By Tracy Callis

             Joe Calzaghe

They couldn’t train for “Nonpareil” Jack Dempsey, they couldn’t train for “Fabulous” Tommy Ryan, they couldn’t train for “Slick” Kid McCoy, they couldn’t train for “Gentleman” Jim Corbett, they couldn’t train for “Sugar” Ray Robinson and - they couldn’t train for Joe Calzaghe.

There is a certain type of boxer, a special breed of man, who takes one glance at his foe and instantly knows how to fight him. This creature confronts his adversary, adjusts, innovates and overwhelms. He is a “natural” at the game.

Joe’s style was to dismantle the other man’s fight plan
during the early rounds of a bout. Once this was accomplished, he focused on pounding his adversary as he chose. He had his own way of moving and fighting based upon his “feel” for the opponent. He was fast, delivered fairly stiff blows and maintained his antics and pace for the entire course of the fight.

Calzaghe was said to “slap” punch his man. Well, there was once a great boxer who “slapped” his opponents – remember? They called him “Slapsie” Maxie Rosenbloom and he was a great one. A look at his numbers shows that “Calzaghe Joe” had 46 bouts, won 'em all and scored 32 knockouts or stoppages. This is a 69.6 percent knockout ratio. He did more than “slap” punch.

Said Roy Jones Jr. after his bout with Joe, “Those pitty pat punches he throws were a little harder than I thought. I couldn't see out of my left eye.”

Jim Corbett has been called the fastest heavyweight fighter ever, one who maintained his speed over the entire course of a fight and not just the early rounds. But, Jim was not a constant mover, circling his man shooting out jabs, hooks and combinations. No, instead, he moved left or right, in or out - as he felt the need to be. When his foe began his attack towards him [Corbett], Jim made his moves and he did it in such a way as to offset what his foe was doing. He got his man out of synch, got his timing off and then the “Gent” struck and moved away. He had the “savvy.” 

“Nonpareil” Jack Dempsey was not a heavily muscled, power hitter but he had that “feel” about an opposing man - what he could do, what he couldn’t - and his foes paid the price. Jack hit with stiff blows – often. He moved quickly, peppered his man as he chose and was considered by everyone who saw him to be unequaled in fighting skills.

Joe Calzaghe-Mario Veit ... May 8, 2005

Tommy Ryan could box or punch, He knew it and his opponents knew it. If they didn’t, they found out soon after a fight started.

Kid McCoy knew a hundred tricks. He used them all and used them well. He boxed, he punched, he slipped punches – now you see him, now you don’t.

“Sugar” Ray Robinson could do it all and amazingly so. He was lightning quick, boxed well and delivered stinging, paralyzing blows. Many think he was the greatest boxer ever.

Calzaghe was a “mix” of these fellows and a sure-fired winner.

Joe Calzaghe-Bernard Hopkins April 19, 2008

After racking up 22 victories, including wins over unbeaten Mark Delaney and Luciano Torres (45-2), Calzaghe defeated Chris Eubank in a shocking surprise on October 11, 1997 to win the WBO Super Middleweight Championship. Later, in a 2006 interview, Eubank said, Joe is the proper article, a true warrior.

Joe next ran off an impressive string of victories that included twelve Super Middleweight Championship contests and then, on June 28, 2003, whacked Byron Mitchell in two rounds. Four more wins (including a second TKO win over Mario Veit) took Joe's record to 40-0. Against the favored Jeff Lacy, on March 4, 2006, Joe won by unanimous decision and added the IBF Super Middleweight title to his WBC title as he won every round despite a point being deducted. This was called one of the finest displays of boxing ever by a British fighter.

Two more wins followed the Lacy bout and then Joe met unbeaten Mikkel Kessler on November 3, 2007. Following the Calzaghe triumph against Kessler, Mikkel stated that Calzaghe hurt him with body shots during the mid-fight. In describing the contest, Joe mentioned the body blows. He knew they had hurt his foe - he just had that “feel.”

Joe moved up in weight over his career, took on the best and continued to win, displaying his amazing talent. However, as with all the outstanding fighters in boxing history who did this, he had to exhibit care because sooner or later, he might have reached out against men who are just naturally too big or too strong.

After his victory over Kessler, Joe talked about possible future opponents and said he wanted Bernard Hopkins real bad. Of course, he spoke out of respect, not disdain. Well, they fought on April 19, 2008 and Joe won a split decision.

But, at 36 years of age, he had to be very careful because Mr. Hopkins, even at his age of 43, was still a “bad, bad” man. Joe was extremely proud of his wonderful skills and wanted to test them against the very best around and this definitely included Bernard Hopkins, the “Executioner” !!!

Then, there was talk of Joe meeting Roy Jones Jr. This was expected to be another stiff test and on November 8, 2008, Joe needed to be real, real careful. Jones Jr. was quick and carried a lethal punch. Roy stung Joe late in the first round and put him down but Calzaghe recovered and went on to win.

Cliff Rold, the excellent writer for, wrote (2008), Following the win over Jones, HBO Boxing analyst Emanuel Steward stated that  Calzaghe may have to be considered one of the all-time greats.

Joe Calzaghe-Roy Jones Jr. ... November 8, 2008

Was Joe Calzaghe the fastest boxer in overall movement? No. Was he the fastest fighter with his feet? No. Was he an overpowering hitter? No. Was he a top talent? Absolutely !!! Was he a great fighter? Yes, he was. Was he an All-Time great fighter? Time will tell - and the answer is likely to be “yes” !!!

He was pretty, he was confident (often cocky) and he was able. One thing for sure, he had that natural feel for the game – a gift that is not learned but is bestowed upon an individual by old Mother Nature herself.

Calzaghe’s philosophy on fighting a man with Kessler's talent (stated prior to fighting Mikkel) was “You are only as good as your opponent lets you be and he hasn't been in the ring with me.

Joe Calzaghe - Champion

Eric Raskin, of, asserted (2007) that Calzaghe tended to fight up and down to the level of his opposition but wrote, “Currently, Calzaghe's legacy divides fans and experts. Some feel he's already the greatest super middleweight of all time, a sure-shot Hall of Famer and a top five pound-for-pounder; others feel he didn't prove himself until his 41st fight (against Jeff Lacy), that he still has a lot to prove because he faced so many weak challengers throughout his alphabet title reign and that he is only a borderline top-10 pound-for-pounder because he's never fought anyone resembling a top-10 pound-for-pounder.”

Rold (2008) wrote, “Stacked against the measure of history, Calzaghe's competition falls short of legendary names like Sam Langford, Harry Greb and Ray Robinson.” However, he later pointed out, There are different measures of all-time greatness and divisional dominance is one.” He added, “... Calzaghe might not ever rate with Harry Greb. Fair enough ... but no one can say he wouldn't have belonged in a ring with Greb or anyone else near his weight.

Brian Doogan, in a Special to ESPN, following Joe’s win over Kessler, wrote (2007) that Calzaghe had “secured his entry into the Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.”

In the opinion of this writer, if Joe Calzaghe was not an all-time great, then he was very, very close and certainly one of the best the modern world had seen in a long while.

Would Joe Calzaghe ever lose if he continued to fight? Probably, most do, especially if he fights long enough and meets top-flight competition. Would this mean he’s not a great fighter? Absolutely not. The only way to not lose is to get out of it before it happens. If one fights the best, sooner or later, he loses.

If Joe Calzaghe, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr., Ronald “Winky” Wright, Antonio Tarver, Jermain Taylor and Kelly Pavlik all fought each other two or three times, all would have a loss or two. But, Calzaghe might well have the best overall won-lost record.


Doogan, Brian. November 4 2007. Calzaghe cements legacy; wants Hopkins next.

Raskin, Eric. October 29 2007. Why you should be excited about Calzaghe-Kessler.

Rold, Cliff. November 12 2008. Measured Against All-Time - Joe Calzaghe.


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