Hardcore boxing fans knew it was going to be ugly. The question was just how ugly. Despite suffering an early flash knockdown, Joe Calzaghe (45-0, 32 KOs) outworked a difficult Bernard Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KOs) with a split decision to capture the linear light heavyweight title this past Saturday.
About one minute into the first round, Hopkins dropped Calzaghe with a beautiful straight right behind the left jab. For the remainder of the round, Hopkins used his jab to keep Calzaghe off balance. In rounds two and three, the Executioner mauled the Welshman on the inside, using signature body shots and low blows when the ref was on the opposite side. Calzaghe continued pressing the fight, but his world renowned workrate was destroyed due to Hopkins angles and counter punching.
Hopkins continued the rough house tactics in round four, cracking Calzaghe with a hard right before spinning Joe and landing another hook from behind. Referee Joe Cortez warned both fighters as the mauling became dirtier on the inside. By round five, Calzaghe began to better time Hopkins before being clinched. The Welshman would step back and flurry to prevent his punches from being smothered. This allowed Calzaghe to land a good straight left and hard right to the body to keep Bernards rushes at bay.
Hopkins began round six with two left hook counters, as Bernard now attempted to time Calzaghes flurries. This round Calzaghe began to the land the straight left with more regularity, but the harder and cleaner punches were still coming from Hopkins. Round seven saw Calzaghe still pressing the fight and now using his right jab to keep Hopkins off balance. This round Joe outworked Hopkins with steady pressure despite being countered and nearly knocked down again as the bell sounded.
Round eight saw more mauling between both men. Calzaghe continued working the jab and landed a clean straight left, one of the few solid blows of the round. Still, Hopkins retaliated with a left hook counter and a hard right. While Calzaghe was continuing with volume, the harder single shots were coming from Hopkins.
Before the start of round nine, trainer Enzo Calzaghe implored his son to step up his workrate and stop fighting Bernards fight. Joe took these words to heart and handled the round well, keeping distance to land a short right hook followed by a nice straight left. Hopkins clearly looked bothered as now he could not find a regular home for his lead straight right due to Calzaghes head movement and jab.
With the fight still undecided going into the tenth, Hopkins collapsed to the canvas after a seemingly light blow. The audience and Calzaghe stood flabbergasted as the old master took the full five minutes to recover. Hopkins pain was questionable, as weve seen the Executioner rush right back into action after being body slammed and receiving a dislocated shoulder. When the round resumed, a fired up Calzaghe dropped his hands only to be countered by a straight right and flurries on the inside. It appeared the five minute rest was exactly what Hopkins needed going into the final rounds.
Calzaghe continued his steady pressure in the eleventh, and this time Joe Cortez would not fall for Hopkins claim of another low blow. In the various exchanges, Calzaghe was able to get off first with superior handspeed due to his punches having no power on them.
In the final round, both men pressed the fight looking to secure the bout. No one landed clean despite multiple flurries from both fighters. Of course at the bell, both combatants felt they won the fight. Hopkins looked incredulous as the final scorecards read 115-112, 113-114, and 116-111 for the Pride of Wales. Calzaghe gave Hopkins credit as his toughest fight to date and hinted at a possible showdown with Roy Jones.
While many likely wont be impressed with Calzaghes performance, who has ever looked good against Hopkins? Even a prime Roy Jones couldnt achieve that feat. While I preferred Hopkins cleaner and stronger punching, Hopkins accuracy and output slowed in the second half as Calzaghe continued to press the fight and throw punches. The HBO team pointed out that Calzaghe landed more punches on Bernard than any other fighter. Of course, the announcers left out that this is not amateur boxing where all punches are scored the same no matter the damage.
However, both men should get credit for making the fight and holding their own. At 43-years-old, Hopkins nearly beat the best fighter in his weight class and made him fight his fight. Calzaghe adds another notch in his belt after taking out two young, dangerous contenders in Jeff Lacy and Mikkel Kessler. Regarding a potential Roy Jones fight, I give Roy live underdog status since even at his age he can still put flashy combinations together. Plus, his new peek-a-boo defense will present problems for Joe.
Bells Quits Against Adamek
In cruiserweight action, Thomasz Adamek stopped slugger ONeil Bell by seventh round TKO. The bout featured hard punching from both men, and rough house tactics from Bell who started to look frustrated by the fourth. After the sixth, Bell decided in the corner he wanted no more despite not taking huge punishment. With the win, Adamek moves in line to face champion Steve Cunningham.