There was, for some time, serious thought in Joe Calzaghe’s mind of trying to break Rocky Marciano’s illustrious, indeed legendary, 49-0 record. Calzaghe was into his mid-thirties and he had enjoyed a long reign as super middleweight champ, while “The Pride of Wales” had then moved up in weight to win the Ring Magazine light heavyweight title, this by defeating Bernard Hopkins in a fight that saw Calzaghe finally box in America.
Now facing another future Hall of Famer, this time in New York, Calzaghe ended up giving us his swansong against Roy Jones Junior. 45-0 prior to the Jones fight, Calzaghe was considering going for it, having five more fights so as to get, he hoped, to an amazing 50-0. But it didn’t happen. Instead, Calzaghe – a smart guy – didn’t push his luck. He got out at the right time. Having been dropped in the opening round of the Hopkins fight, with Joe coming back to win a split decision, Calzaghe was also dropped in the opening round of his fight with Jones.
Was Calzaghe’s long career catching up with him? Was his punch resistance beginning to desert him? Calzaghe went on to dominate a badly cut (the fight should have been stopped) Jones for the following 11 rounds, his fast and non-stop southpaw punching proving too much for the faded Jones. And then Calzaghe made the decision to not find out if he had lost anything as a fighter. Calzaghe was done, he was going out on his own terms. At 46-0(32), Calzaghe had done all he needed to do.
He had made an incredible 21 defences of the WBO super middleweight title, he had unified the WBO/WBC/WBA/Ring magazine super middleweight belts with a fine win over Mikkel Kessler, and Joe had capped off his career with two US wins over modern day legends, up at 175 pounds. One of the rare few to have shown that the old adage, ‘they always come back,’ doesn’t apply to every fighter, Calzaghe’s legacy is secure.
It doesn’t matter that Joe never broke Rocky’s record (he wasn’t a heavyweight anyway, so some fans would perhaps have been unwilling to give Calzaghe the full credit his accomplishment might have earned him) – Calzaghe carved out his own legend. We can count on our fingers the precious few great fighters who got out on top, on the back of a win, this whilst sporting an unbeaten record.
And today in 2008, Joe Calzaghe had his final fight, and in doing so, he joined the exclusive club.
For some fans and experts, Calzaghe ranks as the greatest 168 pound fighter ever.