Boxing: Calzaghe an ordinary Joe, crows Lacy

American taunts Calzaghe as just an over-the-hill 'slapper'
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It is an appetite-whetting match-up, with Calzaghe's eight-year-old World Boxing Organisation super-middle-weight belt and Lacy's recently acquired International Boxing Federation version on the line. Both are undefeated, and big fights seldom come with such anticipation.

So how does Calzaghe feel about being labelled an unhappy slapper? "Look at my record. I've stopped 31 of 40 opponents. Does that suggest I can't punch? I can guarantee he won't be saying that after the fight."

The fact that Lacy is saying it before the bout is, of course, simply to wind up the Welshman. That has always been the name of the fight game, but Calzaghe is not biting. "Lacy's talking big but it will just be me and him on the night, so let's see how brave he gets then. A lot of American fighters challenging for my title have come over here shooting their mouth off but they have come off second best, and Lacy will be no different. I'm ready for this toe-to-toe fight that he wants, only I will be sharper, faster and more powerful."

Fighting talk is cheap. Moreover it sells tickets, which is why some 15,000 seats will be filled for an ITV-screened contest that takes place in the early hours of next Sunday morning for the benefit of American television.

Calzaghe reckons it is "a pain in the arse" to have to cross fists with Lacy at a time he would normally be slumbering. But their meeting should be explosive enough to keep ringside fans and viewers wide awake.

There are intriguing echoes of the last major affray staged at this arena, when Ricky Hatton added the Australian Kostya Tszyu's world light-welterweight title to his own. Calzaghe is hoping to reproduce the atmosphere and result of that memorable night, but there is a vital difference. Then, Tszyu came here as an ageing champion looking for a payday and a last hurrah. Lacy is the younger man, with the sort of hunger that spurred Hatton into devouring Tszyu.

Calzaghe, 33, has defended his WBO title 17 times, but of late seems to have lost the snap in his southpaw punches, troubled by recurrent injuries and domestic strife.

The American will start favourite. "Left-hook Lacy" they call him, because that is the punch that has stunned or sent to sleep 17 of his 22 opponents, the last being the highly rated Scott Pemberton. He also impressively accounted for another Briton, Robin Reid.

Lacy is 21-0 since turning pro in 2001 and has been labelled a "mini Mike Tyson" by his promoter, Gary Shaw. He is no stranger to Britain, having fought here as an amateur for the US and on the undercard in Cardiff four years ago, winning in a round, when Calzaghe topped the bill. His is an archetypal boxing background, taking refuge in the sport from a prospective life of crime that put his brothers in jail in St Petersburg, Florida, while he was boxing in the Sydney Olympics. The one certainty is that he would not be here if he was not super-confident of winning.

Calzaghe may be twice as experienced, but the two knockdowns in an otherwise unblemished career, against Byron Mitchell and Karbary Salem, suggest he may be vulnerable to Lacy's fabled left.

"This fight gives me goose bumps every time I think about it," says Lacy. "It is a great match-up because of our styles.On paper, it doesn't go the distance." If it does, and he loses, it really will be a slap in the face.