Brian Viner: Calzaghe should learn ropes about quitting while ahead

The Last Word

Share
Related Topics

If Joe Calzaghe's mouth were as unequivocal as his fists then we could believe what he says about retirement, but there is already a worrying amount of umming and erring coming out of the Calzaghe camp, with his father and coach, Enzo, now saying that "he doesn't want to make a decision which may prove to have been premature".

But how can the decision to retire, aged 36 and unbeaten in 46 fights, with a vault full of money and respect, and an aquiline nose still intact, possibly turn out to be premature? There is only one decision Calzaghe can make with the potential to backfire horribly and that is the decision to fight on. And it should manifestly not be made on the basis of a victory, however convincing, over 39-year-old Roy Jones Jnr, who in Madison Square Garden last weekend could boast only a face and a name in common with the all-conquering fighter of the 1990s.

Listening to the radio a couple of days ago, incidentally, I heard the betting pundit Angus Loughran telling a nice story about an exchange he'd had with his father, who knows nothing about boxing. "I thought you said the Welshman won," said Loughran Snr last Sunday morning. "He did," said Angus. "But I heard that Jones lost and Calzaghe won," said his father, struggling with the notion that Calzaghe might be the name of the Welsh guy, and Jones the name of the black guy from Florida.

Meanwhile, as betting men like Loughran understand, what Calzaghe faces is the age-old conundrum of the gambler. Do you quit while you're ahead, or do you first try to get a little further ahead? This week has thrown up two eloquent examples of why he should take the first option. One was the grotesque snippet of news that 46-year-old Evander Holyfield, considering his alimony payments more than his dignity, intends to take on the WBA heavyweight champion Nikolai Valuev in Zurich next month. The other came in the form of an absorbing TV documentary, Thriller in Manila, which ran on More4 on Tuesday and told the story not just of the famous clash between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in the Philippines on 1 October, 1975, but also of the divergent paths their lives have taken since.

Ali's tragic decline we know all about, but Frazier's story is less familiar. Had I ever thought about it, I would have assumed that Smokin' Joe was now enjoying a comfortable suburban existence, maybe living off his reputation on the after-dinner or ribbon-cutting circuit. Instead he lives over his shabby gym in a tough, tumbledown district of north Philadelphia, training young fighters but sustained mainly by memories, not to mention an enduring bitterness towards his old foe, whose "Uncle Tom" cracks he has never forgiven. While the rest of the world watched with moist-eyed reverence as a trembling Ali lit the Olympic flame in Atlanta in 1996, there was one man in Philadelphia half hoping that he'd fall in.

Despite all that divides them, however, they still have more in common than not. Frazier made a better job than Ali of quitting while he was ahead, but still made an ill-advised comeback in December 1981 when, aged 37, he was fortunate to be given a draw after 10 rounds in Chicago against the less-than-legendary Floyd "Jumbo" Cummings.

Ali's career lasted precisely eight days longer, reaching its shambling conclusion in defeat by journeyman Trevor Berbick in Nassau, the fight that was promoted, laughably to those for whom the Thriller in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle represented two of the most thrilling contests not just in the history of boxing but in all of sport, as the "Drama in Bahama".

I hope Calzaghe was back from New York in time to watch this poignant tale of two great fighters who went on for too long.

Martina is too good to grub around

Martina Navratilova has done hardly anything in public life that does not command huge respect, from the scintillating quality of tennis that she maintained for so long, to her outspoken campaigning for gay rights in the United States. I dare say that in some quarters she will earn further respect for biting into wichetty grubs on the new series of I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! that begins tomorrow. But I can't be the only fan of hers who wishes that she had issued a resounding "not on your nelly" to the invitation, leaving the latest collection of relentless self-publicists such as Robert Kilroy-Silk, and those, like Joe Cole's girlfriend Carly Zucker, desperately trying to clamber from rung C to rung B on the celebrity ladder, to tackle their Bushtucker trials without her.

A solution on paper


On Desert Island Discs yesterday the children's author Allan Ahlberg recalled that his own childhood was so poor that his father had to make him a football out of paper and inner tubes. It was great for the reflexes, apparently, because you never knew which way it was going to bounce. Someone should market the idea.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Whoever and whatever Arthur was, he wasn’t Scottish

Guy Keleny
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea