Sunday, December 9, 2007

The greatest - Ebren

I meant to write this a month or so back, a year ago in fact. It's an ode to a single word, a symphony in ten letters.


Sport has true greats, colossae, but almost none can say this.

Arsenal 2003/4 managed it - Man U 99 won the treble, Chelsea 04/05 got more points, but Arsenal are remembered as invincibles.

Sugar-Ray Robinson was the man for who the "pound-for-pound" title was created - but it was Rocky Marciano who retired with a zero in the loss column.

And last night two such men collided, but the true great wasn't in the ring.

Mayweather is a study in classical boxing and dancing feet, deceptive power and determined defence. Hatton is warrior with astonishing power, energy and will.

But the true great was in the audience.

Joe Calzaghe has fought 44 professional fights and lost none of them. He has stopped his opponents inside the distance 32 times.

He is the first undisputed super-middleweight champion of the world, has held his WBO title for more than a decade and successfully defended his world title more than 20 times.

No one can say that. No one on the planet has held a world title that long. Only two men in the history of boxing have successfully defended their title more times - Joe Louis and the less well-known Dariusz Michalczewski.

To put this in perspective, Calzaghe won the WBO super-middleweight in 1997 - defeating Chris Eubank (himself undefeated at middleweight, winner of world titles at two weights and considered one of the greatest British boxers of the last 30 years). In 2005 Calzaghe - who despite holding a world title for eight years was still considered untested - came up against Jeff Lacey.

Lacey has rather dropped from the scene recently, but at the time he was mentioned in the same breath as Mike Tyson. He was undefeated, a world champion, and the pundits were predicting a drubbing for this no-name Brit. Calzaghe won every round, landing more than 1,000 punches in the process. It remains to be Lacey's only defeat.

After eight years of Being disrespected by the boxing community, Calzaghe's victory was so complete that he struggled to find an opponent in the wake of it.

But he did. And there was that pesky matter of the other word boxers love to have attached to their names - undisputed.

On November 4th this year Joe Calzaghe comprehensively defeated Mikkel Kessler to become the first undisputed supermiddleweight champion of the world.

Undefeated, undisputed, a world champion for more than a decade. And as I type this Sports Personality of the year.

If Floyd Mayweather really wants to be considered the best boxer, he should do what Hatton did - step up a weight class and test himself against another undefeated world champion. But he won't - because then there would be no doubt.

Joe Calzaghe is the greatest boxer currently fighting, and anyone who wants to disagree with me can step into the ring with him and lose.


guitougoal said...

There is a well-born boxing adage that a good big man will always beat a good little man,but that doesn't prove he is a better boxer.
Mayweather proved last night why he is the best pound per pound fighter in the world.First using precision punches to wear Hatton down and then finishing the job with a crushing left hook.
It doesn't make sense for a welterweight to try to gain 20 pounds to fight a supermiddleweight, that would be suicidal- Does this make Mayweather the second coming of Calzaghe?Not at all-Calzaghe himself is reluctant to fight Bernard Hopkins probably for the same reason.

Ebren said...

guitou - I agree that it's not the size that makes the champion, or the winner of the fight who is the best boxer. But Calzaghe has spent a career longer than Mayweather's out-thinking, out fighting, and outclassing anyone who has been put in front of him.

Are you saying that Calzaghe's win over Lacey was less impressive than Mayweather's over Hatton?

Hatton has never been a good boxer, but even in defeat he seems to be given more respect than Calzaghe. I find that wrong.

Mayweather is brilliant - no doubt - but I think Calzaghe is better.

Of course, these arguments can never be settled, so we'll have to agree to disagree.

guitougoal said...

Of course Sir, we always do.

Ebren said...

I'm sure we've agreed in the past monsieur...

Just had a quick refresh on Calzaghe's opponents (terribly bad journalism - doing so after you've written the piece - but at least I'm honest).

Kessler was undefeated in 39 fights, seven years younger, and a double world champion himself when Joe beat him to unify the belts.

Juan Carlos Ferreyra and Robin Reid were also early victims of Calzaghe (although the Reid fight was disputed) and both boxers of note themselves. Eubank (on reading old reports) was out-boxed as well (no mean feat).

I accept Mayweather is darn good - but I still have the feeling if he was Lloyd Jones and born in Newport , and Calzaghe from the Bronx, Joe would have the higher reputation.

byebyebadman said...

Interesting stuff Ebren.

But I would dispute his claims to greatness. They say to be a great fighter you have to beat a great fighter, and I can't see where Calzaghe has done that in his career, the entirety of which bar one bout has been fought inside the UK, mostly for the WBO title which is a joke in America.

Hatton gains more respect because instead of staying in Manchester and fighting for the WBU (!) title he actively sought out the best fighter in the world and tried to make it in america, even if it ultimately lead to that crushing knockout defeat last night.

Had Calzaghe fought Roy Jones Junior or Bernard Hopkins his career would be viewed differently. as usual, all sides blame each other for the fights not happening. But, as Hatton did, if you want respect in boxing you have to go and earn it.

guitougoal said...

hey, I can't forget my first days of blogging on gu, you were my mentor.
Vargas at his peak, Diego Corrales , Herandez or Oscar de la Jolla were also top fighters-Don't forget Mayweather come from featherweight division and won all the titles in each category-
My point is that it's very difficult to draw a line between two different categories because the quality of the opponent has such an influence on quality of the fight.

Zephirine said...

Interesting piece Ebren, I'm slightly worried about your subconscious though, you have the typos 'moth' and 'singe' in the first paragraph.

Ebren said...

oops - that's what happens when you write late at night, and your boy wins as you are typing. Edinting time gets cut a little (much like Ricky...)

offsideintahiti said...

I know shit about boxing.

Could never understand how people would ever want to get into a ring. And I'd never heard of the people you mention before last week. But I'll throw in a comment anyway, just to make sure I'm in Lord Ebren's good books.

My favourite invincibles: the French back five of Barthez - Lizarazu - Blanc, Desailly - Thuram.

Over 3O international games together in the starting line-up, 0 defeats. 1 World Cup. 1 Euro.

Good night

andrewm said...

Have to back BBB on this one, Ebren. Mayweather's list of opponents is in my opinion more impressive than Calzaghe's, and having watched both men I'm in no doubt that Mayweather is a superior boxer.

I can't comment on the Hatton fight, but as much as Calzaghe dazzled against Lacey it was painfully clear that Lacey was ridiculously overrated.

offsideintahiti said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jimmy said...

Erm it's Joe Louis shurely?

Ebren said...

Yup - typos a plentin in this one.

Sorry guys - it's the enternal question of who shall edit the editor. I also blame Lewis Hamilton for messing with my spelling (Schnelling?).

offsideintahiti said...


wrong driver, the schnelling was usually done by Michael Schumacher.

Tutor GN said...

I voted for Calzaghe, AP McCoy and Hamilton in that order in another awards shindig, so I was pleased to see him get the SPOTY.

I have huge respect for Eubank, Benn and Watson and to see them at their peak fight Calzaghe (not all at once Ha!) would be quite something. The flaw in the record, as pointed out above, is that he has fought only in the UK and a bit in Europe. To be an All-Time Great, you have to travel and beat the best in their lairs.

For my money, Naseem Hamed was the best British fighter I have seen and I doubt that there have been many better. Behind the hype and the long decline, we shouldn't forget how dazzling he was. He was brave too and got off the floor to beat an American in America. I recall meeting the UK editor of "The Ring" when Hamed had just started to get TV fights and I asked him how good he was going to be. "He's already the best fighter I've ever seen" was the reply. I concur.

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