Kessler Calzaghe: Joe Calzaghe Guns For Number 21

joe calzaghe12.10.07 - By Matthew Hurley: As World Boxing Organization super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe winds up his training camp for his long anticipated unification showdown with WBA/WBC champion Mikkel Kessler he quietly celebrated a remarkable achievement in his boxing career. Calzaghe, boxing’s longest reigning champion, marked an astonishing ten-year run as a world champion this month. Such lengthy reigns are rare in any sport but in boxing you can count them on one hand. In an age when champions are stripped of their belts for myriad reasons outside of losing it in the ring, Calzaghe has maintained a level of excellence that remains unparalleled.

“If someone had told me ten years ago that I would still be a champion today,” he said, “I wouldn’t have believed them.”

Calzaghe won his first title on October 11th, 1997 at the Sheffield Arena in England when he won a unanimous decision over a fading Chris Eubank to claim the title he still holds today. Since that night he has gone on to defend the title twenty times and enters the November 3rd bout against Kessler with a record of 43-0 (32).

Calzaghe, a pleasant gentlemanly sort outside the ring, knows that his upcoming bout against the hard-hitting Kessler will not only be the toughest test of his career but should he win it will perhaps solidify his hall of fame status. Some of the defenses he has made over the last ten years were against marginal opponents and he has been plagued by brittle hands, which caused many potential big fights to fall by the wayside. But this fight, which will take place in front of more than 60,000 people at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Whales, could well be his signature moment. His fight against American Jeff Lacy, which found him in the odd position of being the underdog, brought out the beast in the fighter and produced a boxing masterpiece that left the heralded American fighter a ruined heap after twelve one-sided rounds. Lacy has never been the same. Calzaghe plans on doing the same to Kessler, who represents a more dangerous challenge than Lacy ever did.

“It’s been hard work holding onto my title and I don’t plan on giving it up yet,” he said recently. “Kessler is probably the best fighter I have ever faced, but like all my other challengers, he will go home empty handed. November 3rd can’t come soon enough.”

Should Calzaghe defeat Kessler he still has some lofty goals in mind. He would like to break Joe Louis’ record of 25 consecutive title defenses and surpass Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record. But he mentions these targets with a sense of humor, preferring to keep his mind on the here and now.

“Surpassing Larry Holmes and Bernard Hopkins means a lot to me and it’s a great incentive to train hard,” he says, “But let’s forget about Louis.” He adds with a smile and a nod, “I don’t know if I want to take his record, he’s a legend.”

Right now the focus remains on Mikkel Kessler. “This is only fight I want because a victory over Kessler will mean the most to my career.”

With the bout being telecast on HBO it will also provide the European phenom with a much broader audience than he’s ever had before. It could lead to a larger fan base and even bigger events and purses down the road. It’s almost hard to believe that after a ten-year reign Joe Calzaghe could be entering the glory years of an already glorious career.

Article posted on 12.10.2007

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