Two former world champions who continue to have a real passion for the sport of boxing – Joe Calzaghe and Darren Barker – are set to launch a managerial company: International Sports Group. Speaking with BBC Sport, the former 168/175 ruler and the former champ at 168 pounds said they “want to help fighters.”
Barker – who reigned as IBF super-middleweight champion in 2013 (winning the belt with an amazingly heroic, up-from-the-floor win over Daniel Geale; thus fulfilling his promise to his late brother) – says the thing he would most love to see now is one of his fighters having their arm raised as they become world champion.
“I want to be sat ringside, watching our fighter win a world title,” Barker said. “We miss the sport, we miss the journey, there are a lot of good people in boxing with boxers’ best interests at heart, but there are a lot who aren’t like that. We respect the sport. With our contacts and ambition and love for the sport, we have all the ingredients to be successful.”
Calzaghe, who admits he had a tough time of things after exiting the ring with his perfect 46-0 record; his father passing away in 2018, then Joe’s mother in 2020, is also keen to do right by up-and-coming fighters. Calzaghe also wishes to “keep my dad’s legacy alive.”
“For me, it was retiring at the top, on my terms, but what do you do next?” Calzaghe said. “I struggled. It is difficult. My dad instilled that hard work in me; I want to keep his legacy alive. His gym is still alive, and he guided my career, and now we can do that for other boxers. We want to give our best to fighters to steer their careers in the right direction.”
Calzaghe and Barker both have plenty of experience of how the fight game works, while they both understand the helping hand a young and emerging fighter can need so badly at times. Calzaghe says it is of the utmost importance that fighters “get what they deserve,” that they are supported by those around them. Without his dad’s support, Joe said, he might not have made it.
“My dad was passionate about boxers not getting what they deserve, boxers can have bad times in their careers, and that happened to me, especially when it felt like I was injured all the time,” Joe said. “There were times I thought I’d have to retire and get a day job.”
Hopefully, these two well-meaning former world champions will go on to create a whole stable of fighters, with each of them getting the full respect all fighters deserve. If things go well, Calzaghe and Barker may wind up being remembered all over again for what they did outside of the ring.
There are, as we know, too many shady, less than scrupulous figures at work in the sport of boxing, and these people care only about themselves. Calzaghe and Barker can hopefully go on to have great success with their managerial company whilst at the same time remaining as honorable as they both were when they were doing the fighting in the ring.
It’s great that Calzaghe and Barker want to give something back.