Amir Khan showed a skill set , patience and terrific hand speed reminiscent of a young Floyd Mayweather Jr, as he paced around the ring, calmly stalking Steffy Bull. It was a short lived fight, as Khan, forced out of his counter-punching style by an opponent who refused to throw punches, overwhelmed Bull. In the end, Khan floored Bull with a barrage ending with a solid body shot that might have cracked his rib, as Bull held his side after the fight was stopped.
In the main event, a controversial stoppage in the third round put an end to Peter Manfredo's hopes of upsetting Joe Calzaghe who has been on a streak of wins lasting 17 years and who has been undefeated in his last 20 title defenses. In a clash of differing and sometimes awkward styles, both fighters opened the match up tentatively, with Manfredo, whose style is often a toe-to-toe affair, playing a more coy fighter. Calzaghe had a difficult first round but found his rhythm in the second and third round, relaxing his arms and firing off more of the trademark Joe Calzaghe whip quick jabs.
In the third round, Calzaghe drove Manfredo into the ropes, where he unleashed over 20 unanswered punches, but Manfredo either blocked most of them with his gloves and arms, or ducked under with his head. Although Manfredo was clearly not hurt, and after the fight would label Calzaghe's shots as "pitty pat punches," the Brit referee made a premature stoppage that was not popular with the fans, who wanted to see their favorite knock out the American.
In an interview after the fight, Manfredo, looking none the worse for the tear, told HBO's Larry Merchant he was waiting for Calzaghe to punch himself out and then intended to counter to the head. Calzaghe threw by CompuBox stats over 90 punches in just a half round, an incredible amount, and one wondered how much that would have taken out of him in the rest of the round and the fourth. But the referee never let fans find out.
Manfredo, in trying to imitate an Ali "rope-a-dope" against George Foreman, forget one key ingredient -- to throw back some punches. Ultimately that was the demise of the challenger. Would he have beaten Calzaghe had it been allowed to continue. Probably not. But if Calzaghe tired, it had the earmarks of an exciting fight.
In a post-fight interview, Calzaghe mentioned Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins as opponents he would like to face next, curiously leaving out unbeaten, two-belt champion Mikkel Kessler. When asked by Merchant about Kessler, Calzaghe deferred to nearby promoter Frank Warren, who was wisely cut short by Merchant before the Brit could launch into familiar talking points of how the Dane Kessler won't fight in England, and Calzaghe would not go to Denmark.
Calzaghe-Kessler remains a potential mega-fight, but with politics in boxing being what they are, that bout might have to wait while Calzaghe pursues his American Dream.
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