Calzaghe in a league of his own

The Danish pasting: One-way traffic as Welshman bids to open the door to his American dream
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The Independent Online

It took Joe Calzaghe slightly longer than expected to persuade the referee Rudy Battle to intervene and rescue Will McIntyre here last night.

Calzaghe retained his World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight title for the ninth time when Battle finally saw sense and saved McIntyre as he stumbled dazed and hurt to the canvas in round four. It should have ended in the previous round.

The fight never looked like being exciting because Calzaghe was far too good. During the three completed rounds and the 35 seconds of round four the Welshman was able to land at will and it is doubtful if he took a single punch.

McIntyre entered the ring with a justifiable reputation for durability but he has compiled his record in the backwaters of American boxing, and within 10 seconds his limitations were exposed. The crowd of 21,000 inside the Parken Stadium barely raised a titter throughout but applauded politely when Battle moved in to end the one-sided and meaningless massacre.

In the opening round Calzaghe looked likely to finish the fight when he caught the brave American with 30 or even 40 punches without reply. The punishment continued in round two and there was a case for the fight being terminated at the end of that round when McIntyre wandered back to his corner. "I could see that I was hurting him from the very first round,'' Calzaghe said.

In the third round McIntyre was caught so often that many of the ringside guests were calling out for the referee to intervene. Seconds before the bell ended the round McIntyre stumbled into the ropes and Calzaghe stepped back to call in the referee to stop it. The referee refused.

"It should have been over then but I'm a professional and I knew I would have to come out and finish the job,'' said Calzaghe, who had a look of concern on his face at the start of the fourth round.

The fight was screened in the United States last night on Showtime as the final part of Calzaghe's build-up to his inevitable and long overdue American debut.

The plan for Calzaghe is to box in America early next year and his promoter Frank Warren will attempt, probably in vain, to entice one of the other three recognised world champions into agreeing terms for a unification fight.

"People think that it is simple to get the other champions and the leading contenders into the ring but that is not the case,'' Warren said last night. "The leading contenders want lots of money and the world champions simply don't want to know about Joe and it has been that way for a long time.''

If and when Calzaghe does fight in America he will not necessarily have to take part in a unification fight because his credibility as an undefeated champion with 32 fights, including 27 stoppages, makes him one of the sport's top practitioners.

Calzaghe has spent the last four years trying to get where he believes he deserves to be. He beat Chris Eubank to win the vacant WBO title in October 1997 and his plans included his American debut.

However, Calzaghe defended his title in Cardiff in front of small crowds and against an initial list of opponents who failed to extend him or excite the public.

"After Eubank I was supposed to go big time in America and all sorts of other things were planned,'' Calzaghe said. '"I know that McIntyre is the last fight before I make my American debut and it is not before time.''

During the same period Calzaghe has watched as Naseem Hamed and Lennox Lewis, two other British world champions, featured in high-profile fights in America while he was on undercards or fighting in front of just a few thousand people. It should all change now.

Once again before the fight, Calzaghe was more concerned with succeeding on the scales. His struggle with weight reduction has per-suaded him that this will be his last 12 months at super-middleweight before a move to light-heavyweight.

"I've been a super-middleweight for nearly 10 years and it is not getting any easier,'' he said. "Before the fight I kept seeing McIntyre in the restaurant at the hotel. One night, I swear, he was eating two steaks and it was really starting to get to me.''

As McIntyre left the ring Calzaghe was delayed by Showtime and Sky for his interview. There is something repetitive about his fights but as he has said so often, he does get them out of there.

Last night's opponent was not the best but he was in good shape and his record suggested durability. In the end, Calzaghe's fifth ruined him. In boxing that is all that one can expect. Everybody knew Calzaghe would win. Now it remains to be seen if he can capture the American public's imagination.