Calzaghe's ruthless instincts can shake Sheika

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The Independent Online

When Joe Calzaghe left the ring after 12 brutal rounds against Chris Eubank in 1997 he had trouble walking without the assistance of his father and trainer, Enzo. It was the first and last time Calzaghe had been pushed in a fight.

When Joe Calzaghe left the ring after 12 brutal rounds against Chris Eubank in 1997 he had trouble walking without the assistance of his father and trainer, Enzo. It was the first and last time Calzaghe had been pushed in a fight.

Tonight at the Grand Hall, Wembley, could be the second when he defends his World Boxing Organisation supermiddleweight title for the sixth time against New Jersey's Omar Sheika. It will be a fight of basic instincts and the boxer with the greatest ability to absorb pain, not the most skill or class, will emerge as the winner.

Calzaghe, now 28, should be way past the "best prospect" stage that he has seemed toinhabit throughout most of his career. Even when he beat Eubank to win the vacant title he was still considered a prospect, a fighter with promise. Sadly, at no point in the last five easy defences has he managed to shake totally the notion that he is still a long way short of the definitive fighter he should by now be.

"I'm a not a kid fighter anymore," said Calzaghe. "Injuries and other things have delayed my career and it is now time for me to get right back on track. This is the ideal fight for me."

In many ways Calzaghe is right. Sheika, 23, is a simple fighter with heart, desire and a punch. He moves forward in a straight line behind the faint suggestion of a jab and when he is close enough he shows a sharp left hook that never varies. There is little else and throughout his career of 21 fights he has not required anything extra to beat an often woeful list of respected and regular losers. His one loss was on points to the Hull veteran Tony Booth in a spoiling maul.

It was Mickey Duff, the sage and often angry old man of British boxing, who was persuaded to sign Calzaghe in 1993 after the Welsh boxer had won three consecutive Amateur Boxing Association titles. Winning three is difficult, but Calzaghe had managed to move from welterweight, to light-middleweight and then middleweight in three years of domestic domination.

Calzaghe's first professional fight was in the wind and rain on the bitter, cold night that Lennox Lewis ruined Frank Bruno's senses at Cardiff Arms Park. That was a perfect start, but four years of frustration followed.

Finally, in 1997, Calzaghe switched to Warren. A few months later he beat Eubank, but in each of his defences since that savage evening he has failed to deliver and that is a disappointment to both fighter and promoter. On the odd occasion he has genuinely looked like one of the world's best fighters, and he needs a sweet win tonight.

In order for Calzaghe to retain his title and improve his record to 29 straight wins he will need to remember what he does best and go straight at Sheika. There is no need to suddenly start to box, or think or fight defensively. This is a fight that will be decided by power and nothing else. Forget boxing tonight at Wembley.

* The British Boxing Board of Control has rescheduled its hearing into Mike Tyson's controversial win over Lou Savarese in Glasgow for 22 August. The inquiry concerns Tyson throwing punches after the fight had been stopped, with the referee, John Coyle, being knocked to the canvas.

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