Boxing: Calzaghe and Takaloo face critical test of talent

Welshman's WBO super-middleweight title defence should lead to Hopkins bout while Margate maverick meets tough Puerto Rican

Confidence can end careers if a fighter has too much and tomorrow night at Cardiff Castle Joe Calzaghe will have to be careful when he defends his World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight title against Puerto Rico's Miguel Jimenez.

Calzaghe is finally and officially just a few rounds away from a defining fight against the American Bernard Hopkins, but first he must overcome Jimenez, whose credentials are dangerous because he is so ordinary. The list of dazed and confused favourites is long and illustrious in boxing folklore and last year's disaster in South Africa involving Lennox Lewis and Hasim Rahman is a perfect example of what can go wrong when a fighter loses his edge in a fight he must not lose.

Calzaghe has admittedly been at this stage numerous times before and he must, at 30, be weary of the promises he has been made in the past. However, Calzaghe's promoter, Frank Warren, has simply lost out because to secure a truly big fight has up until now simply cost him too much. "I could match Joe with any of his major rivals right now if I was prepared to lose five or six million pounds,'' said Warren, who is running out of patience with anybody doubting his conviction to put Calzaghe in a really tough fight.

So, assuming Calzaghe keeps his chin tucked safely behind his gloves, and Jimenez, who, at 32, has not yet shared a ring with a genuine world-class fighter, starts to tire, runs out of ideas and folds in about five rounds there is a genuine chance of a meaningful fight involving Calzaghe in the near future. Calzaghe deserves it because he is arguably one of the top British fighters in history and recognition has been slow.

The real fight at the Castle involves an outspoken and annoying Puerto Rican called Daniel Santos in defence of his WBO light-middleweight title against Margate's Takaloo. It is the type of fight that is unlikely to last very long, but will be extremely exciting until the final punch either sends one of them down for the full count or persuades the referee that the vicious entertainment should stop.

Calzaghe is a proper world-class fighter, but boxers like Santos and Takaloo have a place in the new order of the modern sport because so often relatively unknown boxers take part in some of the sport's very best contests. It is likely to be that way after the first bell tomorrow night.

Takaloo actually holds the World Boxing Union title and, in theory, his belt will also be on the line, but Santos has repeatedly said in the past that he is looking beyond the type of fights he has recently been having and wants to place his name next to some of the sport's genuine stars at his weight. First, on a night that promises to be warm rather than wet, he will have somehow to overcome Takaloo's strength and win.

For Takaloo, tomorrow's fight is just the latest in a long line of nights in the ring when he has entered as underdog but has refused to accept that he is there just to make up the numbers. There was a point in his career after a couple of early losses when it looked like he would simply fade away but his determination since being trained by Jim McDonnell is quite remarkable.

"On paper Santos looks like the favourite because he has been in with some bigger names, but a funny thing can happen in that ring and I know I can take care of him,'' said Takaloo. Santos, however, honestly believes he can repeat his last win in Britain when he knocked out Belfast's Neil Sinclair in two rounds.

Santos and Takaloo will fight before Calzaghe enters the makeshift stadium for what will undoubtedly be yet another fight that proves he is finally becoming a true star in Wales. It has not been easy for Calzaghe after a slow few years under the cautious promotion of Micky Duff, but there is genuine reason for elation now because Warren is quietly confident that he can pull off the big one in the near future. Calzaghe knows too much to lose tomorrow and he could also win if ever he shares the ring with Hopkins. I know that is what he wants because I have just finished narrating a film about his career so far.

* Joe Calzaghe: Gloves Off (10pm on BBC2 Wales)

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