Joseph William Calzaghe, CBE (// kal-ZAH-gee; born 23 March 1972) is a Welsh former professional boxer who competed from 1993 to 2008. He is a two-weight world champion, having held the unified WBA (Super), WBC, IBF, WBO, Ring magazine and lineal super-middleweight titles, as well as the Ring light-heavyweight title. Calzaghe is the longest-reigning super-middleweight world champion in boxing history, having held the WBO title for over 10 years and making 21 successful defences before moving up to light-heavyweight. As his super-middleweight and light-heavyweight reigns overlapped, he retired with the longest continual time as world champion of any active fighter.
Between 2006 and 2008, Calzaghe was rated by The Ring as one of the world's top ten boxers, pound for pound, reaching a peak ranking of third in January 2009. He retired in February 2009 with an undefeated record, and as a reigning world champion.
Calzaghe was often referred to as the "Pride of Wales" or the "Italian Dragon", the latter being a play on the moniker "Italian Stallion" and a reference to his multiple heritages (the dragon being both a prominent Welsh emblem that appears on the Welsh flag and a figure in Sardinian myth).
In 2007, Calzaghe became BBC Sports Personality of the Year, by gaining 28.19% of the public vote. This made Calzaghe the first Welsh winner of this award since show jumper David Broome in 1960. He was awarded the Young Boxer of the Year Award in 1995. Calzaghe was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014.
Calzaghe was born in Hammersmith, London, to an Italian (Sardinian) father, Enzo, and a Welsh mother, Jackie. The family moved to Wales when he was two years old; their home is at Newbridge in South Wales. He attended Roots School System and still lives in the area. Calzaghe was the first person to be awarded the Freedom of Caerphilly, his home county, in 2009. The award was presented to Calzaghe in front of his family — father and trainer Enzo, mother Jackie, sister Sonia, (then) girlfriend Jo-Emma Larvin, and his two sons.
Calzaghe, a southpaw, began boxing at age nine. In more than 120 amateur contests, he won four schoolboy ABA titles, followed by three consecutive senior British ABA titles (British Championships) between 1990 and 1993. He reportedly had an amateur record of 112–10. Calzaghe received his last defeats at the hands of Michael Smyth in the 1990 Welsh ABA Final and Romanian amateur Adrian Opreda at the 1990 European Junior Championships in Prague.
In September 1993 Calzaghe was signed up and made his professional debut at Cardiff Arms Park on the Lennox Lewis vs. Frank Bruno bill the following month, halting 23 fight veteran Paul Hanlon in one round. By September 1995, Calzaghe had won thirteen out of thirteen fights, including seven in the first round and two in the second, including quickfire victories over the highly experienced American duo of Frank Minton and Robert Curry, with only the fully fledged British Light Heavyweight Bobbie Joe Edwards lasting the distance.
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."
After beginning 1996 with two more quick knockouts over Guy Stanford and Anthony Brooks, he successfully defended his British title with an easier-than-expected fifth round stoppage of the tough undefeated puncher Mark Delaney (21–0). Despite Delaney being a good fighter in his own right, Calzaghe's critics said that he had still not really been tested. Calzaghe said in reply that he could only beat whoever was out there and prepared to fight him. Calzaghe rounded off the year with victories over two experienced opponents in Warren Stowe and Pat Lawlor.
In November 1996, Calzaghe moved to Frank Warren's stable. Warren, who had managed Nigel Benn for his first twenty fights, declared: "Joe Calzaghe is a far better prospect, in fact he is my fighter for the new millennium." Calzaghe continued his winning ways in 1997, defeating Carlos Christie, the unbeaten Tyler Hughes and the 45–2 Luciano Torres. Meanwhile, Warren spent the summer of 1997 chasing a fight for Calzaghe with either WBC Champion Robin Reid or Irish 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.
After Collins retired, a fight against British boxing legend Chris Eubank was quickly set up for the vacant WBO title on 11 October 1997, in Sheffield. Calzaghe emerged victorious over the two-time WBO champion, knocking the granite chinned Eubank down in the opening seconds and claiming a unanimous points win. The judges scored the contest 118–110, 118–109, and 116–111 in favour of Calzaghe. Eubank said of Calzaghe in a 2006 interview that: "Joe is the proper article, a true warrior." Calzaghe conceded that Eubank, even in his comeback, gave him the toughest fight of his life.
In 1998 he defended his title against Branko Sobot (winning by technical knockout in 3 rounds). Sobot was a late replacement for Syrian-American Tarick Salmaci, who pulled out after a row with his management. Sobot was knocked down in the third round, he beat the count but immediately came under renewed punishment from Calzaghe, forcing the referee to step in at 1:35 of the third round.
In 1999, Calzaghe started out by fighting his domestic rival, Robin Reid. Calzaghe was bitter that Reid refused to face him whilst holding the WBC Championship in a unification bout and vowed to beat him. After twelve rounds, the judges scored the fight for Calzaghe via a split decision. 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 Australian Rick Thornberry, where he again injured his hand after looking like overwhelming his opponent early.
2000 started with another points decision against fellow Briton David Starie. This was followed by wins against Omar Sheika (who was coming off a win over Glenn Johnson) by fifth-round stoppage, and former WBC world champion and close friend Richie Woodhall in ten rounds.
2001 started with an impressive first-round-stoppage win over the unbeaten German No 1 contender Mario Veit (30–0), followed by a win against American contender Will McIntyre on the Mike Tyson–Brian Nielsen undercard in Copenhagen Denmark, marking his first defence outside Britain. Calzaghe dropped him in the third round with a ferocious left uppercut, although McIntyre managed to survive the count. But the end was near, Calzaghe dropped McIntyre again at the start of the fourth and this time the referee stopped proceedings.
2002 started with unanimous points wins against former IBF world champion Charles Brewer of the United States in Cardiff, followed by a quick TKO of American Tocker Pudwill, who took the fight at very short notice as a replacement for the injured Thomas Tate, in Newcastle in December. With the win, Calzaghe successfully defended his WBO super-middleweight title for the 12th time. After the fight, Calzaghe said: "I'm one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. I want to be remembered as one of the best British boxers ever."
Calzaghe's only fight of 2003 was in June against another former world champion, in the shape of American Byron Mitchell at the Cardiff International Arena. Calzaghe won by TKO in the second. Calzaghe suffered his first career knockdown in the second round, before rising to halt Mitchell in the very same round.
2004 started out with a defence against Armenian contender Mger Mkrtchian in Cardiff where he won easily by a seventh-round knockout, followed by a points win over Egyptian-American Kabary Salem in Edinburgh in October, during which Calzaghe was briefly knocked down in the fourth round by a right hand. However, Calzaghe was not hurt, and he dominated the fight and knocked Salem down in the 12th round, winning comfortably on all three scorecards, 116–109, 117–109 and 118–107.
Mario Veit worked his way to a rematch against Calzaghe in Braunschweig, Germany, in July 2005, marking Calzaghe's second defence on foreign soil. Calzaghe beat Veit by technical knockout in the sixth round. On 10 September 2005, Calzaghe fought the Kenya boxer Evans Ashira and won by a comfortable unanimous decision over the former Middleweight title challenger, despite breaking his left hand in the third round. Calzaghe fought on one-handed winning 120–108, 120–108, 120–107.
His scheduled unification bout with IBF super-middleweight champion Jeff Lacy for 5 November 2005 was initially canceled 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 easy unanimous points decision over Lacy, who was a pre-fight favourite with the bookmakers and American pundits alike. Calzaghe dominated throughout the fight, with British fight fans chanting "easy" at the American during the last three rounds. Calzaghe gained the IBF title and won every round despite a point being deducted in the 11th for an illegal behind the body punch. He also won the vacant The Ring and lineal titles, becoming the first super-middleweight to be recognized as world champion by The Ring magazine.
On 14 October 2006, the tough Cameroonian-Australian Sakio Bika challenged Calzaghe. Two points were deducted from Bika for head butts, one of which led to a severe cut over Calzaghe's left eye which would cause him problems for the duration of the bout. However, Calzaghe won the fight by clear decision to continue his undefeated run.
On 27 November 2006, it was announced that Calzaghe had signed a contract to defend his WBO super-middleweight title against former star of The Contender Peter Manfredo Jr. of the United States on 7 April 2007, at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales to be shown on HBO. Because HBO did not want to cover a fight with the non-American mandatory IBF challenger Robert Stieglitz of Germany, and with the opportunity to fight World Middleweight champion Jermaine Taylor in the summer if he won against Manfredo, Calzaghe chose to fight Manfredo and as a result had to relinquish the IBF super-middleweight championship. Both Calzaghe and Warren claimed that, "Stieglitz doesn't mean anything outside Germany." Stieglitz went on to fight Alejandro Berrio for the vacant IBF title, losing in 3 rounds. Berrio in turn lost the title to Lucian Bute in his first defense.
On 7 April 2007, Calzaghe met Peter Manfredo Jr. in front of 35,000 fans in Cardiff, Wales. Calzaghe was victorious on a third-round stoppage, unleashing a flurry of punches on the outclassed Manfredo, who threw nothing in return, thus drawing a stoppage from the referee. Manfredo and some American commentators called the stoppage premature because Manfredo did not appear hurt. HBO's ringside announcers declared that the stoppage was "way too quick." Trainer Emanuel Steward did contend that Calzaghe was clearly on his way to victory, but the stoppage was no fault of his own.
In May 2007, Frank Warren released details to BBC 5 Live and on his website that Calzaghe had accepted Mogens Palle's offer of $5 million to fight undefeated WBA world champion Mikkel Kessler. The bout took place at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium on 4 November. The fight was a unification bout for the WBO, The Ring, WBA (Super) and WBC super-middleweight titles. Calzaghe won by unanimous decision, surpassing the 20 defences made by Bernard Hopkins and Larry Holmes at middleweight and heavyweight respectively. Only former heavyweight champion Joe Louis (with 25 defences), former light heavyweight champion Dariusz Michalczewski (23 defences), former minimumweight champion Ricardo López (23 defences), and former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko (23 defences) have made more title defences.
Calzaghe was frequently described as undisputed champion, but since he had relinquished the IBF title, others argued that this was not strictly accurate. Reuters called him the "Undisputed King" of the division, while David A Avila said he was "the true undisputed world champion. Forget about the IBF titleholder Alejandro Berrio. That's really Calzaghe's belt too." The WBA describes an "Undisputed Champion" as one who holds any two of the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO titles; which Calzaghe did after beating Kessler and had earlier done after beating Lacy.
Calzaghe split with promoter Frank Warren in June 2008 and announced that he would promote his fights personally for the remainder of his career. The split caused Warren to launch a court case against Calzaghe, claiming that a verbal promise to promote the Roy Jones Jr. fight was broken and that Calzaghe owed him $1.4 million; Calzaghe in turn claimed that Warren owed him past fees. In March 2009 the High Court ruled that Warren had persuaded Calzaghe to sign contracts under duress when Calzaghe was hungry and dehydrated preparing for matches and that Warren's company Sports Network Limited owed Calzaghe $2.8 million in unpaid fees.
On 19 April 2008, at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Calzaghe defeated Bernard Hopkins to win The Ring Light Heavyweight Championship by a split decision in his first ever fight in the United States.
As the rounds went on, Calzaghe continued to push the pace and began to get his rhythm going by landing combinations at close range. Hopkins’ key weapon was his right hand, but after a few rounds Calzaghe could see the right hands coming and easily blocked the shots whilst Hopkins gradually tired. According to CompuBox, Calzaghe landed more punches on Hopkins than any of his previous opponents. American Judges Chuck Giampa (116–111) and Ted Gimza (115–112) scored the fight clearly for Calzaghe, while judge Adalaide Byrd (114–113) scored the fight narrowly for Hopkins. HBO's unofficial ringside judge Harold Lederman scored the bout 116–111 for Calzaghe.
Hopkins was upset with the official decision and said that he was robbed of a clear points win. Hopkins said, "I just really feel like I took the guy to school. I feel like I made him fight my fight, not his. I wanted him to run into my shots. I think I made him do that, and I think I made it look pretty easy. I think I controlled the pace, and I controlled the fight." He has also openly stated that he wanted a rematch with Calzaghe.
Calzaghe said: "It was one of the toughest fights of my career. ... He is very clever. He was so awkward. It wasn't pretty, but I won the fight. ... It wasn't my best night, but I know I won."
"The first four rounds, and after that Calzaghe got in his groove, much like he did when he fought Mikkel Kessler, and from that point on it was Calzaghe. And Calzaghe didn't fight as good a fight as he could've fought, and he still won decisively," Emanuel Steward said at ringside.
On 8 July 2008, after Calzaghe's split from Frank Warren, it was officially announced that the 39-year-old, Roy Jones Jr., and 36-year-old Joe Calzaghe had reached an agreement to fight for The Ring Light Heavyweight Championship in New York City at Madison Square Garden on 20 September 2008 on HBO PPV. Jones was on the comeback trail, and coming off a win over Félix Trinidad. After Calzaghe injured his right hand in training, the fight was postponed, with 8 November being set as the new date. Calzaghe was put down in the first round. Two close rounds followed before Calzaghe took control of the fight. In the eighth round, Jones sustained a cut over an eye, nearly forcing a stoppage. All three judges' decisions were 118–109 for Calzaghe.
On 5 February 2009, Joe Calzaghe announced his retirement from professional boxing, finishing with a record of 46 wins and no losses, and becoming one of only fifteen world champions (Floyd Mayweather Jr., Rocky Marciano, Andre Ward, Ji-won Kim, Terry Marsh, Pichit Sitbangprachan, Harry Simon, Jimmy Barry, Jack McAuliffe, Ricardo Lopez, Michael Loewe, Edwin Valero, Sven Ottke, and Dmitry Pirog) to retire as an undefeated world champion. After his retirement, fellow boxer and friend, Ricky Hatton described him as "the best British fighter we've ever had."
|Professional record summary|
|46 fights||46 wins||0 losses|
|46||Win||46–0||Roy Jones Jr.||UD||12||8 Nov 2008||Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, US||Retained The Ring light-heavyweight title|
|45||Win||45–0||Bernard Hopkins||SD||12||19 Apr 2008||Thomas & Mack Center, Paradise, Nevada, US||Won The Ring light-heavyweight title|
|44||Win||44–0||Mikkel Kessler||UD||12||3 Nov 2007||Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales||Retained WBO, The Ring, and lineal super-middleweight titles;
Won WBA (Super) and WBC super-middleweight titles
|43||Win||43–0||Peter Manfredo Jr.||TKO||3 (12), 1:30||7 Apr 2007||Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales||Retained WBO, The Ring, and lineal super-middleweight titles|
|42||Win||42–0||Sakio Bika||UD||12||14 Oct 2006||MEN Arena, Manchester, England||Retained WBO, IBF, The Ring, and lineal super-middleweight titles|
|41||Win||41–0||Jeff Lacy||UD||12||4 Mar 2006||MEN Arena, Manchester, England||Retained WBO super-middleweight title;
Won IBF, vacant The Ring and lineal super-middleweight titles
|40||Win||40–0||Evans Ashira||UD||12||10 Sep 2005||International Arena, Cardiff, Wales||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|39||Win||39–0||Mario Veit||TKO||6 (12), 2:18||7 May 2005||Volkswagen Halle, Braunschweig, Germany||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|38||Win||38–0||Kabary Salem||UD||12||22 Oct 2004||Royal Highland Showground, Edinburgh, Scotland||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|37||Win||37–0||Mger Mkrtchyan||TKO||7 (12), 1:05||21 Feb 2004||National Ice Rink, Cardiff, Wales||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|36||Win||36–0||Byron Mitchell||TKO||2 (12), 2:36||28 Jun 2003||International Arena, Cardiff, Wales||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|35||Win||35–0||Tocker Pudwill||TKO||2 (12), 0:39||14 Dec 2002||Telewest Arena, Newcastle, England||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|34||Win||34–0||Miguel Ángel Jiménez||UD||12||17 Aug 2002||Cardiff Castle, Cardiff, Wales||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|33||Win||33–0||Charles Brewer||UD||12||20 Apr 2002||International Arena, Cardiff, Wales||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|32||Win||32–0||Will McIntyre||TKO||4 (12), 0:45||13 Oct 2001||Parken Stadium, Copenhagen, Denmark||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|31||Win||31–0||Mario Veit||TKO||1 (12), 1:52||28 Apr 2001||International Arena, Cardiff, Wales||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|30||Win||30–0||Richie Woodhall||TKO||10 (12), 0:28||16 Dec 2000||Sheffield Arena, Sheffield, England||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|29||Win||29–0||Omar Sheika||TKO||5 (12), 2:08||12 Aug 2000||Wembley Conference Centre, London, England||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|28||Win||28–0||David Starie||UD||12||29 Jan 2000||MEN Arena, Manchester, England||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|27||Win||27–0||Rick Thornberry||UD||12||5 Jun 1999||International Arena, Cardiff, Wales||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|26||Win||26–0||Robin Reid||SD||12||13 Feb 1999||Telewest Arena, Newcastle, England||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|25||Win||25–0||Juan Carlos Giménez Ferreyra||RTD||9 (12), 3:00||25 Apr 1998||National Ice Rink, Cardiff, Wales||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|24||Win||24–0||Branko Sobot||TKO||3 (12), 1:35||24 Jan 1998||International Arena, Cardiff, Wales||Retained WBO super-middleweight title|
|23||Win||23–0||Chris Eubank||UD||12||11 Oct 1997||Sheffield Arena, Sheffield, England||Won vacant WBO super-middleweight title|
|22||Win||22–0||Luciano Torres||TKO||3 (10), 0:52||5 Jun 1997||Whitchurch Leisure Centre, Bristol, England|
|21||Win||21–0||Tyler Hughes||KO||1 (10), 2:04||22 Mar 1997||Wythenshawe Forum, Manchester, England|
|20||Win||20–0||Carlos Christie||TKO||2 (10), 1:39||21 Jan 1997||Whitchurch Leisure Centre, Bristol, England|
|19||Win||19–0||Pat Lawlor||TKO||2 (10), 1:55||15 May 1996||STAR Centre, Cardiff, Wales|
|18||Win||18–0||Warren Stowe||TKO||2 (8), 3:00||4 May 1996||Goresbrook Leisure Centre, London, England|
|17||Win||17–0||Mark Delaney||TKO||5 (12)||20 Apr 1996||International Centre, Brentwood, England||Retained British super-middleweight title|
|16||Win||16–0||Anthony Brooks||TKO||2 (10)||13 Mar 1996||Brent Town Hall, London, England|
|15||Win||15–0||Guy Stanford||TKO||1 (10), 1:24||13 Feb 1996||Welsh Institute of Sport, Cardiff, Wales|
|14||Win||14–0||Stephen Wilson||TKO||8 (12), 2:18||28 Oct 1995||Royal Albert Hall, London, England||Won vacant British super-middleweight title|
|13||Win||13–0||Nick Manners||TKO||4 (8), 2:20||30 Sep 1995||Festival Hall, Basildon, England|
|12||Win||12–0||Tyrone Jackson||TKO||4 (8), 1:08||8 Jul 1995||Barbican Centre, York, England|
|11||Win||11–0||Robert Curry||TKO||1 (8), 1:29||19 May 1995||Elephant and Castle Shopping Centre, London, England|
|10||Win||10–0||Bobbie Joe Edwards||PTS||8||22 Feb 1995||Ice Rink, Telford, England|
|9||Win||9–0||Frank Minton||KO||1 (8), 1:25||14 Feb 1995||York Hall, London, England|
|8||Win||8–0||Trevor Ambrose||TKO||2 (8)||30 Nov 1994||Civic Hall, Wolverhampton, England|
|7||Win||7–0||Mark Lee Dawson||TKO||1 (8)||1 Oct 1994||National Ice Rink, Cardiff, Wales|
|6||Win||6–0||Karl Barwise||TKO||1 (6)||4 Jun 1994||National Ice Rink, Cardiff, Wales|
|5||Win||5–0||Darren Littlewood||TKO||1 (6)||1 Mar 1994||Town Hall, Dudley, England|
|4||Win||4–0||Martin Rosamond||TKO||1 (6)||22 Jan 1994||Welsh Institute of Sport, Cardiff, Wales|
|3||Win||3–0||Spencer Alton||TKO||2 (4)||16 Dec 1993||Newport Centre, Newport, Wales|
|2||Win||2–0||Paul Mason||TKO||1 (4)||10 Nov 1993||Town Hall, Watford, England|
|1||Win||1–0||Paul Hanlon||TKO||1 (4)||1 Oct 1993||Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff, Wales||Professional debut|
In an interview with GMTV, Calzaghe stated he is promoting The Beat Bullying campaign. He said to have found the inspiration from being a victim of bullying himself when he was young, saying he got bullied because of his small stature.
Joe won the 2010 Soccer Aid, a British charity football match with the Rest of the World team beating England, Joe scored the Rest of the World team's first goal, the game was tied after full-time but the Rest of the World won on penalties.
In 2012, Calzaghe made a cameo appearance as himself in an episode of the UK TV comedy drama Stella.
Calzaghe has two sons, Joe (born 1994) and Connor (born 1997), from an 11-year marriage to Mandy Davies from 1994 to 2005. Calzaghe split up with his girlfriend of 5 years, Jo-Emma Larvin, in 2009, after participating in the seventh series of the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing series, partnering Russian professional Kristina Rihanoff. Calzaghe and Rihanoff began a relationship soon thereafter. However, the couple announced the amicable breakup of their relationship in August 2013.
Following an undercover investigation by the News of the World newspaper, Calzaghe admitted he had used cocaine since his boxing career had ended. In a statement on his website, he added that he regretted his "occasional use of cocaine in what have sometimes been the long days since my retirement from the ring".
Joe Calzaghe was crowned undisputed world super-middleweight champion in Cardiff tonight
Lucien Bute, whose claim to the International Boxing Federation title is all that stands between the Welshman and undisputed world champion status
Joe Calzaghe, who is now the closest to being the undisputed super middleweight champion of the world. (There's still the IBF title if he's to have all four of the most recognized belts.)
|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Joe Calzaghe|
|Amateur boxing titles|
|ABA light-middleweight champion
|ABA middleweight champion
|Regional boxing titles|
Title last held bySam Storey
|British super-middleweight champion
28 October 1995 – May 1996
Title next held byDavid Starie
|World boxing titles|
Title last held bySteve Collins
|WBO super-middleweight champion
11 October 1997 – 26 September 2008
Title next held byDenis Inkin
|IBF super-middleweight champion
4 March 2006 – 27 November 2006
Title next held byAlejandro Berrio
|New title||The Ring super-middleweight champion
4 March 2006 – 28 September 2008
Title next held byAndre Ward
Title last held byBruno Girard
|Lineal super-middleweight champion
4 March 2006 – 28 September 2008
|WBA super-middleweight champion
4 November 2007 – 3 October 2008
Title next held byAndre Ward
|WBC super-middleweight champion
4 November 2007 – 5 July 2008
Title next held byCarl Froch
|The Ring light-heavyweight champion
19 April 2008 – 5 February 2009
Title next held byJean Pascal
|Honorary boxing titles|
|Non-transferable title||WBO Super champion
June 2004 – September 2008