Great Britain

Joe Calzaghe vs Andre Ward: Who would have won a fantasy fight?

For this week’s fantasy matchmaker, we are pitting two legendary super middleweights together: Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward.

Both enjoyed sensational careers during which they won numerous world titles at different weights, before retiring with unblemished professional records.

Calzaghe is the longest-reigning super-middleweight world champion in boxing history, having won the WBO belt by outpointing Chris Eubank in 1997. He became the first boxer to unify three of the four major world titles (WBA, WBC, and WBO) at super-middleweight, retiring in 2009 with a record of 46-0.

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Ward is meanwhile one of the finest boxers the United States has produced, winning a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and picking up the WBA super middleweight title by beating Mikkel Kessler. He went on to beat the likes of Carl Froch, Edwin Rodriguez and Sergey Kovalev, unifying titles between 2016 and 2017 and dominating various pound for pound lists.

So, with the scene set, here’s who our writers think would win.

Luke Brown: Calzaghe by decision

This truly is the definition of a dream fight between two undefeated legends who were both at their best at super middleweight and share a defining victory over the indomitable Mikkel Kessler.

I think Ward perhaps has the better wins on his record – against Carl Froch and then those two wars with Sergey Kovalev – but there is no question that Calzaghe defeated a far superior version of Kessler, while the Welshman was also far more active and also ventured further afield than Ward, beating Mario Veit in Germany and Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr in the States. So the location of this fantasy bout would likely prove key.

It would be close. It would be fractious. And – in all honesty – it probably wouldn’t be worth £24.95 on Sky Sports pay-per-view. Ward would get down and dirty and try to spoil things from the first round onward, but I think Calzaghe’s legendary work-rate would cause him serious problems. So I’m backing Calzaghe to outwork Ward, making a bright start much like Arthur Abraham or Kovalev did against the American, only for the Italian Dragon to have the heart and the engine to maintain such aggressive tactics for the rest of the fight.

Jack de Menezes: Ward by decision

Joe Calzaghe is not just the greatest super-middleweight these shores have produced, but arguably the greatest British boxer of all time. The way that the Welshman was able to control and dictate opponents, box his style while ensuring he was not exposed to the strengths of the man in the other corner, and even the way he learned to adapt during fights was a joy to watch.

That said, sometimes you can’t hit what cannot be hit, and Andre Ward like Floyd Mayweather falls into that category. Developing a gameplan to beat Ward is significantly easier than executing it, as 31 opponents discovered to their peril on 32 occasions. Carl Froch came up well short against Ward and the gut feeling is that Calzaghe would slot in somewhere between the two.

Perhaps the biggest issue is that we never really knew the best Joe Calzaghe given what that troublesome left hand did to him in his prime, and had the broken bones not plagued him through hit latter years, this could have been a completely different argument.

Jack Rathborn: Calzaghe by decision

I’ll roll with Joe Calzaghe, especially at 168 pounds: too much volume and weird angles which would penetrate Andre Ward’s magnificent defence and limit the effectiveness of his counter punches. Make no mistake, this would probably be a tough watch and one for the purists.

Both fought Mikkel Kessler, with the American impressively prevailing as an underdog and the Dane being forced to stop in the 11th round due to cuts from accidental headbutts. But I like the parallels you would see from Calzaghe’s split decision win against Bernard Hopkins. Many presumed it was a faded version of Hopkins, but it would be eight years before The Executioner would eventually hang up the gloves. Six years on from that fight he would go the distance with the feared Sergey Kovalev, enhancing Calzaghe’s stock in retirement.

I don’t think Ward has the power to make Calzaghe wary enough with his combinations coming in and for that reason I think he convinces the judges to side with him over his rival’s cleaner work.

Tom Kershaw: Ward by decision

Calzaghe would need to close the distance on Ward to unleash his typical swarm of punches, with the American being the longer and sharper single-punch boxer. But Ward’s greatest asset was always his strength and tenacity to roughhouse and tie-up opponents on the inside. That spoiling tactic would prevent Calzaghe getting into a rhythm and go a long way to stemming the Welshman’s relentless tide of punches.

Calzaghe did at times struggle against an aged Bernard Hopkins and many of his best performances came towards the end of his career, when he was arguably past his prime, and perhaps we never did actually get to see the best of him. But aside from Calzaghe’s workrate, it’s hard to see any other significant advantages he boasts over Ward – whether it’s ring IQ, technique or power – who should be able to grind the Welshman down over the course of the fight.

It’s a fight that would almost certainly go to points and be a choice between the flurry of CompuBox flattering punches from Calzaghe and the cleaner, telling work by Ward. I believe it would ultimately go the American’s way and, perhaps, not be as close as many people think.

Our writers have it 2-2. So you get the deciding vote! Let us know what you think:​

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