Calzaghe didn’t duck Ward
By Thomas Cowan: I read an article on this site earlier about a fight that never happened between Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward. This stated that Calzaghe chose to retire instead of entering the Super Six tournament because he knew he would lose to Ward. This seemed so ridiculous that I had to counter it with an article based on actual facts instead of xenophobic opinions.
Firstly, I know not everyone liked Calzaghe and to a certain extent, I understand why. He didn’t always fight the best and some thought he was a ducker, others felt that all the other fighters avoided him because he was extremely talented. Personally, I stand somewhere in between those to schools of thought. I’ll return to that topic later but first I’ll address the Super Six issue.
The article stated that by the time Calzaghe retired in late 2008, Ward was the man to beat in super middleweight division. This is incorrect. Everyone knew Ward was talented after he won Olympic Gold in 2004 but up to his fight with Mikkel Kessler in 2009, which many thought Kessler would win, Ward hadn’t really faced anyone of note. I’m not saying he fought bums but I don’t remember everyone saying “Calzaghe should fight Ward!” in 2008 and that’s because Ward wasn’t really a big deal.
The man most fans were calling for Calzaghe to fight was Chad Dawson, who offered to go to Wales to give Calzaghe one more fight. Calzaghe politely declined Dawson’s offer because he was finished with boxing and Dawson congratulated him on a great career and told him to enjoy retirement.
The fact is Calzaghe had already cleaned out the super middleweight division and if he’d have fought Ward and beaten him, the fans who don’t rate Calzaghe wouldn’t have changed their mind. There was no reason for Calzaghe to end the Super Six tournament. Andre Dirrell and Andre Ward were unproven, he already beat Kessler, Jermain Taylor was coming off two losses to Kelly Pavlik and Arthur Abraham is clearly out of his depth at 168 lbs.
That leaves Carl Froch, who had just won his first world title and was also unproven. Froch is on the same level as Kessler, who Calzaghe beat, so fighting him wouldn’t have improved Calzaghe’s legacy or bank balance and neither would any of the fighters listed above. Froch always said Calzaghe ducked him but now Froch is an established fighter, he’s shown little interest in fighting the up and coming George Groves and James DeGale so maybe he understands why Calzaghe ignored him in favour of bigger names and bigger paydays.
If Calzaghe and entered the Super Six and schooled Ward (and obviously that’s a huge if) critics would have dismissed it as a win over a fighter unproven at top class level just as they did when he dominated highly rated Jeff Lacy in 2006. For the record I feel the fight is too close to call. If Calzaghe had entered the Super Six, I think Ward would win because Calzaghe was slightly past it but I believe I prime 2006 version of Calzaghe would beat a prime version of Ward, if it was possible to time travel and put the two prome versions in the ring together.
Now if hope I’ve cleared up the Super Six issue, back to the issue of Calzaghe being a ducker. There were two top fighers at or near Calzaghe’s weight while he was active that he never faced. They are Sven Ottke and Roy Jones Jr. I recognize Calzaghe did fight Jones but most fans see the post 2003 version of Jones as a completely different fighter to the one that dominated the light heavyweight division and won a heavyweight title. You could say the same is true of Bernard Hopkins but I believe that the fact Hopkins is a two-time world champion since he fought Calzaghe shows he wasn’t past it when Calzaghe beat him. Some say that decision was controversial and it was certainly close, I had the Brit winning 114-113.
Now, I know that I said this article would be based on facts not opinions bit I’m going to break that promise to give my opinion of Ottke which may be slightly harsh. I personally feel that Ottke was a good but hugely overrated fighter who built his career on gift decisions in Germany. He was continually outworked and out-landed by visiting fighters but always got that decision. His wins over Glen Johnson and Mads Larsen were questionable but his fights with Charles Brewer, Byron Mitchell and Robin Reid were scandalous. The Reid fight in particular was a robbery, when Ottke was sent crashing to the floor by a clean punch only for the referee to rule it a slip and then deduct Reid a point when Ottke was fouling to try and slow down the pace of the fight. The referee that night took charge of 15 more fights after the Ottke fiasco, but never another title fight.
Given that even the fiercest Calzaghe critic would probably agree that he is better than all the fighters listed above, I think it’s fair to say Calzaghe would have comfortably outbox Ottke, although whether he’d have been given the decision is another matter. I don’t believe Ottke would have ever agreed to fight Calzaghe and he would never have left Germany, where he fought all 34 of his fights.
Now to the issue of the Roy Jones Jr fight, that never happened until Jones was shot. I rated Jones as the best pound-for-pound fighter of the 1990s, narrwoly edging Lennox Lewis in my list. While I feel Calzaghe’s speed and desire woud have really tested Jones, I think the American would have been to clever and too strong but I would have been a terrific fight. I don’t know if either man didn’t fancy the fight, if their was a weight issue or if either fighter’s promoters stopped the fight taking place but it’s a shame the fight never happened. Jones was a feared man for a reason, Chris Eubank basically admitted he ducked him and Polish puncher Dariusz Michalczewski was never keen to fight him either. Calzaghe was avoided as well but I think both fighters deserve respect and admirated from all fans as they both completely cleaned out their respective divisions.
To be honest, seeing as Calzaghe unified his division, made a lot of money and fought in front of 50,000 screaming adoring fans in his native Wales and lived the dream, I doubt he cares what I or anyone else thinks but that’s my take on his career, what’s your opinion?
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