Calzaghe-Jones: Still a dream in September
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I'm excited. And I don't care who knows it.
When I stumbled across Wednesday's news that Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones Jr. had agreed to terms on a September showdown at Madison Square Garden, I'm not ashamed to say I was thrilled.
In my view, their decade-long standing as signature names and ownership of title belts in five weight classes warrants a palpable level of expectancy.
Add that both are among my all-time favorites as fan/journalist - and have gone 2-0 against personal anti-hero Bernard Hopkins - and it's needless to say I'll be counting down the days until autumnal equinox week.
Nonetheless, when I surveyed for other reactions, I was surprised.
Instead of similar degrees of interest, anticipation and excitement over the prospect of two Hall of Famers actually meeting, the only thing palpable was the ennui.
In fact, much of the instant fan feedback veered toward the opposite extreme, lamenting either that the fight was put together five years too late or that it matched a pair known more for an aversion to combat than a lean toward it.
Joe Calzaghe is clearly one of the best fighters in the world.
"Calzaghe vs. Roy comes down to both being popular fighters by name. Which is all HBO seems to care about," said one dissenting espn.com respondent Wednesday afternoon. "Why do you think they recycle all of these has-beens? They feel the name will still get them ratings."
"It's unfortunate that having an undefeated record is more important to Joe than fighting the best," said another on London's setantasports.com. "The British public should stop being obsessed with fighters remaining undefeated. Only then can our top boxers achieve all-time great status by taking risks and competing in great fights."
Even Ocala-based guru Nick Fortuna - a regular, albeit oft-misguided contributor to this space - came down on the side of apathy toward the would- be dream matchup in our own e-mail debate, saying, "So it's same-old Joe against brand-new Roy. Gee, I wonder how many rounds it'll take before someone lands a punch."
Clever as always, my friend... but you're all just wrong.
While we agree the fight would have been a classic had it been staged five years ago, I seem to be the only one recognizing why it has similar value today.
Lest we forget, Calzaghe is just three months removed from toppling Hopkins, a foe admittedly nearing mandatory retirement, but one still viewed by since- turned contrarians as the world's pound-for-pound best going in.
So, subscribing once again to Ric Flair's "to be the man, you've got to beat the man" mantra, the 12-round win over the cranky Philadelphian makes Calzaghe the new "man," or at least one of a select few participants in such a discussion.
Bottom line, Calzaghe's clearly one of the best fighters in the world, a fact that validates his presence in any ring against any opponent.
The case is convoluted but no less air-tight for Jones, who ruled the pound- for-pound ranks without peer until, he claims, a combination of ego, physical duress and lack of focus led to a three-fight fall - including two losses by violent KO.
But rather than acknowledging a "he should quit" consensus among journalists and others, Jones rebuilt his image in small rooms, downing Prince Badi Ajamu in Boise, Idaho and Anthony Hanshaw in Biloxi, Miss. while maintaining a shred of relevance.
He was rewarded last winter by Don King & Co., who called on him to play the foil as another fallen star - Felix Trinidad - returned to the ring for the first time in three years after a series of unimpressive performances hastened a 2005 exit.
Jones whipped Trinidad that frigid night in January, though the ease in which he did so has been translated more as fodder and less as evidence that he's still a force at 175 pounds and still capable of beating in-their-prime opposition.
It's there that I suppose I disagree most.
Though I admit neither of the two in the Garden appeared in all-time vintage, Jones certainly seemed a few steps nearer than he'd been at any point since the three-fight downturn of 2004-05.
And if you at all buy that the slump could have been caused by his body's failure to readjust to 175 after its one-fight dalliance at heavyweight, then writing him off becomes that much more folly.
In fact, dismissing Trinidad as a made-for-Jones opponent also flies in the face of hoopla surrounding similar triumphs against well-chosen foes by former pound-for-pound elitist Oscar De La Hoya and current top-spot suitor Manny Pacquiao.
Oscar was quickly thrust into the PPV title picture after pounding hand-picked second banana Steve Forbes in May, while Manny zoomed to the post-Mayweather penthouse after hammering glorified heavy bag David Diaz in June.
Neither of those wins was any more significant, or difficult, than Jones' defeat of Trinidad. So, debunking Roy's case while buffeting the others is as flawed as a blithe assumption "Junior" will have nothing left to offer two months from now.
Not only will he show up and perform well..it says here he wins the fight.
Start spreadin' the news...Jones by TKO.
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He provides 'In The Ring' commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com), is a periodic contributor to 'The Drive with Dave Smith' on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.