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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 March 2006, 17:51 GMT
Calzaghe's coronation day
By Sean Davies
BBC Sport at the MEN Arena, Manchester

Joe Calzaghe (left) and Jeff Lacy
Calzaghe's win over Lacy was comprehensive

For all his joy at a masterful super middleweight unification win over Jeff Lacy, there was a slightly world-weary look in Joe Calzaghe's eyes post-fight.

It was not boredom with the professional boxing world after 13 years and 41 successful fights - far from it, as he rejected talk of an 18-month countdown to retirement.

Rather it was a sense of mystification at the sudden acclaim, notably from the US boxing media who were stunned by his comprehensive dismantling of Lacy.

When pressed on why he went hunting the knock-out in the final round when he held a points lead as wide as the Atlantic, Calzaghe said diplomatically: "That's my style, that's who I am."

He could easily have asked whether anyone had been watching the world's longest-reigning champion during the past nine years.

Since his landmark win over Chris Eubank in 1997, which gave him the WBO crown, Calzaghe's critics have been legion.

They claim he slaps with punches, feigns injury, will not fight outside his own back yard and avoids the best opposition, beliefs fuelled by fluctuations in his form over a long career.

As IBF champion Lacy stalked into the MEN Arena ring looking mean, moody and magnificent, he was supposed to be the man to blow the Calzaghe myth apart and wrest the title back to the States.

Instead, Calzaghe beat on Lacy like he was the family mule, the Welshman's sharp boxing skills and scything punches having the Manchester crowd chanting "easy" as early as the second round.

On this evidence, Lacy was not in the class of previous Calzaghe victims Charles Brewer and Byron Mitchell. And certainly not at the level of Eubank.

He'll be in the Hall of Fame one day
Lacy's promoter Gary Shaw on Calzaghe

Perhaps a better comparison would be Omar Sheika, the brash, upcoming American who came to Wembley to dethrone Calzaghe in 2000, only to be blasted away in five explosive rounds.

So why has the latest win got the US boxing media suddenly sitting up and taking notice when promoter Frank Warren repeats his well-quoted comments that the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr have consistently ducked Calzaghe?

Lacy's credentials stand up far better than Sheika's. A former Olympian, the Florida fighter is also a brave, bull of a man who had knocked out 17 of 22 opponents before Calzaghe.

With his ability and achievements so respected, this was at last an opponent that Calzaghe could face secure in the knowledge that simply winning was enough.

Against Brewer and Mitchell - whose credentials were queried Stateside - the Welshman felt he had to put on a show for the US audience, to blaze his opponents away.

Rather than using his boxing skills, he indulged his natural instinct and stood toe-to-toe, exposing himself to unnecessary shots and making the job harder than it ever needed to be.

Now approaching 34 and having endured a bitter divorce, a more mature and secure champion has emerged.

And against Lacy, perhaps the most complete performance of Calzaghe's career resulted.

Jeff Lacy
Lacy was a picture of pain at the end

Lacy's trainer Dan Birmingham compared Calzaghe to another of his stable, pound-for-pound great Ronald 'Winky' Wright, and said he had never seen a better performance by a fighter. Period.

Lacy's promoter Gary Shaw admitted to seriously underestimating Calzaghe and said that he is guaranteed to join the Hall of Fame.

Of course, the Welshman seemingly had the States at his feet after the win over Mitchell.

And as he still seems reluctant to fight across the Atlantic, Calzaghe could struggle to land the big, established names.

US TV network Showtime's Al Bernstein admitted in Manchester that the country's fight press are reluctant to recognise any boxer who does not fight on the east coast - even those from the western states.

But after Calzaghe's destruction of Lacy, they have been forced to admit that true champions can blossom far from Madison Square Garden.





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BBC Wales Sport coverage
31 Oct 05 |  Wales

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