Calzaghe's pummeling of Jones offers a round of lessons
After making 21 successful defenses of his super middleweight title between 1997 and 2007, the undefeated Welshman reached a crossroads. He'd run out of viable opponents at 168 pounds and, at 36 years old, it was becoming more and more of a strain to make weight.
So Calzaghe moved up to light heavyweight for his U.S. debut against
Calzaghe has strongly hinted at retirement, perhaps tantalized by the legacy of becoming the second fighter in history to walk away undefeated and undrawn after 40 or more bouts. He's never been motivated by money. But as a competitor, it's hard to imagine Calzaghe retiring after looking so sharp through 24 rounds at the unconquered frontier of 175 pounds. He hasn't sacrificed any of the hand speed or elusiveness with the extra weight and his conditioning remains supreme.
But who would he fight?
There's a rematch with Hopkins, who watched Saturday's fight from ringside and would reportedly consent to a fight in Wales. But the most attractive pairing from a fan's perspective would be
When a reporter passed along the information during the post-fight presser, Calzaghe allowed a wry grin.
"I just stepped out of the ring about 15 minutes ago, man. Let me enjoy this fight before I think about fighting somebody else," said Calzaghe. "What do you think I am, a sadist?"
The longtime pound-for-pound king was the most decorated fighter of his era, but his era has passed. Just two months from his 40th birthday, after getting bloodied and outclassed in Saturday night's defeat, it's clear Jones will not regain championship form.
That doesn't mean the eight-time world champ can't work his way back into another high-profile fight. He's a legend of the sport -- a first-ballot Hall of Famer -- and brings a name recognition to a card rivaled by few other fighters. But his days contending for a mainstream title have passed.
Power is the last thing to abandon a fighter and Jones still has it -- as evidenced in Saturday's first round. But his superhuman agility and defense have regressed significantly since his brief venture into the heavyweight division. And as Jones pushes 40, there's no reason to believe those gifts will return.
It's ironic to think the crowning achievement of Jones' career hastened his decline. Five years ago, Jones gained 25 pounds of muscle mass under the guidance of fitness guru
But instead of defending the heavyweight belt, Jones jumped back down to 175 pounds, perhaps underestimating the mental and physical toll of boiling down so dramatically at such an advanced age. After all, shedding weight is the hardest thing for a fighter to do successfully.
After winning back the light heavyweight crown with an unconvincing decision over
Jones bounced back with a string of decision victories over
For years, Calzaghe's many detractors looked down on the Welshman for amassing his undefeated record by feasting on a string of nobodies and seldom straying from his home country.
There was some truth to the criticism: Calzaghe fought just twice outside of Great Britain until 2008, and Saturday's victory over Jones was just his second bout in the United States after his April clash with Hopkins in Las Vegas.
But after effectively derailing the career of up-and-comer
And, obviously, there's something to be said for never losing a fight. In a sport defined by its unpredictability, where anything can happen on any given night in the ring, it's almost unfathomable to retire without a single loss or draw.
Ticket sales for Saturday's card languished in the weeks leading up to the event, with America's flagging economy pricing out fight fans stateside and the global credit crunch hindering Calzaghe's supporters from making the trip across the pond. There was also the absence of high-profile Latino talent on the undercard, whose drawing power for fights at the Garden cannot be overstated.
But as a healthy-looking crowd of 14,152 filled the lower levels of the Garden and most of the upper sections for the latter half of the undercard, it appeared the fears of a half-empty building were exaggerated.
Celebs also turned out, with
One of the lone highlights on Saturday's dreadful undercard was the up-and-coming Brooklynite middleweight Jacobs, who scored an electric third-round TKO of hard-hitting
The Brownsville native fired punches from every angle, hurting Campbell in the first round with a left hook followed by a string of uppercuts. After Jacobs sent Campbell to the canvas midway through the third round and the Londoner beat the count, Jacobs went right back to work, overwhelming Campbell with a flurry of combinations and prompting the referee to stop the fight with just one second remaining in the third round.
Jacobs, a four-time Golden Gloves champion, shows an impressive blend of speed and power. He's fought on some of the sport's biggest cards since making his debut pro with a first-round knockout of