Best of British – Joe Calzaghe
Never before has a British fighter divided opinion as much as Joseph William Calzaghe. His perfect record of 46-0 is constantly being shredded by his detractors. The lack of big names on his resume works against him, as do his 2 belated victories on foreign soil. His many, many accomplishments are often minimalised and criticised, especially by those on the other side of the pond.
Let me begin by saying this piece is unashamedly biased in favour of ‘Super’ Joe. He was (and still remains) one of my all-time favourite fighters. All statistics aside he was quite simply superb in his prime. His phenomenal hand-speed complimented his flashy behaviour in the ring and often left opponents bamboozled as well as badly beaten. There was an aura around him that obviously comes from such a lengthy undefeated run.
Yes, that record remained intact partly due to his apparent reluctance to travel, however why was he the one who had to? He was THE man in his division so the other champs and contenders should have been clamouring to face him. Despite his “stay at home” reputation he still managed to face Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler and Chris Eubank. My personal favourite, aside from him fighting in Newcastle, was the Lacy bout. This made the world stand up and pay attention. The hype beforehand, the cocky attitude of the American and the almost concrete belief that Calzaghe was going to be stopped all contributed to the greatness witnessed on that night almost 10 years ago. “Left Hook” was deemed unstoppable by many but we all know what happened on November 5th 2005. In a bout that took place at around 2:00am to incorporate US audiences, those who stayed up late in Manchester were rewarded with a one-sided world class performance.
A similarly impressive performance over a previous undefeated Mikkel Kessler followed, along with (eventual) wins over Hall of Famers Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones. He has since said that he has no regrets and if you look at his record in black and white he achieved it all. While he could have fought abroad more often he proved that it was possible to dominate without headlining in Vegas for every fight.
Now for (some of) the stats. At one point in his career he held, deep breath, the WBA, WBO, IBF, WBC and The Ring titles at Super-Middleweight and never lost any of those in the ring. The very definition of a unified champion. In his later years he of course went on to win the Ring title at Light-Heavyweight as well after a record 21 successful world title defences. A record that still stands to this day. During this reign he was ranked as highly as Pound for Pound #3 by the Ring magazine as well as many other organisations.
A truly Great Briton and a great way to begin our ‘Best of British’ feature.