Boxing: Brighter side of strife for Calzaghe

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The Independent Online

Joe Calzaghe acknowledges that for him the past year has been one of trouble and strife. The fact that the phrase happens to be rhyming slang for wife is apposite. The breakdown of his marriage also came close to precipitating the breakdown of a career that has lasted 15 years and involved 38 unbeaten fights, 15 of them at world-title level.

Joe Calzaghe acknowledges that for him the past year has been one of trouble and strife. The fact that the phrase happens to be rhyming slang for wife is apposite. The breakdown of his marriage also came close to precipitating the breakdown of a career that has lasted 15 years and involved 38 unbeaten fights, 15 of them at world-title level.

The 33-year-old Welsh southpaw may be, along with Ricky Hatton, Britain's most prolific world champion, but he has been enduring a battle outside the ring that has been as bruising as anything he has encountered inside it. This is culminating in a divorce that is hitting him where it hurts most - in the pocket.

"The upsetting thing is when you've worked all your life for everything you've ever had they try to rip you off," he says. "That's what pisses me off. I'm no fifty grand-a-week footballer. I risk my life in the ring. Every fight could be my last. If I was to give her half my future earnings, with the taxman virtually taking the other half, I'd be fighting for nothing."

As it happens, Calzaghe, who has boxed only three times in the past two years, pulling out of recent engagements with back and hand injuries, won't be fighting for nothing on Saturday. He gets £736,000 for making a mandatory defence of his World Boxing Organisation super- middleweight title against Mario Veit in the 6ft 4in German's backyard of Braunschweig. He is more likely to keep the title than the cash, having knocked out Veit in under two minutes four years ago.

However, there may be more trouble and strife for him, as the German has improved since that sole defeat while Calzaghe looked embar-rassingly ragged in his last outing. Moreover, his manager, Frank Warren, has protested at the presence of a German judge in a country notorious for home-town decisions.

With a new love in his life Calzaghe hopes he can give a more settled performance and go on to meet the winner of the International Boxing Federation title fight between Jeff Lacy and Robin Reid. "I've still got the hunger," he says. "Boxing is all I've ever done, all I've ever wanted to do."

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