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Calzaghe's second coming

Calzaghe Promotions - The Boys are Back in Town
Venue: Newport Centre Date: Friday, 21 August Time: 1900 BST

Welsh boxing's bad boys

By Peter Shuttleworth

The king is dead, but long live the gym.

It wasn't that long ago that a tumbledown old rugby clubhouse on the edge of an backstreet industrial estate deep in the heart of the Welsh valleys was the centre of the boxing universe.

The Calzaghe gym was renowned the sporting world over as a pugilist production line, once housing three fighters from the Newbridge Boxing Club that ruled the world.

But since the great Joe Calzaghe quit, Enzo Maccarinelli was mauled and Gavin Rees was rumbled, the gym's crumbling frame seemed to resemble the deteriorating fight factory inside.

Joe Cazlaghe
Nothing can match the adrenaline rush of fighting, but hopefully promoting comes close

Promoter Joe Calzaghe

Yet as boxing's vultures circle to read the Calzaghe dynasty its last rites, the empire is fighting back like it only knows how.

Enzo Calzaghe, the gym's Sardinian godfather, is preparing for its second coming, with his one-time world champion son, Joe, now the talisman outside of the ring rather than in it.

"I created this empire - and it can be built again," the 60-year-old Calzaghe sr, who admitted he almost threw in the towel on his 30-year boxing career during the gym's darkest hour, told BBC Sport.

"It hasn't collapsed, it has just gone through a bad period, but I have the ability to ensure this gym has a second coming.

"What happened? The appetite disappeared, for everybody not just myself. Not just because Joe retired but some of the fighters left."

Maccarinelli and the promising Nathan Cleverly left the gym as boxing politics threatened to kill the famous Welsh fight club, while former WBU middleweight champion Gary Lockett retired in the aftermath of his defeat to Kelly Pavlik.

But after much soul-searching, Calzaghe sr, a BBC Sports Personality Coach of the Year and an American Boxing Writers trainer of the year, decided not to go the same way.

Rees, the former WBA world light welterweight champion, and one-time Commonwealth light middleweight title-holder Bradley Pryce have been comfortable in Joe's stately shadow for the best part of 20 years.

Now the boys in the background must step forward to lead the legendary stable back from the brink.

The double-act will jointly-headline Calzaghe Promotions's first major event, 'The Boys are Back in Town', on Friday in Newport.

Unbeaten Calzaghe jr shot to sporting super stardom and two-weight world dominance due to his own individual genius.

But the Welshman has formed a team with Triple S Sports - run by sports agent Paul Stretford and former Newcastle United chairman Freddie Shepherd - to take the next step in his boxing journey.

He will be the father figure of a new promotions company as he bids to give the gym his dad built the kiss of life.

"Two years ago this gym had three world champions and that has never been heard of before," recalled Calzaghe.

"It was an incredible achievement, but that bubble was always going to burst. That was inevitable. Boxing is a cruel sport as we've found out.

"It is a difficult time to start a promotion business due to the lack of television coverage with Setanta going under, but there are still very good boxers out there.

Bradley Pryce, Harry Miles and Gavin Rees with coach Enzo Calzaghe
Helping Bradley and Gavin does run deeper than pure business for me, we're like a family

Promoter Joe Calzaghe

"Nothing can match the adrenaline rush of fighting, but hopefully promoting comes close."

The Calzaghe camp was once compared to Emanuel Steward's legendary Kronk gym, where Thomas Hearns, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis honed their skills.

Now Pryce and Rees are ready to shoulder the burden and lead their beloved stable into a new chapter.

"I'm not just hoping for victory for personal reasons," said Rees. "It means everything for me to carry this stable.

"It could have been easy for Joe and Enzo to have walked away. They stuck with us and we will stick with them. Now it time for us to repay some faith."

Rees has not fought for 18 months since he lost his WBA world title to Andreas Kotelnik - still his only professional defeat - but now his road to redemption starts against 36-year-old journeyman Gary Reid in the lightweight division on Friday.

"Bradley and Gav got beaten but like the true champions they are are not defeated," said Calzaghe jr.

"I've known them since I was a kid and my dad guided them through their successful amateur career so helping them is not just a professional decision, it's personal.

"I wouldn't say I have a responsibility to them but helping Bradley and Gavin does run deeper than pure business for me. We're like a family.

Find out what Joe Calzaghe did next

"I've done my bit and have given them a platform, now they have to get their butts into shape and take things seriously.

"They've got a dietician and are doing it like professionals - that is showing me and my dad respect."

Best mate Pryce, meanwhile, returns to the ring for the first time since losing his Commonwealth crown in a two-round battering by Matthew Hall in March.

The 28-year-old, like Rees, fights another ageing also-ran as his opponent Michael Monaghan has won just two of his last 14 bouts.

"Joe's always been there for us and now it is time for us, not to just perform for ourselves but to maintain the honour of our gym," said Pryce.

The Calzaghe camp is now ready for a battle with fellow world champions-turned-promoters Ricky Hatton and David Haye as they bid to be kings outside the ring.

Calzaghe is actively seeking reinforcements for his stable - so it's seconds out. Round one is on Friday.

see also
Coach Calzaghe considered future
20 Aug 09 |  Boxing
Slimmed down Rees eyes redemption
30 Jul 09 |  Boxing
Setanta goes into administration
23 Jun 09 |  Business
Calzaghe given 'freedom' honour
15 May 09 |  Wales
Maccarinelli leaves Calzaghe camp
08 May 09 |  Boxing
Rooney agent accepts lengthy ban
01 May 09 |  Football
Warren company in administration
30 Apr 09 |  Boxing
Calzaghe postpones second event
29 Apr 09 |  Boxing
Rees joins up Calzaghe Promotions
07 Apr 09 |  Boxing
Calzaghe rules out boxing return
24 Mar 09 |  Boxing
Calzaghe wins case against Warren
17 Mar 09 |  Wales
Hall stops champion Pryce in two
14 Mar 09 |  Boxing
Cleverly leaves Calzaghe stable
05 Sep 08 |  Boxing
Calzaghe wins Sports Personality
09 Dec 07 |  Sport Homepage
Classy Calzaghe demolishes Jones
09 Nov 08 |  Boxing
Lockett destroyed by Pavlik power
08 Jun 08 |  Boxing
Calzaghe rallies to beat Hopkins
20 Apr 08 |  Boxing
Rees stopped in WBA title defence
22 Mar 08 |  Boxing
Awesome Haye stops Maccarinelli
09 Mar 08 |  Boxing
Awesome Calzaghe defeats Kessler
04 Nov 07 |  Boxing

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