Page last updated at 08:04 GMT, Sunday, 30 March 2008 09:04 UK

Comic's Las Vegas fighting chance

'Mario de Niro' with a map of Italy
Rod Woodward's comic creation, the "legendary Italian Mario de Niro"

A comedian hoping to break into the big time has a Las Vegas booking, thanks to champion Welsh boxer Joe Calzaghe.

Rod Woodward, of Cardiff, is honing his punchlines for fans hoping to see the world super-middleweight champion win his first light-heavyweight challenge.

The 31-year-old is a friend of the Calzaghe camp, and is working on a mock Italian character called Mario de Niro.

He said: "It's just great to say that you've played the Vegas Strip. I'm hoping it won't be the last."

Woodward, already a veteran of the corporate entertainment sector, is a rising talent on Wales' stand-up comedy scene.

He has performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe a number of times, has had his own comedy series on BBC Radio Wales and last month won the BBC Wales TV talent contest, Funny Business.

His 19 April Vegas debut is expected to be in the Planet Hollywood resort and casino, where Newbridge fighter Calzaghe will be based.

Rod Woodward as his comic creation Mario de Niro
The 31-year-old rehearses for the Welsh-Italian invasion of Las Vegas

He plans an hour-long early evening set shortly after the Welsh-Italian's weigh-in for the "Battle of the Planet" with US fighter Bernard Hopkins.

Woodward said: "It will be a send-up in the guise of an Italian comedy character I've been doing for four or five years.

"Mario de Niro is the Italian comedian of the year. He's just an all-round Italian legend trying to conquer the English comedy circuit by hook or by crook.

'Morale-boosting'

"It's an observational style of comedy. It doesn't depend on the character, it is material-based."

The Calzaghe camp - Joe's father Enzo, and uncle Sergio are his trainers - are proud of their Welsh-Italian heritage.

Last week Enzo and Sergio talked about their own showbusiness past when they revealed they planned to release a pop single once Joe has retired from boxing.

Woodward said: "Enzo is a bit of dark horse. He has been at functions where I've played and has been following my career.

"It's nice to be part of the whole team Calzaghe. Hopefully it will be a bit of a morale-boosting episode for the rest of the fans."




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