20 April 2008

Joe Calzaghe vs. Bernard Hopkins

I won't pretend to know much about boxing, or even that I'm particularly a big fan of the sport. However, I like it enough to watch certain US matches live, so that's something. Also, I want to get more into it. I watched Amir Khan vs. Some Dude, as well as Antonio Tarver vs. Clinton Woods (the latter the day after it happened, as I wasn't that bothered about it, and it was low enough on the Sports Importance Hierarchy that no news report I saw or heard proferred the result).

So it was that I decided to have a nap at half-nine so I could rise for this. It transpired I was slightly over-careful, as I set my alarm for two. Cue Audley Harrison and some idiot having a fight as though trapped in amber. It was evidently more painful for me than either of them, though thankfully over in the fifth, when Harrison landed two body shots after he was hit in the face and decided he didn't like it. Can David Haye not just put on some weight and kill him now?

The main event was a weird one, and a lot closer than the national anthems contest. 'Ray J' or whatever the dummy was called is a shit singer. Really bad. He opted to softly sing/falsetto 'The Star Spangled Banner', rather than blast it, which was probably wise but a coward's way out. I am no fan of Tom Jones, nor a patriot. Nor Welsh, for that matter, but Jones killed him. I loved the fumbly beginning (foreshadowing?!), with the 'are we on?' professionalism too. Still, he ended up blasting it out and showing that he still has a pair of pipes on him. He remains unforgiven for butchering 'Kiss', mind.

And so the match started, though just before that a topless, fight-ready Calzaghe embraced Jones, who was blatantly worried sweat would rub onto his pricey suit. I was really scared when the first round knockdown happened. Joe looked shaken, and easily picked off; I figured we were in for a long night. And we were.

The match wore on and, while Calzaghe put more of a stamp on it, he was never truly comfortable. Hopkins is a crafty veteran, to say the least, and was definitely the ring general here. Jones had been interviewed pre-fight, and gave some defaut answer about Joe 'having to fight his own fight, and he can't let Hopkins fight his fight'. I thought he was bullshitting, and maybe he was, but the advice was very apt in hindsight. Calzaghe tried his best to eact his new strategy of punching less, making it count, and not getting drawn into a brawl, but he just culdn't pull it off to a satisfactory level.

Every time Joe attempted to jab and move, he was sucked into a dirty clinch by the senior fighter. Try as he might to extricate him from the situation cleanly, there would always be that nudge with the head, that drag on the arms that, over the course of twelve rounds, would surely fatigue. And Hopkins was a dirty fighter. Ever the carny, he sold two low blows like grim death, though only one was judged to have occurred according to the referee.

But somehow the Welshman managed it. He certainly had the better of later rounds, with Hopkins tiring and stooging for all he was worth; Calzaghe plugged on in gritty determination with the knowledge that he had definitely started the fight on the back-foot. And eventually the fight ended!

I was surprised at the result, as I thought the bout had been sufficiently closely contested that American judges would have sided with 'Nard. I guess they opted for the bloke who was showing more aggression, more of a will to have a clean fight (and bum people) and who was actually moving forward (as the commentators saw fit to tell us every few seconds). To be fair, Calzaghe was landing more of the clean punches, even if he was massively down from his usual five million punches-per-round hit rate. Joe was lucky. Very lucky. That said, Hopkins is a sore loser, as he claimed he schooled his younger opponent in boxing. He schooled him in something, for sure: how to be the boxing equivalent of Ric Flair in his stooging, over-selling, dirty fighting and admittedly rather good post-fight interview.

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