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Last Updated: Monday, 8 October 2007, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Calzaghe v Eubank - 10 years on

By Sean Davies

Joe Calzaghe v Chris Eubank
Calzaghe shows his joy at winning the belt he still holds

The 11 October, 1997, marks the 10-year anniversary of Joe Calzaghe's clash with former champion Chris Eubank at the Sheffield Arena for the vacant WBO super middleweight title.

Calzaghe, of course, won a thrilling 12-round decision to claim the belt he has proudly held through 20 defences, making him the longest reigning current world champion in boxing.

As the Welshman prepares for another of the biggest tests of his career against WBC and WBA champion Mikkel Kessler in Cardiff on 3 November, he still considers Eubank the best opponent he has ever faced.

606: DEBATE
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The then-25-year-old Calzaghe had been due to challenge champion Steve Collins for the WBO crown.

But having just defeated Eubank and Nigel Benn, the Irishman chose to retire rather than putting his reputation on the line against a talented youngster, who was undefeated in 22 fights with 21 knock-outs, 10 in the first round.

Eubank, meanwhile, had been training to fight Mark Prince at light heavyweight, but with just two weeks to get down to 168lbs the 31-year-old chose to accept the title bout - and vowed to take the young upstart "into the trenches".

"And he did," said Calzaghe. "Physically and mentally, the Eubank fight drained me.

Joe Calzaghe v Chris Eubank
Calzaghe stunned Eubank with a first-round knock-down

"I said that I was going to knock him out but that night was the hardest I've had in the whole of my boxing career... only my heart and fitness brought me through the ordeal."

An adrenaline-fuelled Calzaghe started out like a train.

"I came out of the corner for round one smiling," remembers Eubank.

"I was moving around and sizing up the terrain, when 'Boom!' Calzaghe hit me with a huge shot that literally came out of nowhere and knocked me down.

"A first-round knock-down had never happened to me in my entire career.

"As I picked myself up from the canvas and brushed myself down, I thought to myself: 'You've got your work cut out tonight, guy.'

BOXING'S 10-YEAR CHAMPIONS
Joe Louis, 1937-49
Archie Moore, 1952-62
Julio Cesar Chavez, 1984-94
Azumah Nelson, 1984-94
Ricardo Lopez, 1990-2001
Bernard Hopkins, 1995-2005
Joe Calzaghe, 1997-

"My constitution was strong enough to soak up the damage that punch might have done in the longer term, so once I had regained my poise, I thought to myself: 'I will knock on your door in the 10th or 11th round but, boy, am I going to have to take some stick in the meantime'."

Calzaghe soon realised that he had got his preparations wrong and that he had started too quickly.

"I was knackered after three or four rounds when I hadn't stopped him," said Calzaghe.

"I'd never gone 12 rounds in my life. I hope I never have to go through that sort of pain again. My body just wasn't used to it."

Joe Calzaghe v Chris Eubank
Calzaghe lifts the WBO belt for the first time

Calzaghe was helped through some dark moments by father and trainer Enzo, and eventually won the full respect of Eubank.

"I know how to absorb punishment, take it and give it back, but to Joe's credit he stayed there through to the final bell and took a unanimous decision," said Eubank.

"After the fight, I went to Joe and complimented him on his performance and made no excuses in the press interviews.

"In return, the media spoke very kindly about me, which was very welcome.

"Steve Bunce of the Daily Telegraph said the bout was: 'quite simply one of the finest fights in British boxing history'."

SEE ALSO
BBC Sport Wales coverage
07 Aug 07 |  Wales
The Calzaghe Record
05 Mar 06 |  Boxing
Middleweight Masters
09 Dec 02 |  Boxing
Wales' pugilist princes
07 Mar 06 |  Boxing


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