Commentary

Calzaghe delivers on big night in the Big Apple

Throughout the '90s, Roy Jones was peerless in boxing. But that was then and this is now. Joe Calzaghe outpunched, outmuscled and outhustled Jones over 12 rounds to earn a unanimous decision and usher in a new light heavyweight era on Saturday.

Originally Published: November 9, 2008
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Joe CalzagheFrank Franklin II/AP PhotoJoe Calzaghe, right, delivered on his promise to defeat Roy Jones on Saturday.
NEW YORK -- There was one winner, one loser and perhaps the end of two glorious careers.

Joe Calzaghe, the star Welshman, had said over and over before his fight with Roy Jones Jr. on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden that he planned to retire afterward, win or lose.

If he sticks to his word, he's done. He'll walk away at age 36 as the undefeated light heavyweight champion, his legacy as perhaps the United Kingdom's greatest fighter sealed, after lashing Jones in dominant fashion to retain the title.

Calzaghe's dominance, however, was so pronounced, so complete, so comprehensive, that it is hard to see why Jones would continue, and if he did, what purpose it would serve.

[+] EnlargeJoe Calzaghe
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIJoe Calzaghe was forced to climb off the canvas after suffering a first-round knockdown against Roy Jones.
While Calzaghe looked in fine pound-for-pound form -- fast, strong and able throw punches with the tremendous volume that has become his hallmark -- Jones was a shell of the fighter who spent a decade atop the pound-for-pound list.

At the outset, it looked like Jones might pull the upset. He surprised Calzaghe with a sharp right hand that dropped him to his knees with about 40 seconds left in the opening round.

But Calzaghe -- who was also knocked down in the first round in April when he won a split decision against Bernard Hopkins to win the title -- got up, dusted himself off and went about his business of dominating.

"He stunned me with a good shot but that is what champions are all about," Calzaghe said. "When I go down I come back stronger. I went down, but I just composed myself, got back up and started to box. After that [I] felt fine. But I didn't see the punch. It's like I had deja vu [from the Hopkins fight]."

Other than the first round, a Jones frame because of the knockdown, the rest of the fight was all Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs). All three judges had it 118-109 for Calzaghe, as did ESPN.com.

"When I had him down, I had two plans," Jones said. "I couldn't make up my mind. I wanted to go at him, and then I didn't want to go at him. I started punching too big and I got out of my fight game."

Calzaghe, making his first title defense, looked like he was having fun all night. He would land shots, stick his chin out at Jones (52-5, 38 KOs) from time to time and wiggle his backside to the delight of the pro-Calzaghe crowd of 14,152, including many who made the trek from Wales to watch their national hero.

By the seventh round, Jones' pace had slowed considerably as Calzaghe continued to land punches and forced a tiring Jones to retreat into the ropes.

One of Calzaghe's many flush right hands ripped open a cut over Jones' left eye and dark red blood streamed down his face, a clear sign of the rough night Jones was having.

"I think he caught me with a right hook that cut my eye," Jones said. "I was like, 'Whoa.' I've never been cut before. But I'm game, I'm going to fight 'til the end always. I gave my best effort, but that guy was the better man tonight."

Jones' cut continued to pour blood for the remainder of the fight and Calzaghe continued to do what he had done all night -- fire, fire, fire and catch Jones with shots.

"I felt really relaxed and I felt in the rhythm," Calzaghe said. The Welshman spent more than a decade as super middleweight champion before moving up to challenge Hopkins, who was ringside and saw his hopes for a rematch with Jones likely go down the drain.

How dominant was Calzaghe? He landed 344 of 985 blows (35 percent), the most blows ever landed against Jones in any of his 31 fights tracked by CompuBox. Jones landed just 159 of 475 blows (33 percent).

"After the first round I felt a little weary but I knew if I fought my style I would be OK," Calzaghe said. "I'm just so happy. This year I just beat two legends with Hopkins and Jones and I came to the U.S. to do it. I took the risk. They didn't come to me."

HBO will replay the fight Saturday night (10:15 ET).

[+] EnlargeJoe Calzaghe, Roy Jones
Al Bello/Getty ImagesRoy Jones, left, looked like a shell of his former self against Joe Calzaghe.
Jones, whose company, Square Ring, co-promoted the fight with Calzaghe Promotions, was humble in defeat.

"He won the fight, he definitely won the fight," Jones said. "Those pitty pat punches he throws were a little harder than I thought. I couldn't see out of my left eye. I don't know what's next for me. I worked so hard for this fight. I just don't know. I couldn't figure him out."

Jones had shaken off three consecutive losses in 2004 and 2005 -- two by brutal knockout -- to win three in a row, including an impressive performance against the faded Felix Trinidad. But Calzaghe is obviously not Trinidad.

Although Jones was disappointed, he is a proud man and believed that his ability to hang for 12 very hard rounds was meaningful.

"I do find a measure of redemption. I still went 12 rounds with a cut," he said. "I still beat adversity. Coming back from what I came from is very difficult. Not many fighters could come back from three losses in a row, and get themselves a top fight."

A top fight indeed, but perhaps the last.

For both of them.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.