Sunday, 16 September 2007

Calzaghe Still King

Seven months ago Welsh boxer Joe Calzaghe showed why he is considered by many the best pound-for-pound fighter as he disposed of American star Jeff Lacy to unify the WBO and IBF World Super-Middleweight titles. With the big money men in the States watching, Calzaghe stepped into the ring for the first time since that fight tonight against Sakio Bilka, with everyone expecting a win.
After twelve hard-fought rounds, Calzaghe came through with his championships in tact, but the fight wasn?t as easy as he thought it would be. Indeed, his performance even drew criticism from his own promoter, Frank Warren.
Calzaghe was often seen showboating in the early stages of the fight, with both his hands held low as he taunted Bilka. It was a tactic that did not please Warren or anybody in Calzaghe?s corner.
Bilka proved to be a very difficult opponent, often using his head, and it was a supposed accidental clash of heads that opened up a nasty looking cut above his left eye in the fourth round. This wasn?t the last time that Bilka used his head, as it were, as referee Mickey Vann deducted a point from the African fighter a round later, and would go on to warn him twice more about his conduct.
But thankfully, Calzaghe?s performance was enough to retain the titles, winning the fight with a unanimous judge?s decision.
"I'm disappointed with the performance," said the champion. "I wanted to put on a spectacle but he was a dirty fighter and I got caught a lot with the head. I wasn't 100 percent tonight and it showed."
So what?s next for Calzaghe? Some say his next fight should be in America, where he can really get noticed, while others say if the big boys want to challenge him, they should come over here. Names like Roy Jones Junior and a possibly returning Bernard Hopkins have been thrown around. Another possibility is a four title unification fight with new Denmark?s Mikkel Kessler, who knocked out German fighter Markus Beyer to unify the WBC and WBA versions of the title. If Frank Warren could get a fight with Kessler going, and if Calzaghe won that fight, then he certainly would be in a tremendous bargaining position with the top fighters and the big American television networks.
But the thing is, American fans like some style in their boxing, and after tonight?s performance, Calzaghe is going to have to turn on the style again in his next fight, whoever it is against, to get the Americans to really take notice of him.