Boxing: Calzaghe simply the best

Magic moments that made 2003 memorable
  • @bigdaddybunce

International Arena, Cardiff Saturday, 28 June

Simple choice in a great year for British boxing. Cardiff, June, the night Joe Calzaghe retained his World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight title for the 13th time when he stopped America's Byron Mitchell after 2min 36sec of round two.

More than 5,000 spectators packed the International Arena for the most difficult fight of Calzaghe's six-year reign. Mitchell had lost his World Boxing Association title by split decision to Germany's dull but brilliant Sven Ottke four months earlier. He had never been stopped in 28 fights and was a year younger than Calzaghe. It was a 50-50 fight.

In the first round, Mitchell caught Calzaghe several times with a sharp right and the Welshman's face was red at the bell. It was a tense three minutes and before the start of the second round, Calzaghe allowed himself a little nod to his wife, Mandy, at ringside. Nobody in the crowd had sat down.

Ding, ding round two. Mitchell timed a Calzaghe lunge to perfection and then connected with a superb right cross and Calzaghe went down like syrup dropping from a spoon. It was the first time in 35 professional fights and more than 120 amateur contests that Calzaghe had been knocked down. For a second he did not move; then the crowd started to lift him and he stumbled up. I saw his eyes as he rose and they were wild and wide. He was gone, the fight was over and I expected the ref to stop it.

He stood to attention as the ref looked at him and his eyes suddenly cleared. It was amazing, but Mitchell had missed the change and was in the neutral corner grinning at the men in his corner. The ref said "Box on" and the pair met in the centre of the ring. Ten seconds later, Mitchell was sent face first to the canvas from a short left.

Mitchell regained his feet but was groggy, and Calzaghe unleashed 30 unanswered punches. As Mitchell tumbled to the ropes, the ref was left with no alternative but to end the fight. The most amazing round of the year was over and Calzaghe was still the champion.