Monday, May 27, 2024  |

By Anson Wainwright | 


Joe Calzaghe is arguably the best super middleweight in history and will long be remembered as one of the greatest British fighters of all time. That lofty position didn’t come easily, however.

Calzaghe’s story began in Hammersmith, London, on March 23, 1972.

“My mum was from the Tredegar area [in Wales] and met my father in Cardiff at the Wimpy (a hamburger chain),” Calzaghe told The Ring. “My dad was traveling around and they got married a few weeks later. They worked in West London and I was born in London, and then we moved to Sardinia [Italy]. I could have been a Cockney or Sardinian; I’m not sure what the boxing gyms are like there! 

“We moved to Wales when I was 2½, 3, and [I have] lived here ever since. We didn’t have much money at all; we were brought up on a council estate.”

Calzaghe was bullied as a kid, so he learned boxing in order to toughen up. 

His first trainer would be his coach throughout his hall-of-fame career. It was his father, Enzo, who had no previous boxing experience. 

They were an unlikely duo, but without each other Calzaghe likely would never have had the success he did. Enzo, who would go on to coach Enzo Maccarinelli and Gavin Rees to world titles, was a good motivator and Joe needed that at times. Enzo was off the wall, but he made it work for him in boxing the way few others would. 

Enzo and Joe Calzaghe in 1998, just before Joe defended his WBO super middleweight title for the first time with a third-round stoppage of Branko Sobot. (Photo by Sean Dempsey – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

The Calzaghes’ improbable climb up the boxing ranks began with Joe’s school-boy amateur competition. 

“One of my fondest memories is winning my first ABA title at 36 kg at the Assembly Ball Rooms [in] Derby,” he recalled. “[I had] four pounds to lose at the time, but I was a skinny kid and didn’t have the day to put it back on. You’d weigh, have something to eat, like a Mars bar, and you’d box. 

“[After] winning that fight – I stopped him in the first round; it was the quickest win of the day – I remember going home and mum made a steak and kidney pie, and I was thinking, ‘I can just eat what I want now.’ Winning my first title was an amazing experience – I loved that.”

And that was just the beginning. Calzaghe won a total of four schoolboy ABAs, then won three consecutive senior ABA titles in different weight classes. Calzaghe probably should have gone to the qualifying tournament for the 1992 Olympics, but the Welsh amateur boxing association sent someone else, so he decided to turn professional in the fall of 1993.

Calzaghe hoists the British super middleweight title belt after a fifth-round knockout of Mark Delaney in 1996. (Photo by Sean Dempsey – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

His debut took place on the undercard of Lennox Lewis’s WBC heavyweight title defense against Frank Bruno at the Arms Park in Cardiff. Calzaghe scored a first-round stoppage of a journeyman named Paul Hanlon, who subsequently gave up professional boxing.

Calzaghe’s early career was a slow burn. He opted to sign with Mickey Duff, whose powers were on the wane. The British title would come in his 14th outing, but Calzaghe lacked visibility and fought regularly on small hall shows. 

Things looked much brighter when he became the WBO super middleweight mandatory challenger in 1997. After Steve Collins vacated, Calazaghe proved his mettle by toughing out a wide unanimous decision over the vastly more experienced Chris Eubank. 

Despite now holding a world title, however, things behind the scenes were far from ideal.

“I went through a very frustrating few years where I sustained a bad elbow injury and literally couldn’t spar for four or five fights,” Calzaghe revealed. “I don’t really harp on about it, but to defend your world title and not spar is like playing a football match and not being able to train. I couldn’t even hit the pads. Whenever I hyperextended, my elbow would be in pain. I had cortisone; I saw different doctors. From my second defense against [Juan Carlos] Gimenez, Robin Reid, Rick Thornberry and David Starie, I couldn’t spar. My distance and timing was out.”

He returned to form against Omar Sheika (TKO 5) and former WBC titlist Richie Woodhall (TKO 10).

“The first time I sparred, again I fought Omar Sheika, who had just come off a win over Glen Johnson,” said Calzaghe. “My timing was shambolic, but day two or three I got my timing back. All I did was spar for about two weeks, and it was back.

August 2008 issue

“I beat Richie Woodhall, a good friend of mine. He gave me a tough fight.”

The Welshman then found himself in the boxing wilderness over the next couple of years, defending his title but never able to get a unification or big opportunity, though he did engage in a fan-friendly battle of attrition with former IBF titlist Charles Brewer (UD 12) and an off-the-canvas shootout with former WBA beltholder Byron Mitchell (TKO 2).

“Charles Brewer, another great fight. People forget about them fights,” said Calzaghe. “Charles Brewer was a dangerous fighter and he hit hard; I beat him as well.

“Byron Mitchell was the first time I got dropped, and I stopped him in the same round.”

In late 2005, it looked like Calzaghe had secured a unification, only for an injury to temporarily scupper those plans.

“I boxed Evans Ashira. I broke my hand again; I snapped my metacarpal in the third round. I remember the excruciating pain I was in and boxed with one hand,” he said. “I remember hearing a few boos in the arena – from [my] own fans.”

Once Calzaghe recovered, he was able to meet burgeoning American star Jeff Lacy in March 2006 at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester.

Calzaghe celebrates with his father after the victory over Jeff Lacy. (Photo by Paul Ellis – AFP/Getty)

Lacy was installed as the pre-fight favorite. What ensued was one of the greatest pugilistic performances on British shores. Calzaghe boxed rings around his flummoxed opponent and posted a 12-round masterclass to claim the inaugural Ring 168-pound championship and Lacy’s IBF title.

Suddenly, Calzaghe became hotter than hot and was much in demand. He was cheered on by 35,000 fans at his homecoming defense against former The Contender contestant Peter Manfredo Jr. The fight was shown on HBO and Calzaghe easily picked apart the American in three one-sided rounds. 

The fight Calzaghe craved was against WBA/WBC counterpart Mikkel Kessler, as it would prove definitively who was the premier super middleweight in the world. In November 2007, the pair met at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff – the same venue, only remodeled, in which Calzaghe had made his debut some 14 years earlier.

The two unbeaten fighters put on a fantastic display witnessed by 50,000 fans. At the halfway stage, the fight was up for grabs. However, the tactically adept Welshman elected to use his smart boxing brain and went on to win a 12-round unanimous decision.

Calzaghe won his showdown with Mikkel Kessler by unanimous decision in 2007. (Photo by Nick Potts – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Having earned recognition as the king of the 168-pound division with 21 successful title defenses over a 10-year period, there was nothing left for Calzaghe to do at super middleweight. He vacated his throne and stepped up to light heavyweight to face a pair of legends.

Calzaghe became a two-weight Ring champion when he overcame a first-round trip to the canvas to best Bernard Hopkins (SD 12) in an often-ugly encounter. In his swan song, he showcased his vast repertoire in dominating Roy Jones Jr. (UD 12) after once again getting up from a knockdown in the opening round.

Although Calzaghe knew the Jones fight would be his last, he didn’t know what the next stage of his life would be.

“People used to say, ‘Do something else you love.’ Well, all I’ve done since I was 8 to 37 was fight; it’s who I am,” he explained. “The fear of losing – the more you go on, the older you get – I didn’t have the same hunger. My hunger was my legacy, and I’d done it all. 

“To me, 46-0, I’d beat the best. OK, you can make more money fighting this guy, but it’s a risky guy and you’ve got more money in the bank. But it only takes one fight, one injury, something to happen, and you’re like everybody else. Ninety-nine point nine percent of fighters, you lose.”

Calzaghe officially retired in February 2009, and his success was recognized when he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014.

“All I’ve done since I was 8 to 37 was fight; it’s who I am.”

The popular champion says his sons easily could have followed his success in the ring, but they’ve chosen to use their talents as trainers instead.

“My boys can fight. They both could have been world champions. But at the end of the day, I’m not going to push them into something, and they’ve always got the thing of being my sons,” he explained. “If they want to do it, I didn’t want to push them. A lot of it with me, with dad, he pushed me. I needed a push. 

“There was something magic with dad,” Calzaghe said of his father, Enzo, who earned the Boxing Writers Association of America’s 2007 Trainer of the Year award and passed away in 2018. “He did have a good boxing I.Q, was a tremendous motivator and had tremendous energy.”

Calzaghe, now 50, lives in Newbridge, South Wales, and remains involved in boxing. He runs a management company called International Sports Group alongside good friend and former middleweight titlist Darren Barker, and he owns his old gym, which is now the site of the Calzaghe Academy.

“My boys run the boxing gym, which is great; [they’re] continuing the legacy of dad,” he said proudly. “Hopefully one day they can train world champions.”

Calzaghe enjoyed looking back on his career and reminiscing about the following six career-defining performances for the readers of The Ring.


April 20, 1996, Brentwood Centre, Brentwood, Essex, England • Titles: British super middleweight

“I was getting a bit frustrated with [promoters] Mickey Duff and Terry Lawless because I wasn’t getting paid. I was on a wage. I had a baby on the way, so I had to look after a child and family. I was British champion and wasn’t getting any TV coverage. I was on TV that night, so I got some terrestrial TV coverage, which I struggled with early in my career.

“[This was] my first big fight at the time. Mark Delaney was undefeated in 21 fights and most by KO. He was world-ranked by the WBO. He was with Barry Hearn. I was British champion; I had just won the British title against Stephen Wilson. [Delaney] was the challenger for the British title. Mickey Duff deliberately lost the purse bid; I think he was so confident I’d knock him out.

via Selena Alanaza on YouTube:

“That night at Brentwood Leisure Centre, I had two busloads coming up from Wales, not even 100 [people], and he had a load there. I was booed and spat at and plastic sheep chucked around, but it was the first time I’d been into an arena I’d been heckled, and it gave me a good buzz. (laughs) I enjoyed being the underdog. You see people like [Chris] Eubank, and they feed off that, and I loved it. I will always remember before I walked out, [Mark’s older brother] Gary Delaney was at the bottom of the corridor, and he looked at me sneering and spat at the floor. I dropped [Mark Delaney] in the first 15 seconds; he’d never been dropped before. There’s a moment in the second round when I dropped him, I’m looking over and winking at his brother ringside. (laughs) I put on a really good performance. That was when my hands were both really good and punched hard.

“I remember [Mickey Duff] told me off afterwards he [bet] a lump of money I’d stop [Delaney] in the first four rounds, and I stopped him in the fifth. That was good progression in my career. I [did] a job on Delaney and then I was world-ranked. And my next step, which I always wanted, was to fight for a world title.”

Result: Calzaghe TKO 5


October 11, 1997, Sheffield Arena, Sheffield, England • Titles: vacant WBO super middleweight

“[WBO titlist Steve Collins and myself] were both promoted by Frank Warren, but I don’t think Steve Collins wanted the fight. He’d got some big wins against [Chris] Eubank and [Nigel] Benn. I knew he didn’t fancy it. I remember chatting to him at an evening dinner and he told me, ‘You did a really good job on my sparring partner. Mark Delaney is pretty tough.’ So I knew he had the utmost respect for me as a fighter.

“When the fight was made, I was Steve Collins’ mandatory. He wanted more time, then he said he was injured, then he said he lost the heart for boxing and so he quit. I understand where he was at the point of his career. It was risk versus reward. I was a very dangerous fighter. I’ve just come off big wins, he’s got everything to lose in this fight. I wanted to fight Steve Collins.

“I still remember Frank saying, ‘We’ve got an opponent.’ The first one they said was Dean Francis, who I beat in the amateurs, and then said Eubank. And I thought, ‘OK. He’s a bigger name.’ I grew up watching Eubank and I knew Chris Eubank was a dangerous animal with his back against the wall.

(Photo by Sean Dempsey – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

“I still remember going to the Grosvenor [in] London to announce the fight. I’m like a boy-fan. Me and dad went down on the train, second-class of course, couldn’t afford a first-class ticket. Eubank’s Harley Davison is outside. I go in, and Eubank came up to me and said, ‘Who are you?’ and shook my hand. It was the hardest handshake I’ve ever had in my life. I looked at him and was a cocky shit and said, ‘You’ll know exactly who I am next week.’ I always remember: I’m saying at the press conference I’m going to knock him out, he’s going to have his first knockout loss, and he looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to take you to one place you’ve never been, son. I’m going to take you to the trenches.’ And didn’t he take me to the trenches.

“Come fight night, we’re supposed to be on at 9 o’clock, then it’s 10 o’clock, then 11 o’clock. I reckon me and dad did 50 rounds on the pads. Normally I weigh myself before the fight; I’m normally about 12 stone, 10 pounds. I put 10, 12 pounds on. I don’t like to be too heavy, but that’s about the right weight for me come fight night. I weighed in before in the changing room and I’m 12 stone 4 pounds. I thought, ‘That’s not right. I’m dehydrated.’

“The ring walk was late, nearly 12 o’clock. I was on last. Bell goes, I dropped him in the first 15 seconds, and the rest was hard. Eubank always says, ‘I didn’t land on my arse, I landed on my back.’ After three or four rounds, I was knackered. Nothing is more demoralizing than when you have an opponent who’s doing a stroll and you’re gassing. Dad’s saying, ‘C’mon!’ I remember it’s 6 and 7 and thinking I’ve gone halfway. I remember looking at the ring girl, checking her arse out. (laughs.) I know he’s not going anywhere, because I’ve hit him with everything and I’m getting tired and he’s starting to use kidology and mind games.

“That 12 rounds, I always say, if Eubank stayed down in that first round, I don’t believe I would have been the fighter I was. That experience of 12 rounds taught me everything I’ve known in all my boxing career. I learned about myself, going to the trenches. After that fight, you’re not going to knock everybody out; you’ve got to pace yourself. I was knocking everybody out. I was knocking heavyweights out in sparring before I done my hands in. I have a lot of respect for Chris and I do thank him for giving me that boxing education. It was a war. It was so hard, and with someone like Eubank with 20-odd world title fights. I’d had 20 fights and knocked about 17 out in the first few rounds and didn’t have that experience in a proper fight under the lights. It’s a massive difference. Beating Chris Eubank in 1997 after all those years of hard work and finally realizing I had done it.

via Boxing Exposure on YouTube:

“Somebody came up to me after that 12-round war with Eubank and said, ‘Joe, you won the world title; it’s going to be a lot harder keeping it.’ I thought, ‘I hope not!’ (laughs)

“I didn’t do anything [after the fight]. I spent two or three days where I couldn’t hardly move. I had lactic acid; everything hurt. What I did the week after was the WBO convention in L.A., so I went with Naz (Naseem Hamed), Ryan Rhodes and a few other fighters. That’s when I got my WBO belt – great experience.”

Result: Calzaghe UD 12


March 4, 2006, M.E.N Arena, Manchester, England • Titles: vacant Ring and IBF/WBO super middleweight

“I was touted to fight former Olympian Jeff ‘Left Hook’ Lacy, who was thought of as the next Mike Tyson. The fight fell through, and I remember his promoter, Gary Shaw, mouthing off more than him. The fight is made with Jeff Lacy, finally getting the opportunity to fight for not just his IBF title but Ring Magazine title, which was important. 

“About two weeks before the fight, I got injured; I hurt my hand again. I went to Harley Street in London, I’m coming back on the train, and I [called my dad and] said, ‘Dad, I can’t fight this fight.’ He said, ‘What you talking about?’ He said, ‘You need to fight this fight.’ I went, ‘I’ve got a bad hand.’ I got off [the train] and I met him at the gym. My dad knew my style more than anybody’s in the world. He knew which opponents worked for me and which opponents didn’t work for me. [Dad] knew how fit I was, I was in tremendous condition, even with my bad hand, I still ran and was in tremendous shape. I still remember we were at the gym and we were on our own; he said, ‘Listen Joe, you need to fight this fight. No matter what, I’m proud of you.’ The fact he said, ‘No matter what, I’m proud of you,’ that must have hit something inside me. I can’t put my finger on it, but a weight lifted off my back. 

“Ninety percent [of people] said I was going to lose or get knocked out. Boxing News, American magazines, journalists I’d known for years. I’d got quite offended. My dad said – and what he said was exactly right – ‘This fight is going to make you. From the first bell to the last round, if he goes 12 rounds, you can beat him with one hand.’ He said, ‘He moves five times and throws one punch. You throw five punches, move once.’ He said, ‘This fight is going to make you a superstar.’ I looked at my dad and I believed I was going to win, but I wasn’t as optimistic I would beat the guy in the style I beat him. 

“I had nerves about my arm, but the morning I went up to Manchester it was snowing, it was great. I was happy. We went by train. I was playing cards with my uncle, who was my bucket man. My dad was getting worried I was too relaxed. Lacy looked nervous. At the press workout, everyone said, ‘Joe, you look so relaxed.’ I felt great. I knew the hard work had been done. I knew it was my time. They said Lacy looked intense. He thought he was coming over to beat an aging champion. I was willing to die in the ring that night. 

via Ade Eager on YouTube:

“Everything I had achieved in boxing was on that one night. Lacy wasn’t the best opponent I fought, but you have to remember everyone said I was going to get knocked out that night and I made him look the way I made him. It was probably my most satisfying win because of the situation going into the fight. 

“I’d been in a few fights on Showtime, but Showtime had invested in Jeff Lacy, not me. After that fight, they invested in me. My attitude was ‘They’re coming for him, but they’re leaving with me.’ I was just about to turn 34; I was at my peak at that time. Fifteen years after the Lacy fight, people message me and say ‘I’ve just seen the Lacy fight. Wow.’ That’s when you’ve done something. That’s legacy, when people still remember like it was yesterday. That’s what I stood for and me and my father stood for. 

“[Lacy] was gone after that fight. I saw him about five years ago and he was doing [commentary for] a fight in Bristol, England. He’d fallen and he told me how he went into manic depression after that, finished with his missus. It really hurt him, but that could have been me. One fight can change everything in your life. It’s not just a loss; it’s so much more than a loss. With boxing, you’re on your own. You’ve got no one else to blame but yourself [if] you look for excuses afterwards. “

Result: Calzaghe UD 12


November 3, 2007, Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales, U.K. • Titles: Ring, WBA, WBC and WBO super middleweight

“I had a few defenses, and I remember speaking to Frank Warren – I was in Dubai, actually, and we were looking for opponents – and said, ‘Frank, I don’t care about them opponents, all I want to do, like I told you after the Lacy fight, is fight the best. And the best is Mikkel Kessler.’ Me and Mikkel Kessler were head-and-shoulders above anybody else. He had two belts, undefeated in 39 fights – very dangerous fighter. 

via Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions on YouTube:

“At this stage of my career, I needed the fear factor. I needed to train with the thought [that] if I wasn’t at my best, I could lose. If you look at my career, the most dangerous fighters, I performed the best against, because that got me to a whole new level in training and mentality. I’m glad the fight was in Cardiff, not Copenhagen, but I did say, ‘I need that fight. This is all I worked for. I need all the belts.’ 

“There was no bad blood. The guy was an animal; he could fight – big super middleweight who is undefeated. When I looked into his eyes, it was a mirror of a younger version of me. I could see it in his eyes. Eyes don’t lie. I remember [stablemates] Bradley Pryce, Gavin Rees, we all boxed on the bill; they were worried because we did the head-to-head, the big stare-off, and I looked at the size of him … and I’m a big super middleweight, but he’s big! I looked at his legs and thought, ‘My legs are bigger than his!’ (laughs) You’ve got to find any advantage. 

“There was big pressure. Kessler was probably the best fighter I fought at that stage. In that fight, it was a late one for the American TV. There was 50,000, great atmosphere, like a football atmosphere. I remember going into the ring being quite aggressive, which to be honest, my aggression found me, out in my last few fights. Because when I was aggressive against Mikkel, the first couple of rounds were close. The fourth was a bad round; he hit me with two big uppercuts when I was coming in and they buzzed me for a split second, but I had a good chin. I remember going back [to the corner], and this is where dad comes in and tells me what’s what. (laughs) ‘You’ll never be able to show your face in Cardiff again! What are you doing? You’re getting your arse kicked!’ (laughs) 

“It’s all about adapting. After the fourth round, I started boxing him. I don’t want to get hit with them uppercuts again. I started using my boxing skills, my jab. I hurt him with a body shot in the eighth and he started grabbing on. After that, I was happy; I felt in control. There was no other fighter to beat at super middleweight at that stage.”

Result: Calzaghe UD 12                                                                     


April 19, 2008, Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas • Titles: Ring light heavyweight

“I remember speaking to dad and said, ‘What’s left?’ It’s not about money; it’s legacy. You don’t fight for money. It’s great, but you don’t fight for money and fame; you fight for legacy. To me, it was going to America. Two weeks after the Kessler fight, Ricky Hatton was boxing [Floyd] Mayweather [Jr.]. It was a great weekend. The next morning, my dad got Trainer of the Year Sports Personality, and I got British Sports Personality. 

“So, I remember speaking to Frank Warren and he said, ‘I’m not sure the fight [with Bernard Hopkins] can be made.’ He mentioned Clinton Woods – and no disrespect to Clinton Woods, but I wanted to fight the number one in America. It was important for me to be known as one of the greats to fight in the States and win against their best fighter. Hopkins was the Ring Magazine champion and top 5 pound-for-pound – a tough fighter. I thought, ‘I’m going to go out there and try to bump into him.’ 

“I went out to Las Vegas and spoke to Coco [Cocoves], who worked for HBO, and said, ‘Is Hopkins about?’ He came into the press room, and that’s when he made that quote: ‘I’ll never let a white boy beat me.’ When he said it, people said [to me], ‘Were you upset or offended?’ I said, ‘No.’ I was just thinking, ‘Fucking brilliant.’ Because at the time, there’s no social media like there is now, but that was posted on YouTube and it shows the power of social media. Them words went out and the fight was made. I spoke to Frank and said, ‘The fight’s done.’ He said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘Check YouTube out.’ 

(Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images)

“That fight with Hopkins was more than double [the purse] for any previous fight. I think I owe a lot to Hopkins for making them remarks. I have seen him since and we have the utmost respect for each other. The guy’s a legend; he’ll go down as a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest middleweights there’s ever been. As time goes on, that win over Hopkins will be appreciated more. He won world titles at 50, great wins over Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik, who at the time was touted as one of my opponents.

“We weren’t in [downtown Las Vegas], we stayed about 20 minutes from The Strip. I didn’t want to be on The Strip. … I only came to The Strip for the press conference, the weigh-in and the fight, and I went back. I wanted to be in that environment. Planet Hollywood hosted it, but the fight was at the Thomas & Mack Center. Sly Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger [were there]; it was crazy. I remember one of my favorite actors ever, Al Pacino, was at Planet Hollywood because he released a film, I think it was 88 Minutes. I remember chatting with Al Pacino and I was quite starstruck then. I had a photo; that was good. 

“Come fight night. I remember when I got dropped in the first round. I found out afterwards this woman who was [sitting] right behind my boy said, ‘Your dad’s going to be OK,’ and he didn’t even realize it was Whitney Houston. The names that were there were ridiculous. To be in Las Vegas and see your name up in lights, it was incredible. I had so many fans come out, thousands at the weigh-in calling my name. 

“It was a frustrating fight. Hopkins had the style to potentially beat me. He knows he couldn’t outfight me; he couldn’t outpunch me; he couldn’t outwork me. But he’s a very intelligent fighter with regards to what he could do to spoil me, and that’s what he did. He didn’t come forward; he led with his right hand and head and cleaned me up in the clinch. I rushed him straight, and boom! He caught me with a right hand, mainly off-balance. He caught me, but if I had my balance, I wouldn’t have gone down. He caught me square. When I got up, I wasn’t hurt at all. I thought, ‘I can’t believe that’s a two-point round.’ 

via DAZN Boxing on YouTube:

“I wanted to fight and he wouldn’t let me box. I was lucky I had Joe Cortez, who was a fair referee, and he could see. I did find after six rounds I was getting control of the fight … I was fresh after 12 rounds. It was a messy fight; it’s not one of them fights you watch back. I won a split decision. I’ve watched it a few times and believe I won the fight. Sometimes you’ve got to win ugly, and nobody wins pretty against Hopkins. Afterwards, Tom Jones and Catherine Zeta-Jones (both Welsh) came up to say hello.

“I did celebrate in Vegas. We had a villa with my kids, my uncle, who’s a great chef. We had our own pool. We had it quite laid back. We just cooked a barbecue.”

Result: Calzaghe SD 12


November 8, 2008, Madison Square Garden, New York • Titles: Ring light heavyweight

“There was always the temptation of getting to 50-0. You always had that carrot of getting to 50-0, but to me, I only wanted one more fight. The injuries were starting to get worse. My hand was getting worse. At 36, everything was getting harder. I’d done everything. I ruled the super middleweight division for over 10 years. I’ve beat Mikkel Kessler. I’d beaten Hopkins. It meant so much to me to retire undefeated. It’s very rarely done. 

“I know what people say, but Roy Jones wasn’t shot at that time. He wasn’t the fighter he was, but was I the fighter I was? I was no spring chicken. So, it came to Roy Jones Jr. I spoke to Roy and we could have fought at the Millennium Stadium, but I always wanted to fight at Madison Square Garden, the mecca of boxing. To me, making the fight with Roy was easy. 

(Photo by Don Emmert/AFP-Getty)

“I remember going to Madison Square Garden when they were putting up the ring and having this feeling, being emotional, saying to myself, ‘Joe, this is it.’ Reflecting on [my] life. I’d been boxing since I was small at smoky working men’s clubs, little leisure centers when [I was] 10 years old. Even as a pro, I boxed in a leisure center in my second fight. And then all of a sudden I’m in Madison Square Garden headlining the bill – wow! It doesn’t get any better than this. I was emotional in the build-up to the fight. 

“Come fight night, I was pretty relaxed. I was in good shape. I had injuries going into the fight. I had injuries going into the Kessler fight, injuries going into the Hopkins fight. Again, I got caught with something I didn’t see – the forearm. That probably hurt me a bit more than the other one [against Hopkins]. I’ve been down four times in 27 years of boxing – never been down in the gym sparring, amateurs, and twice in my last two fights. You start thinking, ‘Is that coincidence?’ Was God trying to tell me something? I know I shouldn’t have charged him. If you skip the first round in both fights, it would have all been great. 

via Classic Boxing Matches on YouTube:

“The rest of the fight with Roy, I was enjoying the fight. I didn’t want to disrespect Roy. I dropped my hands – not to be cocky; I did that when I was a young kid. I was counting down the rounds in the fight. There was nothing about stopping Roy, even when he was cut. I looked to enjoy myself and take it all in. I remember it was Round 10, thinking this is it, enjoy it. The first round adds to the drama. Me and dad, we conquered the world. I knew before that fight it was the end and nothing would tempt me to fight on. I’d already made that decision. I’d started to lose my hunger. We’re not machines. I always trained like a challenger, and that’s what I always stood by.”

Result: Calzaghe UD 12


Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].