Boxing: Calzaghe takes the long and grinding road
Sunday 18 August 2002
Joe Calzaghe is already the Prince of Wales and now he is King of the Castle, too, by virtue of a 12-round victory over the Puerto Rican Miguel Jiminez at Cardiff's historic edifice last night. It was not the most exciting or exacting affair in which Calzaghe has been involved since he became the World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight champion a dozen fights and five years ago. He won every round on the score cards of all three judges and in many ways it was a punch-perfect performance, except that the punches he landed could have done with a little more snap and a little less slap.
There cannot have been a more bizarre backdrop for any boxing event with floodlights lighting up the battlements from which the Welshman made his entrance. The setting was more akin to a medieval feast than a modern punch-up and Calzaghe brought to the table a dazzling array of punches which left Jiminez bemused, but never bowed.
A doorman at a Las Vegas casino, Jiminez, 32, had declared: "I did not come here to lay down and get some pennies to go home. I came here to win a world title.'' Well, there was never much hope of him doing that but at least the doorman left with a tip. If you want to survive against Calzaghe then duck, dive and try not to get involved.
Jiminez came to survive. In 22 bouts, of which he has lost only one, he has never been off his feet and it was easy to see why. Calzaghe was disappointed and frustrated. His home-town audience clearly wanted him to become the first to stop Jiminez and in the early rounds this looked more than probable as he made a typically aggressive start, forcing his opponent on the defensive where he remained for the rest of the bout.
By the third round Calzaghe was landing frequently with an impressive series of left hooks and Jiminez was receiving a systematic going over. But while Calzaghe was resourceful Jiminez was resilient. The Puerto Rican had a point deducted for illegal use of the head in the 10th round and it was to everyone's surprise, not least Calzaghe's, that the fight had got that far.
Calzaghe admitted afterwards: "I was very frustrated at not being able to stop him but he was a very tough fighter.'' He said he injured his left hand early on and in the light of that it may been understandable that he was unable to put Jiminez away.
Before halfway Jiminez's corner seemed to know that their man was there to make the numbers up. "Come on Miguel, you've got to get close to him, baby,'' Kenny Groom, regularly seen as an American aide to Audley Harrison, urged. But Calzaghe was not an accommodating target.
So Calzaghe reigns supreme and fortunately it did not rain on his parade, a fine night in the open air making the occasion perhaps more impressive than the fight. However, the result may well have enhanced Calzaghe's chances of pinning down the world middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins.
There are indications that Hopkins is reasonably disposed towards a more realistic deal with promoter Frank Warren than the $6m he has been demanding and Calzaghe says this would be the defining fight of his career. As Hopkins is 36 it may be that he has been wary of meeting Calzaghe for professional rather than material reasons.
The Newbridge southpaw might, on top form, provide him with a more uncomfortable evening than he might relish, especially here in his own backyard. For as Calzaghe showed last night not only is an Englishman's home his castle, a Welshman's is too.
An Iranian exile who fights out of Margate under the name of Takaloo is one of the more colourful characters in the British ring. Alas Takaloo met his Waterloo when he lost a 12-round points decision to the Puerto Rican Daniel Santos. In doing so he forfeited his World Boxing Union light-middleweight title to Santos who already held the WBO version of the championship. It was a one-way affair despite Takaloo registering a knock-down. He suffered damage around both eyes and came close to being stopped.
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