Two of the Premier Middleweight and Super Middleweight fighters of the last 50 years squared off 12 years ago in Las Vegas, but for a Light Heavyweight championship. And, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe delivered an exciting 12-round battle, eventually won by the English hero.
The night was April 19th, 2008 has Hopkins put the “Lineal” Light Heavyweight championship on the line against the 44 – 0 Calzaghe, who had successfully defended at least a version or all of the Super Middleweight title belts, a staggering 21 consecutive times.
Hopkins had dominated the Middleweight division throughout the 90s and into the 2000s, including an equally impressive 20 consecutive successful defenses of one version or the Undisputed 160 lb. Championship before eventually moving up in weight.
That came, when Hopkins lost two battles to Jermaine Taylor by decision in 2005 costing him his middleweight belts. He then made the interesting decision to jump two weight classes to Light Heavyweight. And, that’s where he promptly defeated Antonio Tarver in June of 2006 for the Lineal 175 lb. title.
He had defended it once against Winky Wright by unanimous decision in July of 2007 before agreeing to fight Calzaghe.
Hopkins got off to a fast start scoring an opening round knock down of Calzaghe and cutting him on the bridge of the nose. The fighters continued to trade blows and hit each other with low blows both being warned by Referee Joe Cortez. Finally in the fourth round, Cortez stopped the fight and warned both fighters to stop fouling each other, including Hopkins hitting on the break and Calzaghe hitting Hopkins in the back of the head during clinches.
As the middle rounds were on, Calzaghe was scoring more punches than Hopkins, but Hopkins would occasionally land seemingly a bigger shot. Finally in the 10th round Calzaghe caught Hopkins with a punch that Hopkins claimed was low. Yet, despite all the warnings previous, Cortez did not take a point away from Calzaghe. However, he did give Hopkins time to gather himself.
Then in the 11th round Hopkins complained that Calzaghe had hit him low, again, but Cortez disagreed and told Hopkins to fight on. Then Hopkins became enraged and aggressive firing punch after punch at Calzaghe.
To his credit, Calzaghe didn’t back down and battled right back at Hopkins. Calzaghe also appeared to win the 12th and final round scoring more, frequently.
In the end it was another controversial Vegas decision where two judges gave the Brit the nod easily, while controversial American judge Adalaide Byrd scored it 114 – 113 for Hopkins.
HBO’s unofficial ringside judge Harold Lederman had Calzaghe winning easily 116-111. Final Compubox punching number showed Calzaghe landed 232 to just 127 by Hopkins, which earned him the decision.
After the final validation of what will be a Hall of Fame career, Calzaghe would fight only one more time after that April night. That came later in 2008 when he decisioned another future Hall-of-Famer, Roy Jones, over 12 rounds at Madison Square Garden. He finished his career 46 -0 and is widely regarded as the greatest 168 lb. fighter ever.
Hopkins fought on for another 8 years, including winning a bout over Jones himself in April of 2010 by unanimous decision. Later, Hopkins lost three of his final six fights, including his last two to Sergey Kovalev and Joe Smith Jr before retiring in 2016 with a 55-8-2 record at the amazing age of 51.
Hopkins will obviously be going into the Hall, as well.
And while April 19, 2008, wasn’t a spectacular battle with Joe Calzaghe, it was certainly entertaining, and in terms of boxing history, it involved two who were amazingly successful in championship fights for over a decade each.
And, Calzaghe was just better than Bernard Hopkins that night, as he was in every other of his pro fights in his illustrious career.