Undefeated Welshman Joe Calzaghe overcame a first-round knockdown to beat Roy Jones Jr. in a bloody, unanimous decision Saturday night, delighting a raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden in what Calzaghe claims will be his final bout.
|Joe Calzaghe of Wales celebrates victory in what he says was his last fight [GALLO/GETTY]
There is little left for him to prove after reigning as super middleweight champion for more than a decade, unifying the division, defeating Bernard Hopkins and now felling Jones, possibly pounding him right into retirement as well.
"This year I just beat two legends, with Hopkins and Jones, and I came to the United States to do it,'' Calzaghe said.
"I took the risk. They didn't come to me. I took the risk, and tonight I came to New York to do it.''
With blazing hand speed of his own and a constant push forward, Calzaghe (46-0) opened a deep gash over Jones' left eye in the seventh round, forcing the ringside doctor to take a close look at it.
The bout was allowed to continue, blood flowing down Jones' face, but it hardly mattered after that.
"Super'' Joe indeed looked super.
All three judges scored the fight 118-109 for Calzaghe every round going to him after the first.
"The pitter-pats were harder than I thought,'' Jones said. "I don't know, I don't know. He won the fight. He definitely won the fight.''
The bout figured to hinge on Calzaghe's ability to pressure Jones, who works well against the ropes, without getting caught by his speedy left hook.
It landed right off the bat, knocking Calzaghe to the floor midway through the first round, not unlike the flash knockdown that Hopkins scored against him in their April bout.
"Yeah, it was a good shot,'' Calzaghe said, "but I came back stronger.''
Jones (52-5) stood defiantly in the center of the ring when the first-round bell sounded, chants of "USA, USA'' filling the arena, the crowd undoubtedly pleased that the 39-year-old was proving early that he still possessed at least some of the hand speed that once made him so dangerous.
But just like the Hopkins fight, Calzaghe began to outwork his opponent on his way retaining his Ring Magazine light heavyweight title.
The taller Welshman often backed Jones against the ropes and into corners, pounding him with relentless body shots.
When Calzaghe circled back to the middle of the ring, Jones walked directly into another barrage of hands that seemed to come at all angles.
By the fifth round it was Calzaghe dancing and strutting around the ring, the same flamboyant antics that Jones once employed against lesser opponents at his height in the 1990s.
When Jones put his gloves to his face in defense, Calzaghe would drop his own and lean in close, peering in as if looking right into Jones' eyes.
|Joe Calzaghe, left, goes to work on Roy Jones Jr [GALLO/GETTY]
Then another flurry of punches would spring forward, most of them catching flush.
"I felt really relaxed tonight with my hands at my side,'' Calzaghe said.
"That's just my style and I felt in the rhythm. After the first round I was a little weary, but I knew if I just fought my style I would be OK.''
Jones has had trouble with slick southpaws in the past, losing a stunning second-round knockout to Antonio Tarver in May 2004, then losing their rematch by decision.
Along with a knockout loss to Glen Johnson, many began calling for Jones to spare his stellar career any more embarrassment.
But Jones has always been about proving people wrong.
First came a pair of confidence-boosting wins, then Jones dominated an overmatched and undersized Felix Trinidad at the Garden in January.
Unwilling for years to take the biggest or most dangerous fights, especially outside the United States, Jones suddenly found himself calling someone else out.
Calzaghe bit, eager to cement his legacy.
The deal came together rather easily after Jones shed promoter Don King and Calzaghe split with Frank Warren.
The two exchanged a series of text messages, of all things, hammering out the terms and agreeing to promote the bout themselves.
They'll split the take 50-50, ensuring both a hefty payday.
While Calzaghe has repeatedly called this fight his last, Hopkins was seated ringside and almost certainly would love a rematch.
He still claims he won their bout, as do many others, and after dismantling Kelly Pavlik a few weeks ago the fight would certainly be enticing.
If Calzaghe really does want to go out at his peak, though, he reached it on this night.