IT WAS past three o’clock in the morning when Joe Calzaghe experienced the sweetest validation of his professional life. Victory over Jeff Lacy, a 28-year-old American compared to a young Mike Tyson because of his power and “take-no-prisoners attitude”, left no one in doubt about the world super middleweight champion’s talent.
For years, Calzaghe’s virtuosity remained a legend of the Welsh valleys. His defeat in 1997 of Chris Eubank brought him to prominence, winning for him the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) super middleweight title. But despite a record number of defences of the belt, his career lacked a defining contest. A long line of challengers and ex-titleholders were disposed of but the biggest names in American boxing avoided the ultimate showdown he craved. Hand injuries further obscured the true level of his aptitude for an art he began to learn from his father, Enzo, at the age of eight when – inspired by Sugar Ray Leonard – a rolled-up carpet in the family home in Newbridge became a makeshift heavy bag.
This is the story of Calzaghe’s extraordinary life, from his humble beginnings in his hometown of Newbridge, to his ascent to personal greatness, becoming the first super middleweight boxer to win the prized belt awarded by The Ring, the bible of boxing, in the division’s near 20-year history.
One of Britain’s foremost sporting champions, a warrior and working-class hero, this is the story of the triumphs and trials that made Calzaghe a legend.
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