Confident Calzaghe not intimidated by Hopkins' antics
Trash-talking, insult-slewing, back-and-forth jawing: That's not Joe Calzaghe's style. The fighter from Wales prefers to let his fists to do the talking.
Originally Published: April 15, 2008By Brian Doogan | Special to ESPN.com
The last time a British boxer jumped 7 pounds to encounter an American in Las Vegas, the disparity in class was blatant.But Bernard Hopkins is no Floyd Mayweather, and Ricky Hatton is no Joe Calzaghe. The Battle of the Planet between Hopkins and Calzaghe, the latest in a long line of Anglo-American hostilities in the boxing ring, will feature a 43-year-old veteran, slightly diminished but formidable still, against a 36-year-old southpaw, whose unbeaten record stretching back 18 years has been forged on instinctive skills and adaptability. Hopkins is well-known to American boxing observers, Calzaghe a little less so -- which, in the United States at least, has resulted in the elevation of Hopkins to legendary status, while the Briton remains on a somewhat lower plateau. Hopkins is quick to point this out. "When I fight Joe Calzaghe, I'm fighting a champion," Hopkins said. "When Joe Calzaghe fights Bernard Hopkins, he's fighting a legend."
When I fight Joe Calzaghe, I'm fighting a champion. When Joe Calzaghe fights Bernard Hopkins, he's fighting a legend.
-- Bernard Hopkins, on his thoughts on Joe Calzaghe
Tarver, he suggested, was stale and rendered impotent by the significant amount of weight he had to shift after his co-starring role in Rocky Balboa while Wright, as far as Calzaghe is concerned, was no more than a junior middleweight "with a paunch". The fight against Wright is the only one of Hopkins' that Calzaghe has watched in the build-up. This is customary in his preparation and, just because his opponent now is Hopkins, he sees no reason to change. While Hatton, Calzaghe maintained, became susceptible to Mayweather's mind games in the build-up to their Dec. 8 clash, the world super middleweight champion is not bothered by Hopkins' reputation or his efforts to unnerve him. "He uses the old [Felix] Trinidad example of father and son and how he had to be stopped by his dad and it's nonsense," said Calzaghe. "You can't compare me to Trinidad. There's a father-son relationship and that's it You're talking about a welterweight/junior middleweight who got exposed by Winky Wright and destroyed by Roy Jones and there's just no comparison. Some of his stuff is just ridiculous." Ironically, Calzaghe and Hopkins will be refereed by Joe Cortez, who was also the third man in the ring for Mayweather-Hatton. But, whereas Hatton had legitimate reasons to lament the way that Cortez handled his bout, Calzaghe feels reassured by Cortez's appointment, pointing out that the Las Vegas referee was the man in charge of his WBO title-winning effort against Chris Eubank 11 years ago. It could be a lucky omen," Calzaghe said. On the other hand, Hopkins has objected three times to Cortez refereeing his fights and he succeeded in having him replaced before his victory over Trinidad in 2001. "As Hatton learned, Cortez is a disciplinarian and unlikely to tolerate the 43-year- old Hopkins' more desperate age-evading tactics," said Hayward. The national anthems will be sung again and Calzaghe is hopeful that the disgraceful scenes when British fans booed the Star Spangled Banner ahead of Mayweather-Hatton will not be repeated. But he is happy that Tom Jones, a legend in the Welsh valleys, will be adding his considerable weight to the occasion. Finally, the extra weight which worked against Hatton when he stepped up from light welterweight to challenge Mayweather, the world welterweight champion, is likely to have a positive effect on Calzaghe, for he has long struggled to get down to the super middleweight limit. "When a junior welterweight goes up to welterweight, the seven-pound difference puts you in with a different size of man," said former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan, now a perceptive TV analyst for ITV in Britain. "But that's not the case at super middle and light heavyweight, where the disparity is not as marked. "Most super middles walk around at light heavy anyway. If you look at the first big defeat Hopkins suffered against Roy Jones, it was hand speed that did him. What is Joe's great asset? Hand speed. That'll be the difference again." If so, that will be the difference between Hopkins-Calzaghe and events in the Planet Hollywood ring. Brian Doogan covers boxing for The Sunday Times and Ring magazine.
Al Bello/Getty ImagesCalzaghe doesn't believe Hopkins' win over Tarver, right, was as impressive as some boxing pundits make it out to be.
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