Boxing: Calzaghe charged up to win place in history

In the city of Manchester, they are getting ready for a fight. And the gamblers, for once, think they are on to a winner.

During the past six months, the on-off meeting between the unbeaten Joe Calzaghe and the American idol, Jeff Lacy, has dominated speculation whenever boxing people have gathered. The fight was made secure shortly before Christmas and Lacy, who is also unbeaten, was made a firm, firm favourite.

However, Calzaghe has not lost a professional fight in 40 appearances and tonight will be his 18th defence of his World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight title, which he won back in 1997, but it will be a fight that firmly establishes Calzaghe's modern credentials.

Lacyholds the International Boxing Federation and International Boxing Organisation titles at super-middleweight and his plans clearly include major fights after tonight's easy win.

Back in 1995, the American Gerald McClellan was beaten by Nigel Benn in what was a tremendous boxing shock, but, for some reason, Calzaghe, who has shown none of the vulnerability that Benn had already displayed before his fateful fight, is considered a rank outsider.

"It suits me but it surprises me that so few people, both in the business and outside the business, think that Lacy is the favourite," said Calzaghe, whose mood in recent days suggests an added, far angrier edge to his usual, low-key preparation.

Lacy, it has to be said, has built his fantastically hyped reputation on a series of wins in fights he really had no chance of losing. Lacy is not the first and he will not be the last fighter to have a record that falls far short of his own interpretation of it because that is, after all, the way of the boxing world.

Lacy's best wins have been against men that Calzaghe also met and beat. Calzaghe narrowly out-pointed Runcorn's Robin Reid back in 1999 and Lacy was able to overpower - and, believe me, that is the only way to describe the fight - Reid in eight easy rounds last summer.

The other mutual opponent is a guy called Omar Sheika and, in 2000, Calzaghe stopped Sheika in five rounds, winning every round and looking quite brilliant on the night. But in 2004, Sheika, who was well past his sell-by date, managed to drop Lacy and lose on points over 12 rounds.

Not surprisingly, Calzaghe and his enigmatic father, Enzo, have pointed their fingers confidently at the Sheika-Lacy fight as a better form guide than the rather gung-ho bookies and punters.

Anyway, tonight, or, rather, tomorrow morning at 2.15, Calzaghe and Lacy will meet in a partial unification of the super-middleweight titles and in a fight that is quite literally one of the best to take place in a British ring for generations. The sensible money, not that there is a lot of that in the boxing business, is on a Calzaghe points win.

Lacy has not shown anything in his previous 22 fights to suggest that he is mature enough, accurate enough or has enough skills to control Calzaghe for 12 rounds.

Calzaghe has been on the canvas twice in his professional and amateur career and both times picked himself up and looked far more dangerous after the brief knockdown.

Tonight, it is possible he will have to do the same again but he will be on his feet at the final bell and he will have done enough to keep his title, add those of Lacy and leave the venue at dawn with his name in the special section of the British boxing history book.

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