Monday November 5th, 2007

In the aftermath of the most impressive win of his career, Joe Calzaghe did an incredibly unimpressive thing.

He called out Bernard Hopkins.

"Honestly, if I had my pick and it was up to me, Hopkins would be the guy," said Calzaghe on Saturday after winning a unanimous decision over Mikkel Kessler.

Hopkins's response? "Calzaghe has never fought anybody like me."

Considering Calzaghe has never fought a 43-year-old man, which Hopkins will be in January, that much is true. But a fight with an over-the-hill Hopkins earns Calzaghe nothing. Hopkins is a pedestrian 2-2 in his last four fights with uninspired (and thoroughly dull) decisions over Winky Wright and Antonio Tarver mixed with back-to-back losses to Jermain Taylor.

Hopkins is impossible to knock out, and given that Calzaghe is a volume puncher without much power, a potential Hopkins-Calzaghe fight looms as a trash talking affair that ends with a boring, unanimous decision for Calzaghe, after which a hopping mad Hopkins will clamor for a rematch (and another big payday).

Calzaghe-Kelly Pavlik, however, is another story.

It was interesting to watch Calzaghe's reaction when Pavlik's name was mentioned in the post-fight interview, primarily because there wasn't any. Calzaghe glossed over any mention of the 24-year-old Pavlik and instead focused on Hopkins, saying the reigning Ring Magazine light heavyweight champion was "lucky" to beat Wright in July.

I don't blame Calzaghe for having a nominal interest in Hopkins. With his win over Kessler, Calzaghe is now the undisputed super middleweight champion, and with no name fighters in the division, there is not much to offer. Hopkins has a belt and Calzaghe rightly associates titles with status.

Still, Calzaghe is at the point in his career where his legacy should be at the forefront. Does he want to go down as a great fighter or does he want to be remembered for the mediocre fights he took as his career wound down?

Pavlik would not be able to offer Calzaghe titles, as the reigning middleweight champion would have to move up from 160 to 168 pounds. But hanging a loss on Pavlik, viewed by many as the most exciting fighter in boxing, in front of a sellout crowd on American soil (where Calzaghe has never fought) would go a long way to ensure Calzaghe's name has a prominent place in the history books.

Pavlik is currently committed to a non-title rematch with Jermain Taylor in February, a fight that will have a 166-pound limit, or just two pounds shy of the super middleweight limit. Pavlik's camp indicates that should Pavlik be successful in that rematch, he would listen to an offer from Calzaghe -- at the right price.

"I think Kelly will move up [to super middleweight] eventually," said Pavlik's trainer, Jack Loew. "Right now, after Taylor, he wants to collect all the middleweight titles. He wants [IBF champion] Arthur Abraham. He wants [WBA champion] Felix Sturm. But we have an interest in fighting Joe. Because we know we would knock him out."

Them be fighting words, Joe. Now let's see if you are up for a real fight.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.