Roy Jones, Jr. vs Joe Calzaghe: One More Shot For Greatness

David HarringtonContributor INovember 4, 2008

Faded champion Roy Jones Jr. facing off against current champion Joe Calzaghe is considered the type of promotion boxing fans believe they can do without.

It’s a fight some purists abhor, another chance for fighters to claim millions of dollars through name recognition rather than integrity. The phrase “If it makes dollars it makes sense” fits the last decade of boxing well, and even great fighters aren’t immune to its backlash.

Roy Jones Jr. was the king of the light-heavyweight division for eight years, barely losing a round in that time. At the end of his reign, he even ventured up to heavyweight to take the WBA title from former two time champion John Ruiz.

For all that’s been said about Ruiz over the years, Roy’s performance against him was more dominant than a few former or future heavyweight titlists could muster since 2003. Up until then, Roy had carried out a brilliant career.

Flash forward to today and Jones career is deemed questionable, ranging from his suspect chin to the characteristic defensive mistakes he can no longer conceal behind amazing reflexes. Since passing the peak of his athleticism, Roy has been forced to find other ways to win. It is that intelligence he will need to defeat the current light-heavyweight champion Joe Calzaghe.

Joe, the sport’s longest reigning titlist defending his super-middleweight title 21 times before moving up to the light-heavyweight division, is another brilliant fighter. Superbly conditioned with a dynamic offense and rock solid chin, one can’t overlook his 45-0 record or pound for pound recognition.

While both fighters are past their prime years, each may pose the others toughest test to date. Has Jones Jr. ever fought anyone who throws as many punches as Calzaghe? Has Joe ever faced an opponent as fast and accurate as Roy?

Both fighters have endured criticism and time has raised many questions about their careers, questions that may be answered emphatically. Joe Calzaghe has 45 wins and still does not have a clear cut victory over another top fighter.

The harshness of his American critics surely drives him in training, and who better to defeat than the greatest American fighter of their generation. A decisive win for Calzaghe should silence even the most critical of him.

Roy on the other hand has a much different opportunity. A victory for Jones Jr. can actually confirm the greatness he’s always claimed but the public denounced after his losses.

The public views this as a couple of old champions fighting for a payday while the next superstars wait for their shot at glory, but true fight fans should know by now to never question the heart of a champion. 12 rounds of history will happen November 8th, 2008 and even if its years later than expected, the result will stick to both forever.

There is a reason besides his record that Calzaghe should be favored to win. He has fought on a higher level the last couple years and fought through adversity very well. Roy is on the flipside of that equation, having to build himself back up from two knockout losses.

Do those losses ring in his head as loudly as in the minds of fans who watched this amazing athlete starched twice with one punch? I don’t think so, but here is why.

After the first loss, Roy went instinctively for another champion and his title. Searching for overnight success was a mistake, and taking the examples of the greats before him was the answer he eventually adopted. He had to build himself back up; renewed greatness was not going to immediately happen. Confidence was a big part of Roy’s game, and once it was gone he became an average looking fighter.

For some fighters the mental aspect can be just as pertinent as the physical one, and in Roy’s case his mindset is paramount to his success. Realizing he wasn’t unbeatable shook his confidence and forced the realization of what was necessary to reach the top again.  

Joe Calzaghe has never been one to lack confidence, but why should he. He hasn’t lost a fight since the Welsh ABA final in 1990. Whatever he does, it’s been working for quite a while. If it wasn’t for his brittle hands, which have turned his combinations into amateurish looking slaps at times, he might have even more than 32 KO’s to his credit.

Despite Joe’s history of breaking his hand in fights, all ended with him clearly the victor. It has happened as early as the third or fourth round in some fights, clearly preventing him from throwing his hardest power shots. But while some may doubt his power, one can’t overlook his amazing toughness and ability to adapt.

In a hit and don’t get hit game like boxing, Joe and Roy are among the best. If any advantages were clear, Roy has the advantage of fighting at light-heavyweight for many years while Joe has but one fight at the weight. Everything else about both fighters can be perceived differently.

It’s a common thought worldwide that Roy Jones Jr. is washed up. In America, it’s a shared concept that Joe Calzaghe is overrated and untested. Despite all their credentials neither one receives the acclaim today that their younger counterparts somehow accumulate. They are seen as older champions using their name to garner millions of dollars fighting each other instead of fighting the toughest opponents they could.

People expect a boring fight, with little risk taken and safety on the mind rather than legacy. For the people that know better, this is the last chance for hall of fame fighters to put it all on the line against another one. Neither man will fight anyone as accomplished as the man they face November 8th.  I don’t expect anything less than a war, and neither do the guys fighting.