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Hopkins -vs-Calzaghe: Pre-fight analysis and prediction!

Tune into HBO World Championship Boxing at 9:45pm ET/ 6:45pm PT to catch the light heavyweight championship fight between champion Bernard Hopkins and undefeated super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe, who is coming up in weight to challenge Hopkins.

Joe Calzaghe is a highly skilled southpaw boxer with a high volume output. Nonetheless, he is still a southpaw. Bernard Hopkins is 12-0 with 8 KOs against southpaws, with his last two victims being Antonio Tarver and Winky Wright. Both of those fighters were favored to defeat Hopkins. Tarver was heavily favored.

Wright is another guy - another southpaw - who was favored to win and known for throwing a high volume of punches. The crafty Hopkins used his high boxing IQ in that contest to reduce Wright to a punch output averaging 50 punches a round. As I said, Wright was a southpaw, probably smarter in the ring than Calzaghe is, and he was about the same age.

Tonight, Calzaghe is the third southpaw in a row who is favored (5/2) to beat the light heavyweight champion of the world. In terms of quality of opposition, one can name five great fighters on Hopkins record. Look at the fighters he has fought over the past ten years. Roy Jones, Jr. Felix Trinidad. Oscar De la hoya. Jermain Taylor. Antonio Tarver. Winky Wright. Those are some world class fighters and champions!

Calzaghe's best opponent to date has been Mikkell Kessler, whom he defeated rather handily in his last fight this past November. The fight was in Wales.

Before Kessler, Calzaghe's best opponent was Jeff Lacy. Lacy was perceived to be the future of the super middleweight division, and perhaps the future of boxing in general, but he had approximately half the amount of fights that Calzaghe had when they fought each other. Lacy was favored to win, however, and Calzaghe upended him in an impressive shutout type of performance. That fight took place in England.

Do you see the pattern here? Because I do. Calzaghe has yet to come to the states. He will be making his US debut tonight when meets Hopkins in the ring at Planet Hollywood at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, NV.

Other fighters, who looked remarkable across the pond, have also come over here to the states to challenge our world champions and world class fighters. Prince Naseem Hamed and Ricky Hatton are two of the most recent examples.

Hamed made his debut in the US in 2001, also in Las Vegas, against the accomplished and very capable Marco Antonio Barrera. Hamed just didn't look the same in that fight as he did when he was scoring knockouts over lesser opposition in the comfort of his own backyard. Hatton, when facing the slick American southpaw Luis Collazo in his US debut, was exposed a bit technically, when he was faced for the first time with an American style of boxing and not just the straight up European style, and won a close and controversial decision back in 2006.

Go back to the 90s, Lloyd Honeyghan could be another example. He knocked out Donald Curry in Atlantic City, but when he met Marlon Starling and Vinny Pazienza, the same magic wasn't quite there the way it was when he was racking up KO victories in England.

In terms of strategy, Calzaghe is going to try to throw over 100 punches a round in order to keep Hopkins in a defensive mode. Hopkins job is to try to keep the fight in the center of the ring, work Calzaghe's body from the outset to reduce his punch output when or if the fight reaches the later rounds.

So what happens in the fight?

I see Hopkins biding his time in the early rounds, trying to gage Calzaghe's work rate and get a look at the punches Calzaghe will be throwing at him. Calzaghe is the faster guy, so look for Hopkins to take a few rounds to get accustomed to the man's handspeed. Early on, this fight will look a little bit like Hopkin's first fight with Antwun Echols. Hopkins will be using the early rounds to adjust to the onslaught of his younger and faster opponent. The key to Hopkins success will be timing and making this fight a rough fight. I'd say after about 4 or 5 close rounds, Hopkins will begin to accumulate punishment with body shots and Calzaghe will show signs of a reduced punch output, slowing down considerably in rounds six and seven. From about round eight, the fight will get a little rougher, if not more crowdpleasing or exciting, as Hopkins will be able to throw more punches and land more punches to Calzaghe's head and upper body due to the body shots he invested in in the earlier rounds. Hopkins outworks Calzaghe in rounds nine through twelve, manhandles him, outboxes him, and completely befuddles him the way he's befuddled the rest of his southpaw opposition.

Due to caginess, being the smarter and more experienced fighter against top flight opposition, and having more experience on the big stage in the US, Hopkins gives Calzaghe is first L by means of a unanimous decision. 116-112 on all three scorecards sounds about right.

Hopkins by unanimous decision