Joseph "Joe" Calzaghe (born 23 March 1972 in Hammersmith, London) is a British boxer of half Italian and half Welsh descent, based in Wales who is one of the pound for pound top 10 boxers in the world.
He is sometimes referred to as the "Italian Dragon" as a nod to his mixed heritage (the dragon being a Welsh emblem), or the "Pride of Wales". He is the current WBO and IBF super-middleweight world champion.
Early Years & Amateur Career
Joe's father and trainer Enzo was born in Sardinia but spent many years living in England. When Calzaghe was two years old the family moved to South Wales, from where Calzaghe's mother hailed.
Calzaghe has claimed that he was bullied at school, and, although he showed promise as a footballer, he began boxing with encouragement from his father at Newbridge Boxing Club at the age of ten.
He continued boxing while attending Oakdale Comprehensive School, near his home town of Newbridge, between 1983 and 1988, winning three British Schoolboy titles.
Between 1991 and 1993 Calzaghe received acclaim for winnning three consecutive British ABA titles at three sepearate weight classes; welterweight, light middleweight and middleweight.
He became only the second boxer in history to win three successive ABA Titles in three different divisions, the first being Fred Webster in 1926-1928 who acheieved his hat-trick by winnning at bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight. Only one boxer took Calzaghe to the full nine minutes of a bout during this time.
In the one and only loss in 117 bouts at amateur, his opponent's father was the referee.
In September 1993 Calzaghe was signed up to the Terry Lawless and Mickey Duff stable and made his professional debut at Cardiff Arms Park on the Lewis-Bruno bill the following month.
By June 1995, Calzaghe had won nine out of nine fights, seven in the first round and two in the second. At the end of 1995 Calzaghe was voted Young Boxer of the Year by the Professional Boxing Association and the Boxing Writers' Club, with Barry McGuigan's top tipping Calzaghe for 1996: "He punches ferociously, moves superbly and has the best of the European technique and US aggression."
By October 1995, he had won the British Championship, stopping Steve Wilson in the eighth round. Calzaghe's critics said that he had not really been tested, while Calzaghe said in reply that he could only beat whoever was out there and prepared to fight him.
In November 1996, Calzaghe moved to Frank Warren's stable. Warren, who had managed Nigel Benn for his first 20 fights, declared: "Joe Calzaghe is a far better prospect, in fact he is my fighter for the new millennium." Warren spent the summer of 1997 chasing a fight for Calzaghe with either WBC champion Robin Reid or WBO champion Steve Collins. The fight with Collins was arranged, but at a late stage Collins withdrew because of injury, was stripped of his title, and then retired.
WBO Super Middleweight Champion
A fight against the recently deposed champion Chris Eubank was set up for the vacant WBO world crown for 11 October 1997, in Sheffield, which ended with a decisive win for Calzaghe.
In 1998 he defended his title against Branco Sobot (winning by technical knockout in 3 rounds) and then Juan Carlos Gimenez (TKO in 9 rounds), a former opponent of both Nigel Benn and Eubank.
In 1999, Calzaghe started out by fighting what would be his toughest challenge thus far in his career, a slick counterpuncher by the name of Robin Reid. After 12 rounds, the judges scored the fight for Calzaghe via a split decision. This fight's decision has been deemed controversial by some and Reid was never given the opportunity of a rematch. Calzaghe damaged his hand early on in the fight and according to Calzaghe, he suffered a dose of food poisoning. Calzaghe finished the year with another points win against Rick Thornberry.
2000 started with another decisive points decision against David Starie. This was followed by wins against the highly rated Omar Sheika (a five round stoppage), and former WBC champion and close friend Richie Woodhall.
2001 started with a first round stoppage win over Mario Veit (1 minute 55 seconds), followed by an equally decisive win against Will Mcintyre on the Tyson undercard in Copenhagen.
2002 started with points wins against both Charles Brewer and Miguel Jimenez in Cardiff, followed by a TKO of Tocker Pudwill in Newscastle in December.
Calzaghe's only fight of 2003 was in June against the tough competition of Bryon Mitchell at the Cardiff International Arena. Calzaghe won by TKO in the second. Calzaghe suffered his first career knockdown in this fight being down himself in the second round.
2004 started out with a defence against Mger Mkrtchian in Cardiff won on points, followed by a points win over Karbary Salem in Edinburgh in October, during which Calzaghe was knocked down in the fourth round by a right hand. However he dominated the fight and knocked Salem down in the 12th round, winning comfortably on all three scorecards, 116-109,117-109,118-107.
Veit got a rematch against Calzaghe in Braunschweig, Germany in July 2005 Calzaghe beat Veit by technical knockout in the sixth round. On 10 September 2005, Calzaghe fought the Kenyan boxer Evans Ashira and won by a unanimous decision despite breaking his left hand in the third round. Calzaghe fought on one-handed winning 120-108, 120-108, 120-107.
WBO and IBF Super Middleweight Champion
His scheduled bout with IBF world champion Jeff Lacy for 5 November 2005 was initially cancelled due to the break sustained to the metacarpal in his left hand. Warren successfully rescheduled it for 5 March 2006, and the match was won by unanimous points decision over Lacy who was the pre-fight favourite with the bookmakers. Calzaghe gained the IBF title, and won every single round despite a point being deducted in the 11th for an illegal "behind the body" punch.
Calzaghe was tentatively scheduled to fight former Light Heavyweight champion Glen Johnson in the featured bout of a 8 July 2006 card at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, but he was forced to withdraw from the fight when he reaggravated the hand injury sustained in his bout with Ashira.
On 14 October 2006, Sakio Bika and Calzaghe came fought in one of the more aggressive and dirty fights of his career. Two points were deducted from Bika for headbutts, one of which led to a severe cut over Calzaghe's left eye which would cause him problems for the duration of the bout. Calzaghe won the fight on decision to retain his undefeated run. Frank Warren commented after the fight that he was unhappy with Calzaghes' showboating but was obviously contented with the win. Warren later hinted that a big fight for Calzaghe, possibly in the United States is being planned for spring 2007, possibly against Jermain Taylor or Bernard Hopkins.
Relinquishing IBF belt
On 27 November 2006 it was annoinced that Calzaghe had signed a contract to defend his WBO Super Middleweight title against former star of Contender Peter Manfredo Jr. on 7 April 2007 on HBO. Because HBO didn't want to cover any fight with mandatory IBF challenger Robert Stieglitz, and with the opportunity if he won against Manfredo to fight Taylor in the summer, Calzaghe chose to fight Manfredo and resultantly had to relinquish the IBF super middleweight championship. Both Calzaghe and Warren claimed that "Stieglitz doesn't mean anything outside of Germany."
In December 2006 Joe Calzaghe was named BBC Wales Sports Personality of the year. He was also nominated for the BBC British Sports Personality of the year.