h0330 BC-BOX-Calzaghe-Jones 11-07 0881
Calzaghe ready for Jones
NEW YORK — Roy Jones Jr. claims he’s been seeing Joe Calzaghe punching in his sleep.
It wouldn’t surprise anybody, either. The undefeated champion from Wales is known for his tremendous work rate, often throwing more than 100 blows in a round. He’s always moving forward, always pressuring his opponent.
It’s the reason Calzaghe is a fan favorite. And the reason he’s one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world.
"He started punching yesterday," Jones joked earlier this week. "I’ve been ducking and dodging in my sleep. I know he’s punching already. I ain’t tripping about that, because that’s what he does. But we’ll have to see Saturday night what we’re going to do about that."
Their light heavyweight fight at Madison Square Garden may be coming 10 years too late, but the 36-year-old Calzaghe — one of the longest-reigning champions in boxing history — and the 39-year-old Jones, himself an eight-time world champion, both insist their skills haven’t dulled.
Each weighed in half a pound under the 175-pound limit Friday, flexing and mugging for the cameras, neither showing their age. They stood toe-to-toe on a platform with arena workers busily constructing a ring in the background, trying hard not to smile, undoubtedly pleased that at this advanced stage in their careers they’re still a major draw.
How much is yet to be seen, though. Tickets are reportedly selling slowly for the fight, the prices set high on the heels of Jones’ successful fight against Felix Trinidad earlier this year and before the economic downturn left fans pondering the value of $1,500 seats.
"This is what I do for a living," Jones said, confident the fight will do well both at the box office and in pay-per-view revenue. "It’s what I love."
Indeed, Jones (52-4, 38 KOs) is in the midst of a renaissance, finishing off a three-fight comeback of sorts by dismantling Trinidad at the Garden in January. The best boxer of the 1990s looked like his old self, dancing around the ring and baiting the smaller Trinidad before snapping off those straight punches that never seemed to miss.
All that was absent was another highlight-reel knockout.
"I’m at my prime," Jones said, "I’m feeling better than ever."
"When you look in your mirror," he continued, "and see how cute you are still at almost age 40 and say ’Wow, I still look good,’ and then when you walk down the street and 19-year-old girls say, ’Hey, can I get your phone number?’ Nah, I ain’t lost it yet."
Jones denies this fight is about his legacy and promises it won’t be his last, but it will almost certainly be one of the most difficult he’s had, right along with defeating John Ruiz to become the first middleweight champion in more than 100 years to capture a heavyweight title.
The reason is Calzaghe (45-0, 32 KOs) is simply relentless, his rapid-fire punches coming from all angles. The Pride of Wales can be shifty when he needs to be, counter-punch when the opportunity arises. And he showed in a close, messy decision over Bernard Hopkins in April that he can withstand getting knocked to the floor.
"Make no mistakes, I respect the guy," Calzaghe said, "but he’s in my way. He’s fighting to stop something I’ve been working my life for, and I’m not going to allow that."
The affable Welshman has been honing his tremendous hand speed on a machine he developed with one of his childhood friends, Kevin Davies, an amateur boxing coach. Essentially a heavy bag with sensors attached to a computer, the system tracks the number of punches thrown and rates their power.
Calzaghe’s best mark? Nearly 1,700 in a three-minute span, or roughly nine punches per second.
"Roy visited the gym, Joe explained the bag to him, and Roy declined when he heard Joe threw nine punches a second," Davies recalled, chuckling. "He looked amazed."
Calzaghe landed 232 punches in beating Hopkins, a wily veteran known for his defense, the most landed by a Hopkins opponent in a fight tracked by CompuBox statistics. When he beat Mikkel Kessler to unify the super middleweight division, Calzaghe threw a staggering 1,010 punches.
It’s little wonder that Jones has been thinking hard about how he’s going to defend the onslaught. He wouldn’t say whether, in those dreams of his, he was actually getting hit.
He did promise to have some sort of solution by the time he steps in the ring.
"He ain’t never fought nobody who looked this good throwing back," Jones said, grinning through a weeks-old beard. "He said, ’Yeah, I fought Bernard, but I wasn’t as prepared as I have to be for Roy.’ What does that tell you?"