Joe Calzaghe Fully Focused On Ashira

09.09.05 By Curtis McCormick: Despite a proposed looming super fight with IBF boss Jeff Lacy, WBO Super Middleweight Champion Joe Calzaghe's attention remains fully fixed upon his defense tonight in Cardiff, Wales against determined challenger Evans Ashira. The 33 year old "Pride of Wales" headlines promoter Sports Network's card from the Cardiff International Arena and will be making his first appearance before the massive national audience on British terrestrial television entity ITV. Since winning the WBO belt from Chris Eubank in 1997, the lightning fisted southpaw has retained his title a remarkable sixteen consecutive times but cannot rest on his laurels as a slip up now against Ashira will cause his entire career to come crashing down in devastating fashion.

Calzaghe, 39-0 (31), most recently traveled to Germany where he stopped his former first round knockout victim Mario Veit in six but the well spoken Welshman is expecting a more difficult contest when he faces Evans Ashira in the ring tonight.

"Ashira is a good opponent, I think he's a good test for me," Calzaghe said during a radio interview with "He's a busy, come forward fighter who is a lot shorter than myself, so it doesn't take a genius to work out that I'll have to use my height, my fast jab and so on to break him up. But looking at him on tape, he's quite impressive, comes forward, throws a lot of punches, body shots and picks his combinations well. It should make for a good fight."

Ashira, 24-1 (13), will be at a disadvantage when the bell rings this evening in Cardiff as the 35 year old Kenyan now fighting out of Denmark hasn't fought above the middleweight class in over two and a half years. Ashira has held minor belts at light middle, the WBA's International title at middleweight and posted wins over accomplished veterans such as Jerry Elliot and Francisco Antonio Mora but was canvassed three times enroute to getting stopped in the second round by Maselino Masoe for the vacant WBA Middleweight crown in May of last year.

Taking nothing for granted, the game's longest reigning world titlist is giving his opponent all due respect, and will be going into tonight's bout with eyes wide open. When asked if he's looking at Ashira as simply a warm up to Lacy, the British southpaw was resolute. "Every opponent is dangerous and this is a world title defense, so if I take my eyes off the ball and think about Jeff Lacy too much, obviously, that's when fighters make mistakes," he said. "This is a tricky fight in and of itself and I'm making sure that I'm not even thinking of Jeff Lacy at the moment. I've got this defense ahead of me and the day afterward, if everything goes well, than obviously after that I'll think about Jeff Lacy. But believe me, all I'm thinking about now is Evans Ashira."

The man who is casting a giant shadow over Calzaghe's future, Jeff Lacy, recently tangled with the fighter that gave the Welshman his most difficult challenge, Robin Reid. The American IBF Champion proved too much for the former WBC beltholder, stopping the Englishman after seven tense, foul filled rounds. While Calzaghe concedes full credit to his rival, he also feels that Reid wasn't the same fighter who gave him all he could handle over six years ago. "Obviously, it was a good performance by Lacy but I think that Robin Reid was a shadow of himself and he just boxed on memory," remarked Joe. "He was slow and from the early rounds you could tell that Reid didn't want to be in the fight. He didn't have any game plan, he just tried to foul, grabbed Lacy by the legs; he didn't want to be in there, basically, you could see that. Lacy did well and took Reid apart but Reid stood straight in front of him, square on. The way to beat Lacy is with speed and movement. You need speed, you need to hurt him to get his respect and if you don't, he'll walk through you. Reid couldn't hurt him and that's what happened."

Joe Calzaghe has fought at super middle for his entire twelve year career, and has made the 168lb weight limit for seventeen straight bouts. The six footer admits to having gone through substantial difficulties over the last few years to stay in the division and looks forward to the day when he can graduate into the seven additional pounds that the light heavyweight class affords. "I'd have to say yeah because at this stage of my career, make no mistake, I want to finish as a two weight world champion," said Calzaghe when asked if the Lacy bout would be his last at super middleweight. "That's been my objective for the last four years. I want to be the first Welsh fighter and one of the few British fighters to have achieved that. I think that dominating the division for eight years and by beating Jeff Lacy, that would unify two of the belts and prove everything. There would be nothing bigger than that in the division that I could achieve."

Article posted on 09.09.2005

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