Joe Calzaghe: 'I'm not scared of getting hurt and getting hit. I'm scared of losing'
Why beating Jeff Lacy was an amazing feeling; The fight to get a bout against boxing's big names; The time I seriously thought about giving it all up; Why I'd like to get in the ring with Rocky Marciano
Monday 30 October 2006
When did you realise that the Sakio Bika world title fight earlier this month was going to be difficult? I realised long before I got in the ring. I had tapes of his previous fights and I knew that he could do two things: he could come and have a row and that would have suited me. Or, he would come and survive and hold and make it hard for me to look good. That is what he did. He was one of the toughest men that I've fought and the dirtiest.
Which victory are you most proud of? I'm split on that. I still remember the feeling I had when I beat [Chris] Eubank in 1997 to win the title. It was fantastic. But, beating [Jeff] Lacy this year is just in front of beating Eubank. I know there will be some more big wins. I'm not finished yet! I even said after the Lacy fight that "if I die tomorrow I will die happy". That was a bit over the top but you get the picture. It was an amazing feeling.
The win against the American favourite Jeff Lacy looked easy. Was it? Not easy but I knew in the first round that I had him beat. I kept telling people that I would make it look easy and I did. It was the first round. He caught me with a good right and it knocked me back. But I came back at him and hit him with combinations and moved out of range and then hit him again. The crowd was going crazy and at the bell to end round one he was finished - I had done his head in.
Have you ever been scared before a fight? Not scared of getting hurt and getting hit. Not scared of the man in the other corner. But I'm scared of losing. I hate the thought of losing. Hate it and that scares me before a fight. I even get scared that I will lose when I play my kids on the PlayStation. I just like to win.
What do you hate about boxing? What really annoys me is that the politics involved stop too many good fights from happening. Also, a lot of the so-called experts don't understand that it is hard to make fights, big fights, happen. I've been given a lot of stick for not fighting such and such a fighter because a lot of people don't understand how the business works. Some really big names have turned down big offers to fight me. They have said "yes" one day and "no" the next.
What would you do differently if you had a second chance? I would speak to more managers and promoters before turning professional. I won three ABA [Amateur Boxing Association] titles as an amateur and I only spoke to Mickey Duff [Calzaghe signed for Duff in 1993 and left in 1997 to join Frank Warren]. I wish I had spoken to other people. If I had done a deal with Frank from the start, I would be loaded now and retired.
First sporting memory? That is easy. It was my first goal for Pentwynmawr Under-10s. It was against Cefn Forest. We were losing something like 3-0 when I scored. I had been trying to score for weeks, no months actually. I was desperate to score. I celebrated for ages and the manager went berserk at me. We lost something like 7-1 in the end but it didn't matter to me. I scored my first goal. Great that was. I might go back to Sunday football when I retire.
What is your worst boxing memory? This is even easier. It was 1992, the year of the Barcelona Olympics. I was convinced that I was going to the qualification tournament. I was the best in Britain. I had won ABA titles at welter and light middle at the time. I remember my dad coming in from the selection meeting and I could tell from his face that I had not been picked. I really wanted an Olympic medal. That was a terrible low point.
How do you wind down after a fight? I like to go away for a break. Spend some time with my kids and do my best to just relax. Nothing excessive, just some quiet days. After the Lacy fight it took me ages to calm down. I think it was about a month but I loved every second of it.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career? My dad, Enzo. We argue and fight sometimes but he's my dad, ain't he? He is a great trainer and he doesn't always get the respect that he deserves. He's also a great judge of fights. I remember when Mike Tyson first met Evander Holyfield and nobody gave Holyfield a chance. I was with him in a room of about 200 people and he picked it perfectly. He was the only one to go for Holyfield and he described the end. It was brilliant.
Some people are talking about you beating the record of 25 world title defences held the heavyweight legend Joe Louis Do you think you may be able to do that? Joe Louis is a great and I wouldn't want to take his record. I would probably stop at 25 but I'm not fighting to break records. I fight for myself and to be champion at the end of the day. I fight to stay unbeaten.
You have had a lot of injuries and watched a lot of fights collapse, so have you ever felt like walking away from boxing? Last year there was a point after the Evans Ashira fight. It was not a great win and I wasn't getting the recognition [I thought I deserved]. At that time I just couldn't see how the Lacy fight was going to happen. He was a world champion and a star in America and I felt like I was being overlooked. It was a bad time but I sat down with Frank and my dad and I knew that I could beat him. I had to believe it would happen.
Which fighter in history would you most like to share the ring with? Rocky Marciano. He retired as the undefeated world heavyweight champion. He was a great guy, a stand-up guy. I admire him because he made the most of what he had. I would love to mix it with him because he was not much heavier than me [Calzaghe's fighting weight is 12stand Marciano weighed just over 13st].
Italian or Welsh cooking? No contest. Italian! But, I'm mad for ice cream - Italian or Welsh, it makes no difference. I love them both.
Do people ever try and pick fights with you when you are out? Never, not now. When I was younger there was always somebody. It depends where you go and I like to go to the right places. I also keep my head down. I'm not flash. I don't have anything to prove when I go out.
What is the most extravagant thing that you have bought? Probably one of my cars. The Porsche, I suppose. But they are not that much money. If I buy something expensive I always think about when I didn't have any money and then it seem like a lot. I never grew up rich so I don't do stupid things with my money. Earning it is hard enough - I'm not really going to just throw it away.
Where is your ideal holiday resort and why? I like somewhere that is not too far from a bit of life. I like to get away from the crowds but not too far. I enjoyed Cancun in Mexico but the Seychelles didn't suit me. I don't like a place to be too stuck up - that doesn't impress me.
Do you have any superstitions before a fight? I never do my top lace up. I've never done it up. As a schoolboy in the finals in Derby in 1985 I never had it done up and I still don't do it.
If you could have any fight right now who would it be against? It would have to be either Mikkel Kessler, Jermain Taylor or Bernard Hopkins. All three would be great fights. Kessler holds a couple of super-middleweight world titles and everybody keeps telling me how good he is. Hopkins is a big name in America and he was the middleweight champion for 10 years. But, I think it would have to be Taylor because he beat Hopkins. That would be the fight.
And finally, what about the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year? Please, don't get me started on that again. Enough said.
The 'Super Champion Calzaghe: Highlights from 11 Stunning Title Fights' DVD (Lace) is out today.
Attachment: The Joe Calzaghe lowdown
* Born 23 February, 1972, in Hammersmith. Lives Newbridge, Wales.
* Nicknames "Pride of Wales"/"Italian Dragon".
* Height and weight 6ft 1in/12st.
* Trainer Enzo Calzaghe.
* Career record 42 fights, 42 wins (31 stoppages).
* World champion Nine years and two weeks.
* First professional contest
1 Oct 1993 v Paul Hanlon TKO 1.
* World title defences 19 (British record).
* British super-m title: 28 Oct 1995 v Stephen Wilson TKO 8th.
* WBO super-m title: 11 Oct 1997 v Chris Eubank (points).
* IBF super-m title: 4 Mar 2006 v Jeff Lacy (points).
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