Joe Calzaghe, Undisputed World Champion: HoganPhotos.com
By Paul Upham: Joe Calzaghe is the undisputed super middleweight boxing champion of the world today and there is no doubt about it. The 35 year-old Welshman put on the greatest display of his professional career with a unanimous twelve round points win over Mikkel Kessler in the early hours of Sunday morning local time at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales in front of 50,150 fans.
“I knew this was going to be one of the toughest fights of my life,” Calzaghe said, after the win. “Mikkel Kessler is a fantastic fighter in his prime. Not bad for a 35 year-old. I am so proud of my efforts and that of my dad. Victory is so sweet.”
“It wasn’t a great performance,” admitted Kessler, conceding defeat. “He had to be sharp to beat me today. Joe is a spoiler and he spoiled my boxing. Big respect to Joe.”
Calzaghe’s work rate won him the opening round. Kessler appeared to be reluctant to commit to his most aggressive punches when facing Calzaghe’s speedy hands and foot movement. Kessler came forward more confidently with his right hands in round 2, forcing Calzaghe back onto the ropes momentarily.
The crowd roared when Kessler hit the canvas early in round 3, but it was correctly ruled a slip by referee Mike Ortega. Calzaghe then poured the pressure on and had Kessler backing up. Calzaghe was evening jumping forward with his hands down such was his confidence at this time.
“I just realised after the first few rounds that my jab was too fast for him and I thought I could win the fight easy,” Calzaghe explained later.
In round 4, Calzaghe initiated a toe to toe exchange and took a solid right hand in return. A right uppercut from Kessler then rocked him. After four rounds the fight was still even.
Kessler was punching with greater confidence in round 5. A right uppercut landed again. But the follow up straight right was ducked by Calzaghe, whose darting movement forward and back were making it hard for Kessler to plant his feet.
Calzaghe’s hand speed and work rate advantages were obvious in round 6. A swift combination had Kessler covering up in round 7. He was simply landing more regularly and had Kessler covering up and moving backwards. The punches didn’t look that hard, but their volume and speed were doing the damage. A single right hand from Kessler kept him in the round briefly, but there simply wasn’t enough to win the stanza.
In round 8, Kessler had a determined expressing on his face, indicating that he knew the seriousness of his predicament. Calzaghe was prepared to trade and would not give ground. In the end, the taller Kessler was the one who would be forced back. More often than not, when Kessler loaded up, Calzaghe would just make him miss and counter. Just when Calzaghe was winding up to end the round, landing a number of clean punches, an accidental blow to the back of Kessler’s head saw the referee intervene to deliver a warning.
Two right hands landed to start round 9, but Kessler was not doing enough damage to give Calzaghe reason to think about changing his aggressive plan. Kessler’s left eye was swelling noticeably from the rapier right jab of the home ground fighter.
Calzaghe’s confident and effective combinations were coming to him as easy as walking and talking. Kessler’s power was his major asset, but it was useless when he was unable to land. Calzaghe was again prepared to trade in close in round 9, his simple but effective movement rendering the previously undefeated ‘Viking Warrior’ helpless at times.
The crowd was relatively silent to begin round 11, perhaps breathlessly nervous knowing that only an out of nowhere knockout could cost Calzaghe victory now. Calzaghe’s counters had taken the confidence away from Kessler. He was reluctant to throw, knowing that any miss would see him take punishment in return. Calzaghe was putting on a show for the crowd to end round 11. He stood right in front of an undefeated world champion boxer and shuffled his shoulders with his hands down, daring him to land.
The crowd cheered in appreciation as the boxers came out and touched gloves to begin the final round. Calzaghe was still coming forward and landing. There would be no running on the outside to protect a lead. As he stood and traded, his promoter Frank Warren watched on tensely in the front row at ringside, riding every punch. At times Calzaghe appeared to be slapping with his punches as in most of his fights, but it doesn’t seem to hinder him remaining undefeated as win number forty-four was confirmed. Judges scored the fight for Calzaghe 117-111, 116-112 and 116-112.
28 year-old Kessler 39-1 (29) refused to make any excuses for the loss and wouldn’t offer any excuses for his performance. “I missed some of my big shots and it took my breath away,” he said.
“I think it was a good performance by myself. I was pretty sharp,” beamed Calzaghe.
Asked what the future holds for him, Calzaghe 44-0 (32) with the WBC, WBA and WBO belts around his waist replied, “At this stage of my career, I only want to fight the biggest fights.”
The indication from the new undisputed world champion is that he is now looking to move up in weight to light heavyweight.
“Big names,” he said. “I will be a different animal. If you think I am a better super middleweight, wow, wait to you see me at 175lb, then you are going to see some damage.”
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