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Monday, 9 December, 2002, 11:57 GMT
Who is the middleweight master?
How would Calzaghe have fared against Graham, Collins, Eubank, Watson and Benn?
We've pitted Joe Calzaghe in a series of bouts against five famous names from the past.

How would he have fared against the top middleweights of the early '90s?


Joe Calzaghe missed out on the golden era of British and Irish middleweight boxing in the early '90s.

Is Calzaghe in the same class as the likes of Herol Graham, Steve Collins, Chris Eubank, Michael Watson and Nigel Benn?

Do you agree with our assessments? Which of the six would triumph?

Who is the middleweight master?


This debate is now closed. A selection of your e-mails appear below.


All of these proposed matches are hard to call, but I think it is unfair to say Calzaghe would beat all of them at this moment in time. It is possible he would, but maybe in couple of years' time when Calzaghe takes some meaningful fights there will be some evidence to support these claims.

We all know Calzaghe needs a career defining fight, beating Bernard Hopkins is the only real option right now. But why should Hopkins step up to super-middle to face Calzaghe, Calzaghe has not proved his worth yet. He should be looking to fight Ottke, Lucus, Mitchell, Echolls, or step up to light-heavy and fight Michalczewski or Antonio Tarver.

I would rather see him fight Reid or Starie again than this Tucker Pudwill. Howard Eastman is also a worthy opponent for Calzaghe. To say the fights are not there is ridiculous, in my opinion Calzaghe wants a career defining super fight on the back of nothing, and I'm not sure he will get it.

At their primes, Benn and Eubank would both have beaten Calzaghe

Steve, UK

He could have and should have earned it by now. Until he proves his worth, then it is unfair to say he would reign supreme in an era where living in the comfort zone was simply not an option.
Alistair, Scotland

I agree with Paul (USA). At their primes, Benn and Eubank would both have beaten Calzaghe, Benn by the sixth and Eubank (probably) on points.

Collins was never in their class, and came along when both fighters were on the decline (and should have retired). I reckon Joe would have beaten him on points. A Graham fight would have been interesting. Joe struggles against awkward opponents and Herol was as awkward as they come!

I reckon that Joe would have caught up with him in the later rounds though (remember Julian Jackson anyone??? Herol was out before he hit the floor!!). I do reckon he would have been too overwhelming for Watson too. Joe's good, but NOT a great!
Steve, UK

I feel that you have got a bit excited in determining that Calzaghe would have beaten all five of the fighters in your fantasy bouts. Maybe you are remembering all the other fighters at the end of their careers and comparing that with Calzaghe as he is now.

Take Benn at his peak, between the Barkley fight and the McClellan fight, Eubank up to the Watson fight, Watson - who beat Benn and outboxed Eubank, and Collins who beat both Benn and Eubank twice towards the end of his career.

All four of those at their peak would have tested Calzaghe far more than the fighters he has faced over the last few years. Calzaghe has still to be tested at the top level, the WBO contenters are never true world class.

The piece on middleweights just demonstrates how short and selective memories can be

Omar Shama, Egypt

Once/if he fights Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins will be the time to judge Calzaghe's place in the pecking order.
Ewen Hay, Scotland

I think that Collins would have beaten Calzaghe in at least one of two bouts. Collins was a tough nut and a smart tactician.
Sean Smyth, Canada

Your piece on middleweights just demonstrates how short and selective memories can be. Let me ask you this: when was the last time you saw Calzaghe in a classic, bruising, demanding battle? Better yet, did you EVER see that.

It has been easy for boxers of the modern era to FAKE their way to greatness by taking a meaningless belt and defending it against nobodies and has-beens. That is the road Calzaghe chose to take.

I personally think that seasoned warriors like Eubank and Benn would've had little trouble with Calzaghe at their peaks. Benn's no-compromise, all-out attack style would've worn Calzaghe out by round 10. Eubank, in my opinion, has always been an underrated fighter. I think he is the best middleweight ever to come out of Britain (Turpin, Minter, and Benn included).

He had amazing ring generalship, he knew how to adapt to different styles, and he was a true warrior with a dynamite punch and a granite chin. Eubank would've decisioned Calzaghe easily. Don't forget who made this division great in the 80s and 90s. It was Eubank, Benn, and Collins.

Remember the great fights they had and tell me if Calzaghe has ever matched the performances we witnessed in Benn-Eubank I &II, Benn-McClellan, Collins-Eubank, Benn-Watson, Eubank-Watson. He was never even close and he never will be as long as he's fighting bums that cannot test him and show us, the fans, what he's really worth.
Omar Shama, Egypt

I do not see how Calzaghe can be compared to the likes of Benn, and other great middleweights for that matter. Benn beat the very best McClellan, took the G-man's bombs - and his bombs are legendary. Who has Calzaghe fought? "Kid fire", Jiminez, Sheika? He could not even KO a shot Brewer whose weakness is his chin!

Calzaghe is a chump

Vincent, Netherlands

He has fought nobody, holds the lightly regarded WBO-belt, fights in one of the weakest divisions, and has no market value whatsoever outside of Great Britain. Hopkins would annihilate him, smash up his face, and wear him down into submission. Jones would kill him too, both within ten.

He is the best super-middle right now, aside from Echols, but he needs to sit down on his punches and throw them straighter. Calzaghe is a chump, he'll probably challenge Michalzchewski for the WBO, because he's old, slow and plodding.

I am not even sure that he'll win that one. Tarver, Jones and Harding all beat him IMO. I think he'll retire an overrated fighter that never had a defining fight - supposedly because he could not get the deals made.

Why is that? Because he isn't rated by the major sanctioning bodies (WBO-belt) and because there isn't anything to gain by fighting Calzaghe, he has no marquee value outside of Britain...Ottke is even rated higher, and Echols will be rated higher within the year; maybe that is why he'll be moving up. Good fighter though, cheers!
Vincent, Netherlands

I have to agree with the fight verdicts, although it is always difficult to predict fights where one punch can turn a contest. Joe probably is the best, but will have to beat Bernard or Roy to prove it to the world.
David Middleton, England

Personally I think everyone's giving Herol Graham a very raw deal. There's a guy no one wanted to fight when he was at his very best, and he was a talent at light middle, middle and super.

Sheer determination and confidence can beat the skills of any boxer

Paddy Stennings, Bucks

To be honest, to even suggest comparing any of the Brits to Hagler, Leonard or even McCallum is a bit of a joke. As for Calazaghe, he's a decent European class fighter, end of story. He must be crying all the way to the bank...
Colin, England

Joe Calzaghe has a combinition of skills and strengths. He manages to combine competitiveness, the boxing skills of Michael Watson and a solid jaw. I agree with the results for the Benn Eubank and Watson 'fights', however I disagree with the result of the Collins fight.

Steve Collins, I believe, won many fights before going into the ring with the first Chris Eubank fight being a prime example. I believe sheer determination and confidence can beat the skills of any boxer, Collins expressed these traits. After all, Joe Frazier's in-your-face style managed to topple Ali, probably the most skilful fighter ever.
Paddy Stennings, Bucks, England

Nobody can honestly claim to know how a war like Calzaghe v Benn would have gone. Calzaghe's a far, far better boxer than Eubank but Eubank was always very tough to beat (hard to hit, good chin) and fought best when his back was against the wall (eg Watson).

But the most grotesque misjudgement is on Calzaghe v Graham, the best of the five by a mile, even though he never won a world title. Just look at other boxers' reactions to him. McCallum, an all-time great, rated Graham as one of his most difficult opponents ever.

Hagler ducked him when he was number one challenger and Eubank would never fight him because he knew from their sparring days that Graham could beat him hands down. Calzaghe wouldn't have laid a glove on Graham!
Gil, Japan

Difficult to argue with the outcomes of your fantasy bouts, although there's always room for debate with this kind of exercise. Joe Calzaghe however, can settle the dispute once and for all if he can beat Hopkins and/or Ottke and become the best in the world. I hope the politics don't get in the way of Joe getting the opportunity to test himself at the very top level.
Martin, UK

Calzaghe is a good fighter operating in a mediocre division

Marcus Taylor, England

Calzaghe all the way. I completely agree with your correspondent. He would be able to take Benn's shots and wear him down and would be able to outwork the rest for points wins. Joe has power, speed, skill, stamina, heart, and an unbelievable chin. It'll take a magnificent fighter to beat him.
Steve McKenna, Sudbury, Suffolk, England

Benn was a great fighter and it's a shame he didn't go on to fight more in the US (the Barkley bout was just an all too brief taster). Herol Graham was a fighter that ran like a rabbit and got found out by the very top of the class (Kalumbay, McCallum and even the limited but powerful Julian Jackson).

Eubank fought nobodies for his entire career and was lucky to beat Watson and draw with Benn in the rematch. Collins was a decent guy but didn't have the class to trouble Calzaghe. With Michael Watson we'll never know, but remember that he too was outclassed by McCallum right in his prime.

With the exception of a Benn at his most ferocious, Calzaghe would have dealt with all of the above with varying levels of difficulty and it would be more interesting to compare him with true greats such as Hearns, Jones, Hagler, to decide on his true worth in the ring.
Herman Blundell, US

Joe does not have the skill or desire to box with any of the greats from the 90s. He would have lost by stoppages by Benn and Collins whose constant pressure would be too much for him. Watson, Eubank and Graham would have outsmarted and out boxed him for a points victory.

He beat an aging Eubank who came in at the last minute, and Charles Brewer who had already been beaten by Lonnie Beasley in one round. Other than that he has fought second-tier fighters. Rather than Joe chasing after Hopkins who does not want to fight, why not the likes of Howard Eastman who I believe will show the world that Joe is nothing more than a second rate fighter?
Mark, UK

Personally I don't see how anyone can say that Calzaghe would have beaten Nigel Benn. Gerald McClellan would have annihilated Joe Calzaghe probably within one or two rounds; however the Dark Destroyer battled with this awesome puncher for 11 rounds before ending it tragically. Joe Calzaghe would not have lasted five rounds with the Dark Destroyer, too big a puncher and too big a heart.
Damon, UK

Calzaghe is a good fighter operating in a mediocre division. I find it hard to comprehend how Sean Davies (below) thinks Calzaghe would have beaten Eubank, Graham, Watson and Benn at their peaks. Calzaghe arm punches and fights in flurries and, despite claiming to be a hard puncher, appears unable to hurt top class opponents.

He might have beaten Collins, who was fortunate to arrive on the scene when Eubank and Benn were in decline, having previously struggled against decent Americans. Hopefully Calzaghe will get the opportunity to fight better opponents in the future, but for now all I can conclude is Sean Davies must be president of Joe Calzaghe's fan club.
Marcus Taylor, England

Calzaghe is very unlucky not to have the domestic competition that Watson, Benn and Eubank had, however he has not helped himself by freely admitting he is happy to fight nobodies in Britain for big money. His choice and good luck to him, but this will never make him a great. By the way, Hopkins wins via unanimous decision if they ever fight before he gets too old.
Jack, England

You're kidding, right? Calzaghe may be the best super-middle in the world at the moment, but the division isn't exactly a hot-bed of talent. His best victories, against Reid and Woodhall, mark him as a capable fighter, but neither Englishman is in the same class as the aforementioned 'middleweight masters.' I wouldn't make Calzaghe favourite against any of that quintet. Next you'll be telling us he can beat Roy Jones!
Sean, UK

Calzaghe is a world-class boxer, whether he would have beaten Benn or Eubank remains to be seen. His quality of opposition does not look good on paper when you compare it to Benn's. I don't think he could beat Hopkins, even though Hopkins is 37 and he definitely would not beat Roy Jones.
JON, UK

While Calzaghe is a top-notch fighter, there just isn't the same class of opponents in the super middleweight division today to even compare him with the likes of Benn, Watson et al.

Don't get me wrong, I am not doubting his ability. I think he has buckets of talent, speed, power and guile to go against anyone but as people have already stated, he'll not get the respect he (already) deserves until he floors Bernard Hopkins.
Lee, UK

Your piece comparing Calzaghe with British middleweight greats of the recent past is a great read but I must disagree on your conclusions. Calzaghe is overrated, in my opinion, and if he had fought them at THEIR PEAK, he would have lost to Benn, Eubank, and probably Watson.

I think he might have grinded out a points win over Collins and I've got a feeling he might have knocked out Herol with a late punch (similar to the one which floored Bomber when he was miles ahead on points against Julian Jackson).

Instead of taking on the rubbish he fights (eg Tocker Pudwill!!!!!!) I would like to see Calzaghe take on someone top class such as Bernard Hopkins or even Sven Ottke. I think he would struggle and show himself up.
Chris Summers, UK

In reply to P Hinds, I agree that the weakness on Calzaghe's record is the fact that he hasn't fought outside the UK. Think that's down to his title and long unbeaten record actually holding him back - there's too much to lose.

As to Benn hauling himself off the floor (or even back into the ring...), I don't see that as much of an argument. Calzaghe has never been put down by anybody. Benn recovered from the McClellan knock down, but he was stopped by Watson, Eubank and Collins (twice) and barely survived against Anthony Logan and Iran Barkley.

A sound boxer with a good chin would always beat Benn.
Sean Davies, UK

In all fairness Joe Calzaghe is a top fighter at the moment, but I do not think he would have been able to compete against any of the others if he fought them all at their respective peaks.

The other guys fought big names whilst Calzaghe has mainly fought the relatively tough but unknown Mexicans.

I guess Calzaghe's attempts at establishing himself as a good fighter have been hampered by the lack of established fighters in super-middleweight.

Greatness can only be achieved when fighting great fighters, so now that Roy Jones has decided to move up to heavyweight, Joe can only do this in his proposed clash with Bernard Hopkins.
Ryan N, London, England

Calazaghe has yet to be tested by world class fighters

P Hinds, England

Joe Calzaghe is potentially one of the greatest middleweights of all time. He has knocked nearly all his opponents out and has never been on the canvas.

He needs to have a defining fight in 2003 and I think this will happen against Bernard Hopkins in the summer. In my opinion Joe is the best British fighter pound for pound.
Clark Lovell, England

I have to disagree with the Calazaghe verdict. Benn pulled himself off the floor against a man who was rated as the best and then subsequently beat him into submission (McClellan). He also proved himself overseas - twice.

Calazaghe is still to be tested by world class fighters (when is he going to fight outside Britain?). Check Benn's CV against Calazaghe - no contest!!

None of the others have won their titles offshores. This ranks Benn No 1 for me. He fought Watson while he was still learning, had weight problems before the first Eubank fight and fought Collins too late!! Benn's the guvnor!!
P Hinds, England

Calzaghe is a worthy champion but until he has fought a 'super' fight against another top fighter you can't say that he would have beaten the likes of Steve Collins, Michael Watson and Nigel Benn in six rounds.

These fighters fought the best on regular occasions and took part in some of the best fights the British public have ever seen. So far Joe has never been involved in an epic fight that has thrilled boxing fans.

I'm afraid to say that until he has fought the likes of Mr Hopkins, where he will have to go through pain, blood and exhaustion, I for one will never be totally convinced that he is one of the best middleweights that we have produced.

For people to really stand up and recognise his achievements he needs to be in an epic fight where he is truly pushed to his fullest so that his full array of skills can be shown.
Matthew Rochford, England

I don't know how Sean Davies thinks Calzaghe would have beaten Eubank, Graham, Watson and Benn

Marcus Taylor, England

Nigel Benn was the best out this bunch. He should have got the decision against Eubank in the second fight and he had the hardest fight I've ever seen anyone have against Gerald McClennan.

Eubank might have been the best if he didnt fear knocking people out after the Michael Watson fight, but I still say Nigel Benn is the greatest out of these boxing greats.
Clive, England

Calzaghe is a good fighter operating in a mediocre division. I find it hard to comprehend how Sean Davies thinks Calzaghe would have beaten Eubank, Graham, Watson and Benn at their peaks.

Calzaghe arm-punches and fights in flurries and despite claiming to be a hard puncher appears unable to hurt top class opponents.

He might have beaten Collins, who was fortunate to arrive on the scene when Eubank and Benn were in decline, having previously struggled against decent Americans.

Hopefully Calzaghe will get the opportunity to fight better opponents in the future but for now all I can conclude is Sean Davies must be president of Joe Calzaghe's fan club.
Marcus Taylor, England

Calzaghe is good but I don't think he would have beaten all the ex-champions, as you say. I agree with Herol and Steve Collins but to dismiss Eubank and Benn so easily is funny. And Watson would take Calzaghe on points.
Paul Ridler, USA

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