NYC late to Calzaghe-Jones party

Martin Rogers
Yahoo! SportsNovember 8, 2008

NEW YORK – The latest chapter in Madison Square Garden's fabled boxing history is billed as Battle of the Superpowers. But New York has so much else on its mind just now that a punch-up between Batman, Superman and Spiderman in the middle of Times Square would barely prompt a second glance.

Saturday's fight between Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones Jr. for the linear light heavyweight championship has struggled to ignite a city absorbed by other matters.

Wall Street is reeling from the flurry of financial low blows it has suffered in recent times and fiscal uncertainty has permeated the mentality of every section of Big Apple society.

And even with the Presidential election ending in a resounding knockout for Barack Obama, the President-elect's demolition of John McCain is still the fight New Yorkers are talking about the most.

Sales were initially slow for Calzaghe vs. Jones, disappointingly so for what has a chance of being one of the fights of the year.

Calzaghe, from the sleepy Valleys of Wales, is content being just another face in the New York crowd, running in Central Park, training at a local gym, and relaxing in the secluded parkside apartment he opted for instead of a five-star hotel suite.

Fighting in this city and at the venue which has anointed boxing royalty for decades has been a long-cherished dream for the unbeaten 36-year-old and would be a fitting way to end his Hall of Fame career.

Jones meanwhile, fought at the Garden as recently as January. His comeback from adversity stepped up a gear when he picked apart Felix Trinidad at the start of the year. Victory over Calzaghe would be the most emphatic proof possible that Jones still has some of the special skills that made him the most respected boxer on the planet a decade ago.

Predictive opinion is divided along parochial lines. The British press is overwhelmingly and unsurprisingly certain that Calzaghe can secure the 46th consecutive victory of his career.

Jones has plenty of takers too though, including Bernard Hopkins, the man Calzaghe defeated in a split decision in April and who wants to take on Jones in a rematch of their 1993 encounter.

Interest in the boxing community is keen, as this bout sets up some intriguing possibilities. Hopkins is in town, as is Chad Dawson and former Calzaghe victim Mikkel Kessler.

Friday's weigh-in was an odd affair.

The general public was excluded from Madison Square Garden due to insurance issues, meaning the fighters stepped to the scales in front of the assembled corps of boxing media and a handful of enterprising fans who managed to talk their way past security.

There has been little animosity between Calzaghe and Jones leading up to the contest, perhaps a product of the business relationship struck up by the pair when both ditched their old promoters to make this fight themselves.

After defeating Trinidad, Jones immediately set his sights on Calzaghe. Back then, still under the wing of the dwindling Don King stable, he took a bombastic approach, threatening to fly to Wales in person to “call out” Calzaghe.

In truth, negotiations were far more amicable. Many of the details were thrashed out via trans-Atlantic text messages between the fighters. When Calzaghe flew to New York, Jones took him to the Garden for the first time. One look from the Welshman at the iconic venue, and the deal was done.

Yet we will only see on fight night whether Calzaghe's love for New York is reciprocated in the attendance.

The weigh-in atmosphere at the cavernous, near-empty arena could not have been further removed from that prior to Calzaghe-Hopkins in Las Vegas, when The Executioner talked smack and tried began the mind games that would ultimately prove to be futile.

Even when Calzaghe and Jones squared up for the head-to-head photo opportunity there was no menace between the men, just some mild banter and some sarcastic smirking.

Jones has even invited Calzaghe to collaborate on a rap song he has produced for his ring entrance, called Battle of the Superpowers.

Both men are convinced the style match-up means this could be an explosive fight; one of the boxing highlights of 2008.

New York is still to be convinced.