Calzaghe must fire this time

Alan Hubbard says the champion needs stirring show against Sheika
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The Independent Online

Mike Tyson is due before the beaks of the British Boxing Board of Control on Wednesday to explain his wayward conduct during his recent Glasgow fracas. The board have not heard from him and a no-show is anticipated, leaving them no option but to ban him until he puts in an appearance.

Mike Tyson is due before the beaks of the British Boxing Board of Control on Wednesday to explain his wayward conduct during his recent Glasgow fracas. The board have not heard from him and a no-show is anticipated, leaving them no option but to ban him until he puts in an appearance.

That is all academic, of course, but even when he is not causing mayhem in the ring Tyson seems to cast his murky shadow over a substantial portion of the boxing world these days. He will not be anywhere near the Wembley Conference Centre next Saturday night - much to promoter Frank Warren's relief - but you can be sure his name won't be far from everyone's lips at ringside, not least because the man challenging for Joe Calzaghe's World Boxing Organisation super-middleweight title has strong links to the ex-heavyweight champion.

Omar Sheika is managed by the 81-year-old Bill Cayton, who was once Tyson's mentor. Indeed, they say Tyson only went off the rails when he left Cayton and got in with the "wrong crowd". Sheika spent much time in the Tyson camp, where they shared the same trainer, Kevin Rooney, and though they have now split he remains associated with a former Tyson training aide, Steve Lott.

According to Cayton, the 23-year-old Sheika is, like Tyson, destined for "true greatness." He says: "Omar has the same potential but he's a different sort of guy. He listens to advice, unlike Mike, for whom I feel a great sense of sadness. He's as much a victim himself as those he's antagonised."

Cayton reckons Sheika will shake up Calzaghe and take the title that the 28-year-old son of a professional footballer from Sardinia acquired in a memorably blistering duel with Chris Eubank in October 1997. An encounter between a Welsh Italian and a Palestinian Arab from New Jersey, staged at the height of an English summer at Wembley may not have quite the same fascination that Tyson brings to the table, but the ever-sanguine promoter Warren anticipates a decent crowd.

It may have helped sell a few more tickets had Calzaghe remained accessible in his Hertfordshire training camp instead of returning to home comforts in Wales, and also had he been less injury-prone and rather more impressive in his last three engagements.

The unbeaten Calzaghe has been touted as the third man in the British boxing hierarchy behind Lennox Lewis and Naseem Hamed in terms of box-office appeal, but his move towards superstardom has spluttered. He and Sheika are finally meeting at the third attempt after Calzaghe twice pulled out with injuries.

Sheika claims to be sharper than he has ever been in a 21-fight career, and he will probably need to be. Like Calzaghe, he has been somewhat less than sensational of late, and a previous visit to Britain in 1998 saw him sustain his only loss, though a disputed one, to Tony Booth in Sheffield.

A fast-punching six-footer, he will have strong family support, with his six brothers at ringside. But he will be facing a champion who has been made aware by his promoter that his career is on the line.

This time Calzaghe, who is believed to be on a purse approaching £500,000, needs to do the business in order to demonstrate not only that is he worth the money, but also that he truly is one of boxing's big-leaguers. There can be no more excuses, like bad hands or off-nights. We need to know whether Calzaghe really is something special, or just an ordinary Joe.

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