He was the boxing boy who cried wolf. He’d been threatening retirement for the last six months, telling us that he’d met and exceeded his expectations in the game, and that all meaningful challenges had been smote.
We didn’t believe Joe Calzaghe then.
We do now. To a degree.
This being boxing, we tend to think of a fighter as fully retired when he is ensconced in a coffin, and even then have to make sure that the hole is deep and the top is firmly attached.
On Thursday afternoon, the Welsh light heavyweight champion, age 36, called it quits.
“It was a difficult decision but I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve in boxing,” Calzaghe told the BBC. “I've been world champion for 11 years. I've got no other goals to go for. That's why I am calling it a day. I had a long think with my family. My children wanted me to give up, plus my mum. That's why I called it a day and will go on to do something else. My decision is to retire. I've been boxing for 25 years and, like I said, I've achieved everything I want to achieve.”
If nothing changes, and he doesn’t get sick of all that quality time with family and friends, Calzaghe’s record stands at 46-0 with 32 knockouts. He is a lock for the Hall of Fame, of course. But there will be plenty of detractors, mostly fightfans outside the UK, who look at Calzaghe and shake their head at the opportunities and challenges he didn’t grab back in the day. Why didn’t he fight a 30something Bernard Hopkins? Or a 30something Roy Jones? Or even a late 30something Glen Johnson?
Calzaghe really owned the super middleweight division, after snagging the vacant WBO crown on Oct. 11, 1997 with a UD 12 over Chris Eubank. He made 21 title defenses during his 11-year reign, a neat feat, even if those defenses sometimes came against local heroes and faded vets. His star shined brightest in the last three years. Taking down the Balco-sized hitter Jeff Lacy in 2006 opened the eyes of xenophobic fight fans and keyboard tappers, and back to back takedowns of Hall of Fame locks Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones in 2008 at light heavyweight, right here in the US, shut up, to a great extent, anti Calzaghe cranks who whined that he dined on a diet of homecooking served up by promoter Frank Warren.
A lengthier treatise on Calzaghe’s career and legacy will be forthcoming from Ron Borges. I am hesitant to hammer out even another paragraph, because the Welshman is only 36, and has shown that he is at or near the peak of his skills right now. He calls himself “retired,” while I respectfully think of Calzaghe as “on hiatus.”
Quality time, athletes used to obscene paydays and showers of adoration from arenas full of admirers find, can get old, fast.