An email conversation with World Champion Boxer Joe Calzaghe: 'I'm scared of losing, not of getting in the ring. It's my job'
Preparing to meet Mikkel Kessler; Boxing clever against school bullies; The lure of Madison Square Garden
Monday 29 October 2007
Mikkel Kessler is unbeaten and a double world champion – is he the most dangerous fighter that you have ever met? He is potentially the best. Before the [Jeff] Lacy fight people kept telling me that he was this and he was that, but I knew it would be an easy night. I think that Kessler is a lot better than Lacy. But I don't think that he has been where I've been. Many years ago Chris Eubank told me that he was going to take me into "the trenches". I laughed at him. When I got out of the ring that night against Eubank [October 1997] I could barely walk and talk. I found out what he had been on about the hard way! I don't think that Kessler has ever been there.
What did you do with the first money that you made as a professional boxer? I never really made much at the start. It was a bit of disaster, to be honest, but when I did get some money together I bought a burgundy Ford Sierra GL two-litre. I couldn't afford the insurance and I don't think that I even had a licence. But I was a triple ABA champion and unbeaten as a professional and it looked great outside the house!
A lot of boxers like to trash-talk and get a bit nasty with their opponents in the build-up to fights. But you seem to always be respectful. I'm respectful now, but I was a big trash-talker a few years ago. The trouble was I wasn't very good at it! Naz [Hamed] was around and he was brilliant at it. I saw him doing it and I tried it, but it was rubbish. I was dry and not as funny. It just wasn't my thing.
Is it true that you were bullied at school? I was boxing from an early age, but I was small and there were a few incidents when I was at school. It was a hard time in my life, but I know now that it made me a stronger person. I started to get a lot bigger at about 15 and it stopped. I'm not a nasty person so I never went looking for revenge – that would make me the bully and that's not my style. Boxers are not bullies. They do all their fighting in the ring and when it's over they can sit down and talk to each other. Boxers don't have anything to prove on the street or in the playground.
What annoys you? There was a time when a lot of my critics in the press got to me. But now I'm cool about that and, to be honest, a lot changed when I beat Lacy last year. Now the stupid celebrities in the papers and magazines all the time really annoy me. There are famous for what? Nothing. Getting their tits out somewhere. It's rubbish and don't get me started on reality celebrities. They are shit.
Do fighters get scared before a fight? I'm scared of losing. I'm not scared of getting in the ring. It's my job and I think that boxing is a safe sport. If a fighter gets scared of getting in the ring, then he needs to change jobs and start making pizza for a living.
Injuries have caused you a lot of problems over the years. How is your damaged left hand at the moment? I'm sparring well. It's holding up well. My hands feel 100 percent at the moment. I stopped thinking and worrying about injuries a long, long time ago. I've hurt the hand a few times and I've still gone through 12 rounds with the hand hurting. But that is what a fighter has to do if he wants to stay consistent. I've been world champion for 10 years – in any 10-year period any normal person would have some time off work with illness or injury. I've had a few injuries and some fights were pulled. But for Kessler I'm set.
Before a fight you get notoriously moody. How do you relax and stay calm? I suppose I'm known as a bit of a miserable bastard before a fight. I have to make a lot of sacrifices. I have to change the way I live and watch everything that I eat to make the weight. I've been at this weight for a long time and it is getting harder and harder to maintain it. My bad mood is because I just want to get in the ring and get it over. But I've been more relaxed for this fight and I'm not driving as many people mad. My dad understands my moods perfectly – he's the one that gets all the stick, to be honest! I relax by being with close friends and doing nothing. I spend time with my sons and my girlfriend. At this stage before a fight I just want to get in the ring.
How long have you got left in the boxing? Twelve months tops. One or two fights and then I'm off. I'm not going to do what some fighters do and stay around for too long and risk damage. I admit that if I retire and there is suddenly a massive offer on the table then I will consider it, but it would have to be enormous. It's not about pride – it would have to be about money.
You have been trained by your dad, Enzo, for 25 years. Do you and your dad talk about boxing when you are away from the gym and the ring? No. He drives me crazy enough in the gym. He has made me who I am today. He is now getting the respect that he is long overdue. Back when I started and I was not getting a lot of money with the people I turned pro with, it was my dad that supported me. I know that he's proud of me and I'm proud of him. He's a better singer than me, but I'm a better fighter. And I've got to tell you that even when people were trying to split us up we never had a bad word. We are a team and that is how it has always been.
What about America? People have been on at me for years to travel and fight in America. I've always been ready to go but the fights have not fallen into place. I would love to fight at Madison Square Garden – I've had press conferences in New York and I like it there. You have to remember that my last fight attracted 35,000 and the Kessler fight could get over 60,000. I'm not short of a fan or two. Perhaps there is still a fight in America for me. I'm not holding my breath.
And when the boxing ends what are you going to do? Eat and drink and be about the same size as you, Buncey! I will probably help my dad out in the gym because he's got a lot of good fighters and there are a lot of young ones coming through. I'm sure that I will do some TV punditry and there is a talk of a bit of acting. I can't sing but I've always liked the idea of singing. There will be a lot of things for me to do. I'm not going to be bored.
Joe Calzaghe will be in conversation with Steve Bunce on 'Inside Sport' on BBC 1 at 11:35pm tonight.
* Name Joe Calzaghe
* Born Hammersmith, west London, 23 March 1972
* Lives Wales
* Father/trainer Enzo Calzaghe.
* Started boxing at age of nine
* As a teenager he entered the record books as the only British amateur boxer to hold three ABA titles at different weights.
* Career pro record 41 fights, 41 wins (32 wins by knockout)
* Began pro career at Cardiff Arms Park in 1993 on the under card of Frank Bruno.
* Moved to Frank Warren's Sports Network and within three fights had become the WBO super-middleweight world boxing champion.
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