News October 2007

28.10.07 Mail reports of Kessler hand injury ?

Calzaghe has hand problems throughout career

You also need hands to batter your way to victory in a boxing match, preferably hands in which the bones do not break when they thud against the skull of an unyielding opponent.

You could also be forgiven for supposing that this is all about the brittle and frequently busted hands despite which Joe Calzaghe has fought his way through 10 remarkable, undefeated years as the holder of the WBO supermiddleweight title.

You would be wrong. The real story of this coming weekend's battle to unify three world championship belts is hidden in the clenched fists of Calzaghe's Danish rival for supremacy at their poundage.

Mikkel Kessler is believed to be shielding a hand so damaged that he has been unable to spar for two weeks and is not expected to do so before climbing through the ropes at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Camp Kessler are playing down whispered reports of the injury and, bone deep though the bruising is said to be, it will not jeopardise their man's appearance before the most populous fight crowd ever assembled under one roof in Britain — 50,000 and rising under Frank Warren's vigorous, Barnum-esque promoting.

However, this revelation will offer hugely relevant encouragement to Calzaghe and all those betting heavily on the Welshman to add Kessler's WBC and WBA titles to his collection.

The most nagging doubt about Calzaghe emerging victorious from potentially the most rigorous challenge of his long career concerns a left hand broken three times already in his 20, recordapproaching defences of the WBO crown thus far.

News that Kessler has been nursing a sore hand through training sessions conducted mostly in private brings a neutralising balance to a problem which Calzaghe, now 35, admits has plagued him since his early teens.

The scales seem to be reset at 50-50 between two unbeaten champions boasting a string of stoppages on their records, with the more experienced veteran having home advantage over a man seven years the younger.

The risk of one of them sustaining a handicap at some point during the scheduled 12 rounds now appears to be even. Such an injury would almost certainly prove decisive.

Kessler threatens to be significantly more dangerous than Jeff Lacy, the American who turned out to be disappointingly over-rated in what had been anticipated as Calzaghe's reputation-defining fight.

With three titles on the line this time — not to mention millions of future pounds — neither Calzaghe nor Kessler can afford to come out punching at anything less than full power.

With Calzaghe reporting no adverse reactions from his flat-out sparring, there is reason for hoping he can provide a knock-out start to Britain's bid to establish precedence over world boxing in the coming weeks.

Ricky Hatton's challenge for Floyd Mayweather Jnr's mythical poundfor- pound championship follows in Las Vegas in early December and there will be more than patriotic pride at stake on both nights.

The hardest game itself is in a trough — especially its flagship heavyweight division — and urgently needs both Calzaghe v Kessler and Hatton v Mayweather to live up to their mega-fight billings.

Since it will not be easy for Hitman Hatton to catch up with the slick, elusive Mayweather, the first of these two marquee collisions may prove to be the most compelling — and the most gruelling.

Calzaghe, the speedy southpaw, and Kessler, the orthodox leftjabber, say they are coming to wage war, not to decorate the canvas with boxing's noble artwork.

If so, that will delight Setanta, who have stepped up their challenge to Sky and the terrestrial networks for sport's major events by securing the late-night live television rights.

If so, it may end with the two protagonists mumbling a couple of the later lines in that old Max Bygraves ditty subsequently given the punk rock treatment by The Sex Pistols: You need hands to thank the Lord for living, You need hands to wipe away the tears.

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