Friday, August 15, 2008

Joe Calzaghe Has Done 'It' All

Serious training will begin first thing Monday morning in the ramshackle Newbridge, Wales gym where raindrops drip through holes in the tin roof.

Joe Calzaghe can afford better, but he likes it there.

And besides, it might be the the final time that Joe Calzaghe goes into heavy training inside the crooked walls of the only gym he has ever known and with the only trainer he has ever had - his father Enzo.

On November 8th at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Calzaghe will take on Roy Jones, Jr. in a fight that 'The Pride of Wales" says might be the last time he will ever lace up a pair of boxing gloves and hit another man for money.

"Well, at the moment, I'm definitely going to retire," said Calzaghe on Thursday from Cardiff, Wales. "As long as I win the fight and as long as I win the fight in a style I like, it will be my last fight."

Calzaghe is a sure-fire first ballot Hall of Famer and he has been stellar in an undefeated professional career that has seen him as a world titlist for eleven straight years while running his record to 45-0 (32)KO.

It came as somewhat of a surprise then, when he cavalierly proclaimed that Roy Jones, Jr. will be his last fight, especially in light of the fact that several big fights are looming on the horizon should he make it by Jones. But Calzaghe explained, that as far as boxing is concerned, there are no more mountains left for him to climb.

"I believe I've achieved everything in boxing. I'm 36 years old now," said the still youthful Calzaghe. "I don't want to keep fighting. I've got other things in life. I've got two beautiful kids and as you get older, other things become more important."

Certainly there is sons Joseph, Jr. and Conner that Calzaghe can spend his time doting on. Then there is his beautiful Playboy-like, girlfriend Jo-Emma Larvin, who Calzaghe credits with helping him keep his head on straight after his messy 2005 divorce. Besides, Calzaghe still lives where has always lived and despite his enormous wealth and fame he is a man of the people who will be content when it comes time to leave the fighting to others.

Calzaghe was in a celebratory mood after he bested Hopkins in Las Vegas. He is pictured here with sons (from left) Joe, Jr. and Conner as well as girlfriend Jo-Emma.

"I love boxing, I love what the sport has given me, but at the end of the day I want to retire undefeated," says Calzaghe of his final boxing goal. "You know, Rocky Marciano, only a few fighters have done that. That's more important to me than anything. There's not much more to prove."

Aside from going out unbeaten, there is one more little thing that Calzaghe is looking forward to proving. After having conquered Europe, he now wants to conquer America. Calzaghe wants to see his name in lights on the the most storied marquees in the most famous cities and venues that the sport of boxing has to offer.

"Madison Square Garden is like the Mecca of boxing. All of the great names have boxed there," says Calzaghe about the thought of fighting Jones inside what is known as 'The World's Most Famous Arena'.

"The one thing I'm missing from my career, really, is a fight in New York at Madison Square Garden," he declares. "Obviously I've done the Millennium Stadium, it's great to fight in front of your home fans, Mikkel Kessler, you know 50,000. Then obviously Las Vegas, you know I've done the Vegas thing. Now a great way to finish off is the fight in Madison Square Garden against Roy Jones, who I think is one of the greatest fighters of the last 25 years. So many big names have boxed there, you know - Ali, Frazier. So many lists. What a fairy tale way to finish off."

Listening to all of the talk about retirement was, of course, Joe's father Enzo who has trained his son since he first walked into a boxing gym. The wiry and fiery Enzo has never seen a camera or a microphone that he didn't like and he looks like a cross between comedian George Carlin and Zorro. Enzo wears a pencil thin moustache and he doesn't necessarily think that his son has to (or needs to) retire after facing Jones in November.

While enjoying a bottle of Heineken, Enzo Calzaghe gets close to fellow country woman, actress Catherine Zeta Jones.

"He should retire - IF - according to the last fight he didn't perform the way he can perform," says Enzo, who always speaks with a delivery that is emphatic and convincing.

"So, first it doesn't matter if it's Joe Calzaghe or anybody else," Enzo continues. "If they performed bad in their last fight they've got to analyze and say, 'Should I carry on?' It's not a game. So let's look at it this way here: If Joe performs the way he has always performed, I cannot see him retiring. It's about the level of the last fight that makes him decide whether he should quit or not."

Many within the boxing industry were disappointed that Calzaghe opted to pursue a bout with the faded Jones, who is several years removed from his best days. Many fans thirsted for a fight with world middleweight champion and fellow undefeated sensation Kelly Pavlik from Youngstown, Ohio.

But Calzaghe did not apologize on Thursday for what was ultimately his decision to face Jones.

"He's a tremendous fighter, all he's achieved" said Calzaghe in defense of Jones.

"He's a four-weight world champion, done what's never been done, incredible. But obviously he had a couple of defeats against Tarver and against Glen Johnson. He was wrote off, but as all great fighters do, he's come back and he's surprised a lot of people including myself. I cannot underestimate him. I have to make sure that I'm one hundred percent at my best because I'd never forgive myself if I go in there and lose my last fight after being undefeated for 17 years."

Calzaghe and Sylvester Stallone a.k.a. 'Rocky Balboa' ham it up for the camera.

As the end nears, it's useful to look back on Joe Calzaghe's career and peruse his record. It is astounding the names he has beaten and the titles and title defenses he has accumulated. While Calzaghe fought for the majority of his career away from the lens of the magnifying glass that is U.S. boxing coverage - his accomplishments will withstand the test of all-time.

"Eleven years as world champion, I've unified the titles, all the belts. I've become The Ring Champion at Super Middle and Light Heavyweight and made all of the goals I want to achieve in boxing," says a proud Calzaghe. "This is it."

And for Joe Calzaghe, if this really is "it" - what an 'it' it has been.

August 2008

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