Sure, he might be big stuff over there in the Old Country where they still love their queen and their tea and crumpets, but he’s just an average Joe over here.
If you’re a champ from Great Britain and you want to make a big splash in this part of the world, you need a passport, a work visa and a left hook that topples oak trees.
Oh yeah. And you have to fight over here occasionally. Make an appearance. Stop by for a visit, a chat and a fight. Otherwise, no one will know who you are. You need to give the town folk something they’ll remember and talk about over their Sunday morning breakfast.
But it’s tough to get respect when most Americans can’t even pronounce your name.
Joe Calzaghe is from Wales. He’s also the undefeated WBO super-middleweight champ, and on March 4, he’ll attempt to do a little unifying when he fights IBF champ Jeff Lacy (21-0, 17 KOs) of St. Petersburg, FL.
They’ll be fighting at the MEN Arena in Manchester, England, because, apparently, Calzaghe doesn’t like to sleep in a strange bed. He only fights close to home. No long plane rides, hotels or strange food.
That’s why the fight will start at 2 a.m. Manchester time, or 10 p.m. St. Petersburg time. England got the fight, but along with SHOWTIME, we got the prime starting time.
For Calzaghe (40-0, 31 KOs), who has ruled the super-middleweight division for eight years, respect has been slow in coming. But if he wins this fight, that will change overnight.
“It’s probably because I have unfortunately been unable to get unification fights and there has not been any stars in the division,” Calzaghe said in a recent conference call.
Sure, that’s part of it. But sometimes, you need to look in a different direction. Bernard Hopkins was out there for a long time. So was Roy Jones Jr.
Calzaghe’s promoter, Frank Warren, said they tried to make those matches, but they just didn’t happen for one reason or another. And that’s how Calzaghe got a reputation for ducking the tough fights.
Maybe that’s why someone on the conference call brought up the fact that there was still concern in the Lacy camp that Calzaghe might pull out of the fight at the last minute.
“I have no intention of pulling out,” Calzaghe said. “I am 100 percent focusing on training. I’m injury free. So God forbid, unless anything should fall out of the sky and land on my head, I will be there March 4.”
If I was Calzaghe, I’d start looking skyward every time I walked outside.
While Calzaghe is still hoping for that elusive acceptance as one of boxing’s best, Lacy has already been crowned one of the premier fighters in the world. It helps that he’s willing to go anywhere to fight anyone. That’s why he’s flying to Manchester.
Asked about Calzaghe’s lack of respect in the United States by a British journalist, Lacy said you don’t become “big box office” if you don’t fight in the United States.
“Yeah, you have the boxing fans that watch you,” Lacy said. “But the working people don’t know who Joe Calzaghe is.”
That’s when Warren got a little hot under the collar.
“Everyone keeps saying Joe Calzaghe is not big box office,” he said. “Joe Calzaghe has made more money than any fighter to come out of Wales.”
Sounds good, but it’s like Warren saying Calzaghe has made more money than any fighter coming out of Kansas, which has about the same population as Wales.
“These questions (from the British press) sometimes are pretty ridiculous,” he said. “Start denigrating your own man? I just don’t understand it. Joe Calzaghe has been and is willing to fight anybody. He will be there in the ring March 4 and then we’ll see where we are.”
Still in England, I’m guessing.