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IT WAS past three o'clock in the morning when Joe Calzaghe experienced the sweetest validation of his professional life. Victory over Jeff Lacy, a 28-year-old American compared to a young Mike Tyson because of his power and "take-no-prisoners attitude", left no one in doubt about the world super middleweight champion's talent. Hugh McIlvanney, the doyen of British sportswriters and a veteran chronicler of fights, described what he had witnessed as "one of the greatest displays of superb technique, confidence and fighting intelligence a British boxer has delivered in a major contest." For years, Calzaghe's virtuosity remained a legend of the Welsh valleys. His defeat in 1997 of Chris Eubank brought him to prominence, winning for him the World Boxing Organisation (WBO) super middleweight title. But despite a record number of defences of the belt, his career lacked a defining contest. A long line of challengers and ex-titleholders were disposed of but the biggest names in American boxing avoided the ultimate showdown he craved.Hand injuries further obscured the true level of his aptitude for an art he began to learn from his father, Enzo, at the age of eight when - inspired by Sugar Ray Leonard - a rolled-up carpet in the family home in Newbridge became a makeshift heavy bag.
This is the story of Calzaghe's extraordinary life, from his humble beginnings in his hometown of Newbridge, to his ascent to personal greatness, becoming the first super middleweight boxer to win the prized belt awarded by The Ring, the bible of boxing, in the division's near 20-year history. As reticent outside the ring as he is remarkable once he steps inside, for the first time Calzaghe reveals his fears and motivations and the real extent of the hand injuries that have dogged his career. One of Britain's foremost sporting champions, a warrior and working-class hero, this is the story of the triumphs and trials that made Calzaghe a legend.
JOE CALZAGHE, winner of three consecutive ABA titles as an amateur (a post-war record) and the dominant super middleweight in the world for the past decade, was born in 1972 in Hammersmith, London, growing up from the age of two in Newbridge, Wales. After successfully challenging Chris Eubank for the WBO title, he has remained a super middleweight world champion for more than a decade. He has two sons, Joe and Connor, and lives in Blackwood.