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Page last updated at 17:13 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 18:13 UK

How to stop Joe Calzaghe

Michael Smyth (right) falls to his knees as he celebrates beating Joe Calzaghe in the 1990 Welsh ABA final
Smyth (right) celebrates beating Joe Calzaghe in the 1990 Welsh ABA final

By Peter Shuttleworth

Bernard Hopkins takes boxing counsel from no-one. So there's little likelihood of 'The Executioner' seeking guidance from a Welsh power plant worker.

But Hopkins could do worse than giving Michael Smyth a call in between the Welshman's 10-hour shifts at Aberthaw Power Station, just outside Cardiff.

Even some of his work colleagues do not know it, but the stand-out scalp on the list of the man once known as the Barry Bomber is the boxer Americans are calling 'the Southpaw Joe C Wales.'

However much Smyth tries to play it down, he is not being allowed to forget beating up the boxer who boasts the honour of being the longest reigning current world champion.

While the loser of the 1990 Welsh ABA finals prepares for his American debut among the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, the winner is busy clearing asbestos.

Sometimes, sport is just not fair.

But Smyth is one of a select few that have broken the resistance of Calzaghe.

Michael Smyth
Smyth represented Wales at the 1990 Commonwealth Games

It is very seldom that a head coach of a small amateur boxing club such as Rhoose ABA can offer advice to such a true sporting great like Hopkins, but with Calzaghe's name on his cv, Smyth is no ordinary guy.

"Calzaghe hits fast and throws plenty of them but I was a one-punch hitter with the power," said Smyth, 38.

"Calzaghe has always been a combination hitter whereas I looked for a shot and let fly.

"I just walked through his shots because I was determined the kid everyone was calling a golden boy was not going to beat me.

"In fairness, he gave me a pasting in the first round and as I sat on my stool my trainer Peter Anthony, who sadly died of cancer 18 months ago, gave me the ultimate pep talk that I still recall to this day.

"He said 'throw punches from the hip and plenty of them, when he moves to the right you move to the left close the gap down.'

"He went on 'If you let him throw shots, he'll punch holes in you and use your body like a dartboard so jump on his chest and keep the play away from him.'

"I executed Pete's game plan to the letter and I broke Calzaghe's heart. I beat Joe on points and it takes something to do that to a guy with such a full-on work-rate.

"He had tremendous ability and style and everyone was talking about him but I taught him a valuable lesson that you needed great heart, courage and desire to become a champion."

Crushing Calzaghe is something Smyth could dine out on for the rest of his days, but the father-of-two gets bashful talking about the day he beat a British sporting legend.

"I suppose I'm part of an exclusive club but I don't like people that boast," said Smyth.

"I only tell people if they ask me and to be honest I get a little embarrassed talking about beating Joe because he is one of the great British sportsmen of this generation."

Calzaghe is man enough to admit he 'cried like a baby' after losing to Smyth in front of close family and friends in the Welsh capital.

Bernard Hopkins (left) and Joe Calzaghe
Alias: The Barry Bomber
Age: 38
Weight: 147lbs
Height: 5ft 10ins
Honours: Three Welsh ABA titles, European bronze medal and Welsh team member at 1990 Commonwealth Games
Alias: The Executioner
Age: 43
Weight: 175lbs
Height: 6ft 1ins
Honours: Middleweight world champion for ten years

But he has not made a habit of losing. Calzaghe has only lost to Romanian amateur Adrian Opreda since and claimed three British ABA titles before going pro.

Calzaghe is unbeaten in his 15-year professional career, knocking out 32 of his 44 victims, and has ruled the super-middleweight kingdom with fear for ten years since he defeated Chris Eubank for the WBO crown in 1997.

The Newbridge fighter defended his honour 21 times and defeated Mikkel Kessler in his last fight in November to confirm his status as the undisputed king of the 168lb division.

Calzaghe is nearing the end of a distinguished career but the 36-year-old stylish southpaw has one remaining ambition, to become a two-weight world champion.

To that end, Calzaghe moves up a weight and out of any comfort zone to take on American hero Hopkins, another man who has ruled a division for a decade, for The Ring Magazine belt and a stepping stone to a world title shot.

It may be a fight of many firsts for Calzaghe but Smyth is adamant that Las Vegas' Thomas and Mack Center won't see his first professional defeat in his first big US fight night.

"Hopkins is 43 years old and he looks it too, older in fact," said Smyth.

"His pre-fight trash talk gives me an indication that Joe will win because barking dogs don't bite.

"I remember Joe saying he was going to do this and that to me back in 1990 and look what happened.

"Hopkins calls himself 'The Executioner' but there's only one guy under the guillotine on Saturday as I strongly believe Hopkins will get hurt."

see also
Hopkins just too old - Calzaghe
15 Apr 08 |  Boxing
Calzaghe v Hopkins photos
15 Apr 08 |  Boxing
Vegas to show Calzaghe pedigree
12 Apr 08 |  Boxing
Hopkins taunts 'white' Calzaghe
07 Dec 07 |  Boxing
The Calzaghe Record
04 Nov 07 |  Boxing
Wales' pugilist princes
07 Mar 06 |  Boxing
Wales' greatest US fight nights
25 Mar 08 |  Boxing
BBC Sport Wales coverage
23 Mar 08 |  Wales

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