Joe Calzaghe At 50: Five Of The Best From The Pride Of Wales

Joe Calzaghe's perfect 46-0 record gave us plenty of incredible moments to choose from
16:03, 23 Mar 2022

‘The Italian Dragon’ Joe Calzaghe turns 50 today. The former two-weight world champion left behind a perfect 46-0 record when he retired in 2008. Unlike a startling majority of his peers, Calzaghe has never felt the need to come back, knowing that he has nothing left to prove. Therefore we have a perfect 46 fight ledger to choose from when narrowing down the greatest nights in the career of the birthday boy. Here is The Sportsman’s pick for five of the best fights featuring ‘The Pride of Wales’.

Chris Eubank

A textbook passing of the torch, as the old stager who had helped define British boxing in the 1990s lost out to the man who would rule the sport in the 2000s. Eubank may have been coming to the end of his glorious career, but Calzaghe still cites this unanimous decision win as one of the toughest fights he ever had. 

It became clear the Sheffield crowd would witness something special when the iron-chinned Eubank was dropped in the opening seconds. As Calzaghe took the play away from ‘Simply The Best’ over twelve dominant rounds, few could have realised they were seeing the dawn of a WBO super middleweight title reign that would last for ten years.

Byron Mitchell

Great champions are judged not only on how they perform at their best, but by their ability to combat adversity. Former lineal and WBA super middleweight champion Byron Mitchell wrought no shortage of adversity when he knocked Joe down in the first round of their 2003 clash. 

After a lightning-fast start from both men, Mitchell became the first fighter to floor Calzaghe in a frantic second-round. The WBO champion rose from the canvas to TKO the American challenger in blistering scenes. The fighting heart of Calzaghe has perhaps never been more apparent.

Jeff Lacy

‘The Super Middleweight Mike Tyson’ they called him. Jeff Lacy was the IBF champion, and had made his fearsome reputation by pounding the likes of Robin Reid, Scott Pemberton, Omar Sheika and Syd Vanderpool into dust. American fans said Calzaghe was yesterday’s man, succumbing to age and injuries accrued over 17 world title defences. Journalists and pundits agreed, with Lacy being picked to destroy the Welshman by almost every scribe going.

Calzaghe had other ideas, entering into the most comprehensive performance ever seen on these shores. The fight was an absolute clinic in how a boxer can dismantle a puncher. The speed, the movement, the power, the spite. It wasn’t a boxing lesson, it was a boxing master’s degree. Lacy’s career would never recover, and the IBF belt would be the last world title he ever held. That title belonged to Joe Calzaghe now.

Mikkel Kessler

The final frontier for Calzaghe at the super middleweight limit, Mikkel Kessler represented a chance to add the WBC and WBA titles he had never won to his glittering resume. While not as overwhelming as the Lacy pre-fight talk, many thought Calzaghe would finally taste defeat here. The bout was seen as a torch-passing exercise in some quarters, but with Joe on the veteran’s side that Eubank had occupied a decade before.

It was one of the fiercest battles the Welshman ever fought. The magnificent Dane pushed him every step of the way, but Calzaghe threw over 1000 to outwork his decorated foe. A unanimous decision win saw Calzaghe land fourth on the list of most consecutive world title defences ever, with 21.

Bernard Hopkins

There were high stakes involved in Calzaghe’s US debut. The history-making chance to capture The Ring light heavyweight title went hand-in-hand with the personal dislike between Hopkins and Calzaghe. A taunt of “I would never let a white boy beat me.” from the man known as ‘The Executioner’ lit the touchpaper for this super-fight.

The decision was close, but Calzaghe once again out-worked an opponent to clinch a decision. Doing so against a tactical master like Hopkins was perhaps the most fitting epitaph possible to Calzaghe’s ring credentials. He would fight once more, against Roy Jones Jr, but this was the last time Joe won a true 50-50 fight in his career.

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