Dominant win puts Calzaghe firmly on the map

Joe Calzaghe's domination of Jeff Lacy was as impressive as Hopkins over Trinadad, and then some. Calzaghe delivered on one of the most anticipated fights of the year.

Originally Published: March 6, 2006
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com


A roundup of the weekend's notable boxing results from around the world:

Saturday at Manchester, England
Super Middleweight
Joe Calzaghe W12 Jeff Lacy
Unifies super middleweight titles
Scores: 119-107, 119-107, 119-105
Records: Calzaghe 41-0; Lacy 21-1
Rafael's remark: There are barely words to describe Calzaghe's absolute and thorough domination of Lacy. It was that awesome.

Calzaghe fought a sublime masterpiece in a bout that beforehand he called the defining fight of his career. He sure picked a great time for the best performance of his life, one that surely will see him crash the pound-for-pound rankings he has so desperately wanted to be a part of.

This was as impressive as Bernard Hopkins over Felix Trinidad, Floyd Mayweather over Diego Corrales and then some. Simply put, Calzaghe fought the perfect fight in making his 18th title defense and adding Lacy's world title to his own.

It was one of the most anticipated fights of the year and the biggest super middleweight fight since Roy Jones defeated James Toney in 1994, but Calzaghe turned it into a wipeout from the outset. He never gave Lacy a chance to breathe, swarming him with an assortment of hard punches with both hands.

Calzaghe, of Wales and fighting at 2 a.m. local time in Manchester, England, to accommodate live television coverage on Showtime in the United States, gave his fans a reason to be excited.

While Lacy threw wide shots one at a time, Calzaghe, who had a point deducted for a ticky-tack hitting-behind-the-back foul in the 11th round, was putting together ridiculous 12- and 14-punch combinations with breathtaking accuracy. He cut Lacy over both eyes and caused blood to flow from Lacy's nose midway through the fight, which could have been stopped several different times due to Calzaghe's incessant punches. Lacy showed tremendous heart and a great chin, but finally was knocked down for the first time in his career in the 12th.

That was just the cherry on top of Calzaghe's greatest night. He has many options now -- stay at 168 pounds for another fight or two to try to further unify the division against Mikkel Kessler and Markus Beyer, or move up to light heavyweight and gun for the likes of Antonio Tarver or Roy Jones in money fights, or a big United Kingdom showdown with titlist Clinton Woods of England. The fight we'd love to see at light heavyweight is Calzaghe vs. exciting titlist Tomasz Adamek.

As for Lacy, he needs a long rest after taking such brutal punishment. He might never be the same.

Cruiserweight
Enzo Maccarinelli W12 Mark Hobson
Scores: 116-112, 114-113, 114-113
Records: Maccarinelli 23-1; Hobson 24-4-1
Rafael's remark: Maccarinelli, groomed by promoter Frank Warren as Britain's next star cruiserweight, had a tougher time than expected with Hobson, but it is probably understandable.

Maccarinelli originally was supposed to challenge for Johnny Nelson's world title, but Nelson was injured a few weeks ago in training camp and Maccarinelli probably was a little emotionally deflated because his big shot was delayed.

If Nelson's injury keeps him out for any length of time, Maccarinelli probably would vie for an interim title before facing Nelson.

Super Middleweight
Chad Dawson TKO3 Jamie Hearn
Records: Dawson 22-0, 15 KOs; Hearn 10-6-1
Rafael's remark: Dawson remains one of the top prospects in the world, one who is right on the verge of being a serious contender.

The 23-year-old is a skilled, 6-foot-3 southpaw and will be a handful for anyone -- just ask Hearn. Dawson is getting anxious for a meaningful fight and was calling out light heavyweight king Antonio Tarver after the fight. That one probably won't ever happen, but you can't blame the kid for having enthusiasm and desire to fight the best.

Saturday at Bayamon, Puerto Rico
Junior Welterweight
Miguel Cotto TKO8 Gianluca Branco
Retains a junior welterweight title
Records: Cotto 26-0, 22 KOs; Branco 36-2-1, 18 KOs
Rafael's remark: Cotto thrilled the hometown fans with a methodical destruction of Branco, whose only previous loss was a decision to Arturo Gatti in a title fight.

Cotto's repeated heavy left hooks raised significant swelling on Branco's face and damaged Branco's shoulder. A final shot to the shoulder saw Branco wincing in pain and turning away from Cotto, causing the fight to be stopped.

It was Cotto's first bout since surviving the first knockdown of his career and winning a brutal slugfest with Ricardo Torres last September. Cotto didn't get hit Saturday night like he did by Torres, but Cotto looked a little slow and robotic against Branco. Nonetheless, Cotto won his sixth in a row by stoppage and successfully defended his belt for the fifth time.

He's set to face the slick Paulie Malignaggi on June 10 at Madison Square Garden in New York, in a fight of contrasting styles. Should Cotto survive that challenge, the big fights are there for him -- Ricky Hatton, Floyd Mayweather or the winner of Carlos Baldomir-Gatti or Jose Luis Castillo-Diego Corrales III.

Featherweight
Juan Manuel Lopez W8 Gilberto Bolanos
Scores: Unavailable
Records: Lopez 10-0; Bolanos 10-11-1
Rafael's remark: Lopez, an elite prospect and one of Puerto Rico's finest young fighters, had a tough night. After roaring to nine straight knockouts in his first nine bouts, Lopez was forced to go the distance for the first time.

According to his own handlers, Lopez struggled at times and looked flat. Perhaps the difficult bout will serve as a learning experience, something all young prospects need in order to improve.

Saturday at Oldenburg, Germany
Middleweight
Arthur Abraham W12 Shannan Taylor
Retains a middleweight title
Scores: 120-106, 120-107, 120-107
Records: Abraham 20-0; Taylor 42-5-2
Rafael's remark: Abraham, a German-based Armenian, is one of Europe's finest young fighters. He was given a gimme in the first defense of the vacant belt he won via knockout of Kingsley Ikeke in December.

Taylor, a blown-up welterweight from Australia, was coming off a knockout loss to Raymond Joval and was a massive underdog.

The only thing surprising about the outcome is that Abraham, a serious puncher, could not get the knockout. But he did dominate the fight and won every single round. Adding insult to injury, Taylor had a point deducted for low blows in the sixth round, as if the point mattered.

Abraham's handlers would like to bring him to the United States, and HBO, which is heavily involved in the middleweight division, has interest in him. He's one of the best fighters most Americans have never seen, but hopefully, that soon will change.

Heavyweight
Henry Akinwande W12 Cisse Salif
Scores: 119-109, 118-109, 116-110
Records: Akinwande 49-2-1; Salif 18-6-2
Rafael's remark: Akinwande, a fringe contender for what seems like forever, won his ninth consecutive fight since a 10th-round knockout loss to former champ Oliver McCall in 2001. Akinwande scored a third-round knockdown and cruised to the points win over Salif, who has lost two of three, including a decision to David Tua last fall.

Tenggarong City, Indonesia
Featherweight
Chris John W12 Juan Manuel Marquez
Retains a featherweight title
Scores: 117-111, 116-112, 116-110
Records: John 37-0-1; Marquez 44-3-1
Rafael's remark: Talk about a career driven into the ground by poor management. Marquez's once-soaring career -- he was a unified world champion coming off a sensational draw with Manny Pacquiao and was regarded as the best 126-pounder in the world -- has been decimated by manager/trainer Nacho Beristain. This loss is the crowning moment of Beristain's incompetence.

Because of Beristain's refusal to work with promoters and TV networks, Marquez eventually was stripped of both of his title belts and rejected a $750,000 offer for a rematch with Pacquiao, and later $1.4 million to fight Erik Morales.

So what did Marquez end up doing instead? After two meaningless mandatory fights, Marquez sat idle for 10 months and wound up going all the way to Indonesia to fight for about $32,000 against John, whose paper title rightfully belonged to Marquez.

This win was no hometown decision for John. He took it to Marquez, who was warned several times for low blows before having points deducted in the 10th and 11th rounds. It's a great win for John, who also has quality victories against Derrick Gainer, Oscar Leon and Osamu Sato. For Marquez, it's a disaster and he has no one to blame but himself and his own manager.

Saturday at Tokyo
Strawweight
Yutaka Niida W12 Ronald Barrera
Retains a strawweight title
Scores: 117-111, 116-112, 115-112
Records: Niida 20-1-3; Barrera 14-2-1
Rafael's remark: Niida retained his belt against the 21-year-old Colombian challenger, but according to reports out of Japan, this was as dull a fight as you will see.

Barrera was aggressive and threw punches throughout the fight but could rarely catch the defensive-minded Niida, who made the fourth defense of his second title reign. Afterward, Niida said a fever and bout with diarrhea caused his sluggish performance.

Friday at Santa Ynez, Calif.
Flyweight
Vic Darchinyan TKO8 Diosdado Gabi
Retains a flyweight title
Records: Darchinyan 25-0, 20 KOs; Gabi 26-3-1
Rafael's remark: There's nothing like a pure puncher, and if you like power, Darchinyan is your man.

He might only weigh 112 pounds, but he hits as hard as anyone in the sport, pound for pound. He's not a great technical boxer, and he won't impress with his speed, but the power is something to behold.

Gabi, of the Philippines, was having success outboxing Darchinyan and frustrating him with movement but Darchinyan, an Armenian based in Australia and trained by Hall of Famer Jeff Fenech, kept bulling forward.

Finally, in the eighth, Darchinyan caught him with a monster left hand and Gabi went down hard. Although a dazed Gabi beat the count, he was staggering badly and the fight was halted. Darchinyan, whose only other bout in the United States came when he won the title against Irene Pacheco in December 2004, is as fun to watch as anyone in boxing, and he says he wants to fight all the top fighters in and around his division. If you want a fight of the year candidate, look no further than a potential pairing of Darchinyan and interim titlist Jorge Arce.

Junior Welterweight
Rustam Nugaev TKO5 Anthony Mora
Records: Nugaev 16-4, 8 KOs; Anthony Mora 15-1
Rafael's remark: Despite the hype surrounding him entering the fight, Mora crashed and burned in a terrible performance.

Drained from making weight and seemingly indifferent in the fight, the workmanlike Nugaev, of Russia, imposed his strength on Mora, often bulling Mora against the ropes. Following a flurry of unanswered blows in the fifth, referee Jack Reiss stopped the fight, which Nugaev was leading on the scorecards anyway.

If Mora is to salvage his career, it will have to be at a higher weight because making 135 pounds is obviously a big problem.

For Nugaev, it was his third win in a row and his second fight since opponent Martin Sanchez died as the result of a brain injury suffered in a ninth-round knockout loss to Nugaev in July 2005.

Friday at Philadelphia
Welterweight
Demetrius Hopkins W12 Mario Jose Ramos
Scores: 119-108, 119-108, 119-108
Records: Hopkins 23-0-1; Ramos 16-2-1
Rafael's remark: Demetrius Hopkins, the nephew of former undisputed middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins, dominated the fight in front of his hometown fans to score a virtual shutout in going 12 rounds for the first time in his career.

Demetrius, who landed more right hands than we could count, has a lot of boxing skills, and he put them all to use against Ramos, who defeated former world title challenger Cosme Rivera last October and is probably the best opponent Hopkins has faced.

Welterweight
Larry Mosley D12 Miguel Figueroa
Scores: 116-112 Mosley, 114-114, 114-114
Records: Mosley 15-1-1; Figueroa 24-5-2
Rafael's remark: This was a good, entertaining, back-and-forth fight but we thought Mosley did just enough to pull out a close decision.

Figueroa, the hometown fighter, pressured Mosley throughout the fight, although he was limited to throwing mainly his left hand after hurting his right paw in the third round. Mosley did hurt Figueroa in the eighth round, but was unable to put him on the canvas.

This one begs for a rematch.

Junior Welterweight
Rock Allen W6 Arturo Brambilla
Scores: 60-54, 59-55, 57-57
Records: Allen 6-0, 15 KOs; Brambilla 8-6
Rafael's remark: Allen, a 2004 U.S. Olympian and protégé of Bernard Hopkins, went the distance for the first time in his pro career.

Although Allen won the fight in front of his hometown fans, he struggled at times, which is not necessarily a bad thing for a prospect learning the ropes of the pro game.

Friday at Temecula, Calif.
Middleweight
Sam Soliman TKO6 Raul Munoz
Records: Soliman 32-8, 13 KOs; Munoz 17-8
Rafael's remark: Soliman has boundless energy and it showed against Munoz, whom he easily dominated.

Soliman was fighting for the first time since his quality performance in losing a tight decision to Winky Wright in December. Making Soliman's performance against Munoz even more impressive was the fact that he took the bout on only a few days' notice -- flying 16 hours from Australia for the opportunity to be showcased on U.S. national TV -- when Vernon Forrest backed out with an arm injury.

Many fighters say they will fight anyone, anytime, anywhere. Soliman is one of the few who truly means it. Boxing needs more fighters like Soliman, who throws a million punches, and always looks like he's having fun in the ring. With his personality, willingness to fight anyone and the 100 percent effort he gives at all times, he deserves another big fight.

Heavyweight
Javier Mora TKO7 Kirk Johnson
Records: Mora 20-2-1, 18 KOs; Johnson 36-3-1
Rafael's remark: This was a freak victory for Mora.

Johnson, the injury-plagued former top contender whose only previous losses were to John Ruiz and Vitali Klitschko, was dominating Mora in the early rounds.

In the fifth, however, Mora rocked Johnson and had him on the run and on the verge of going down. He continued to dish out punishment in the sixth. However, Johnson was firmly leading on the scorecards in the seventh when Mora accidentally stepped on Johnson's foot, which caused Johnson to trip and slip to the canvas and dislocate his knee. With Johnson unable to continue, the fight ended and Mora was awarded the victory.

It's another injury for Johnson, who has had several, including a rib-cage injury that cost him a shot at the title a few years ago.

Friday at Maywood, Calif.
Lightweight
Fernando Trejo W12 Luis Arceo
Scores: 117-111, 116-112, 115-112
Records: Trejo 26-11-4; Arceo 19-4-1
Rafael's remark: Trejo's record isn't too impressive, but he usually makes for entertaining fights, and this Telefutura main event was no exception.

He dropped down from lightweight, where he three fights ago he upset Jose Armando Santa Cruz, to pound out a decision against Arceo in a very good scrap.

Flyweight
Giovanni Segura TKO1 Francisco Arce
Records: Segura 13-0-1, 10 KOs; Arce 19-3-1
Rafael's remark: Segura is a nice prospect who surprisingly destroyed Arce -- the brother of interim flyweight titlist Jorge Arce -- in the first round. Segura nailed him with a left hand, which sent Arce into the ropes and down. Although he beat the count, Arce fell over and the fight ended.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

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