Joe Calzaghe fought for the final time as a professional 15 years ago today, outpointing Roy Jones Jr to bring his record to an unblemished 46-0 (23 KOs). Elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2014, Calzaghe retired with a number of memorable performances.
Here are five of his greatest wins:
Bernard Hopkins (SD12, April 19, 2008, Las Vegas)
Hopkins may have been 43 years old when he faced off with Calzaghe, but he was far from a spent force; he would box professionally for another eight years and in his next outing would comfortably outpoint former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik in a dominant performance. The opening rounds of the contest, Calzaghe’s first at light heavyweight, showed that the Welshman was in for a difficult night: Hopkins knocked Calzaghe down with a short right hand in the first, and in the second Calzaghe was warned by referee Joe Cortez for throwing a low blow. Despite the veteran’s attempts to turn the contest into a dirty, mauling affair, Calzaghe was able to assert himself, ultimately connecting with more punches than any Hopkins opponent to that point and emerging with a split decision victory by scores of 113-114, 116-111 and 115-111.
Mikkel Kessler (UD12, November 3, 2007, Cardiff)
In Calzaghe’s final outing at super middleweight, he unified three title belts with victory over Denmark's then-undefeated Kessler. Although Kessler appeared to land the harder individual punches, including a pair of uppercuts with which he won the fourth, Calzaghe’s speed, accuracy and work rate allowed him to take over the contest down the stretch, handing Kessler his first defeat. “It was confusing when he hit you 20 times,” said Kessler afterward of the difficulty of facing Calzaghe’s relentless assaults.
Jeff Lacy (UD12, March 4, 2006, Cardiff)
Perhaps the finest performance of Calzaghe’s career, this was the fight that announced to the American media and fans that he deserved to be taken seriously as a major force in the super middleweight division. Undefeated Lacy was 21-0 with 17 KOs, and most observers on the western side of the Atlantic expected him to mow through the Welshman. Calzaghe, however, dominated, bloodying Lacy’s nose, cutting him, wobbling him and knocking him down for the first time in his career in the 12th round. The fight should arguably have been stopped at that point if not before, but in the event, Calzaghe won by scores of 119-107, 119-107, and 119-105. Lacy was never the same again, his post-Calzaghe record a mere 6-5 (1 KO).
Chris Eubank (UD12, October 11, 1997, Sheffield)
Calzaghe was a 25-year-old contender in his first world title fight; Eubank was a 49-fight veteran and two-weight world titlist whose only defeats had been to fellow former champ Steve Collins. But Calzaghe came tearing out of the blocks, knocking down the redoubtable Eubank in the opening round. Eubank, however, used all his strength, skills, and guile to keep himself in the contest, taking Calzaghe to what the Welshman would later describe as a “dark place.” Eubank forced the young pretender to dig deep and fight him in the trenches, but Calzaghe prevailed, dropping Eubank again in the tenth and emerging victorious by scores of 116-111, 118-110, and 118-109. With the victory, Calzaghe won a super middleweight belt, his first world title; he would hold on to it for a decade until finishing his career with the contests against Hopkins and Jones at 175 lbs.
Roy Jones Jr (UD12, New York, November 8, 2008)
The final outing of Calzaghe’s career came against the man who, for much of the 1990s and the early years of the 21st century, had been regarded as the best boxer on the planet and one of the greatest of all time. Jones was very much on the downslope by the time he squared off against Calzaghe at Madison Square Garden, having been stopped by both Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, but he showed he could still be formidable in flashes by dropping Calzaghe in the opening round. (Replays, however, showed the knockdown blow was an accidental forearm by Jones.) The first few rounds were competitive, until Calzaghe steadily asserted himself, cutting Jones above his left eye in the seventh and overwhelming him with his speed and activity in the second half of the contest. All three judges scored the bout 118-109 for Calzaghe, who later retired, saying, “I have achieved everything I wanted to achieve in boxing. 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.”