the gruff, extremely midwestern Jack Loew.
While Kelly does his talking in the ring, Jack does his talking anywhere he can. He's a one-fighter trainer whose one noteworthy fighter happens to be world class, a thunderous puncher with a lanky build who doesn't seem so scary even when you watch his knockout shots land.
But now, days removed from his latest knockout victory, ask Gary Lockett how strong Pavlik is. The Welshman -- given points for punching power and toughness coming in -- was forced three times to take a knee before the confident, proud Enzo Calzaghe had to throw in the towel to save his man from furthering what was becoming a savage beating.
It was last year, after Pavlik dethroned Jermain Taylor in September, that the seed was planted for a fight between Pavlik and Joe Calzaghe. Calzaghe, gearing up to face Mikkel Kessler on November 3, invited Pavlik to the fight on his behalf, saying he was very impressed with the young champion.
After Calzaghe beat Kessler, the talks immediately turned to Bernard Hopkins, particularly after the two got into a semi-staged verbal brush-up at the mammoth Mayweather-Hatton press conference in Vegas.
Calzaghe-Hopkins was eventually signed, and Pavlik moved on to a second defeat of Taylor, a great opponent who was this time better-prepared for a great challenge. Calzaghe took care of business in April, and talks turned to a fight in Wales with legendary but faded Roy Jones, Jr.
Now, it seems as though Top Rank's Bob Arum is hell-bent on staging Pavlik versus Calzaghe late this year, as he seems to know for certain the type of boundary-defying fighter he has on his hands. Arum says he's making it his first priority.
Calzaghe's side has said they'd love to make the fight, and that it's certainly in consideration. Their dilemma seems to be whether to fight the aged Jones or the hotshot Pavlik.
So now that we know this is a very real possibility, just how big would this fight be?
It would not be a Mayweather-Hatton scenario, because neither of these guys is going to play a villain. Both of them are quietly charismatic, rather humble (unless Calzaghe is pressed by someone like Hopkins), and very easy to like.
Neither is going to disrespect the ability of their counterpart, nor that man's home country. Neither is going to go out of his way to be sensationalistic or controversial in a manufactured attempt at selling more tickets, more pay-per-views, more fight night t-shirts, or more beers at whatever venue housed the showdown.
It also wouldn't be a Mayweather-Hatton scenario because we wouldn't see one guy as a massive favorite. Calzaghe-Pavlik is a pick'em if I've ever seen one. While Jack Loew may attempt to goad the Calzaghes with claims of Joe "slapping" when he punches, with Enzo firing back that the slaps must be hard, noting his boy's 32 knockouts, both guys fight their styles to perfection.
Calzaghe's style is unlike anyone else's in the sport. He's excellent defensively, punches in flurries that are unseen elsewhere, and hits a little bit harder than his detractors accuse. Pavlik is the classic boxer, straight up and down. Calzaghe dealt with someone similar when he fought Kessler, but Pavlik isn't as mechanical as Mikkel is, and I'm not saying Kessler isn't a hell of a boxer.
Pavlik's power is among the best in the sport, and going up to 168 or even 175 isn't going to change that. He's got the type of power that can translate way up there. He hits like a beast. Where Calzaghe beats Pavlik handily in hand speed and unorthodox looks, plus experience, Joe cannot slug with "The Ghost." He was knocked down by a well-placed Bernard Hopkins right hand.
Kelly's defense is good in that he picks off punches with his gloves very well. But Calzaghe comes from such awkward angles that I don't think that would serve him as well as it has against the likes of Miranda, Taylor and Lockett, fighters that are easier to prepare for.
But it's not even so much about the fight or who would win. I'd take until five minutes before the fight to even hazard a final guess, I figure.
Kelly Pavlik is a marketing dream. He's positioned now to be the new face of American boxing, which is only going to be a good thing. Mayweather had too many detractors, and to be really honest, so does Oscar de la Hoya. Pavlik's style or guts will never be questioned; neither will his manhood by the large sect of fans still stuck in 1953. Really, there's nothing he doesn't have. He's a good guy, a knockout puncher, and he wants to fight the best fights he can.
Joe Calzaghe is easy to sell, but he hasn't found the right opponent. Calzaghe is a good-looking guy with a laid-back attitude and a fine sense of humor. He's good for quotables, he's got an unblemished record, and he's well-known as one of the best in the world, though he should have been for a long time.
You know how you market a potential Pavlik-Calzaghe showdown? As a boxing match between two of the best fighters in the world. An explosive puncher against a ring magician with an endless supply of tricks up his sleeve. An all-time great from Wales fighting the living American Dream.
And they're fighting for three legitimate championships -- middleweight, super middleweight, and light heavyweight. Sell that. People will listen! Tell them in no uncertain terms that this is a massive event and a fight that can't be missed.
The trash talk can be kept between the two loudmouth trainers. That's the way I'd like it, anyway. Let these two classy fighters go out and do what they do best. It's the fight that both men and all fans of boxing deserve to see from the two of them. There is no bigger or better fight for either.
It could be the biggest fight of 2008.