The Road to Greatness

Joe Calzaghe is my new favourite athlete, who despite all odds held an undefeated record in Boxing. He unified all the titles in the Super middleweight division and his final matches against Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr were in a league of their own. True boxing master classes! Unrivalled performance, his ability to shift his tactics and adapt different styles and perform at his peak despite getting knocked down is truly inspiring for all peak performers, athletes and professions that have a great similitude to sports.

It’s been a while since I watched Joe’s documentary, over 2 months… watched it during lockdown, and when it comes to movies, documentaries and animes, my memory isn’t the best, because I think my brain over the years got trained to not remember them. Unless, it’s some anime, movie, series or documentary I write about or talk about. So, this is like a test for my memory. I am going to try remembering Joe’s documentary.

I watched Tyson’s documentary, watched Joe’s, and watched a bunch of movies. It seems all so long ago haha. The opening paragraph to this blog was written the night I watched the documentary, since then it’s been laying in my drafts.

I guess I am a little bit more ready to write this post out. I have a lot of different interests and hobbies but in this blog writing I take inspiration and reflections mainly from Tae kwon do and martial arts and not really discuss other hobbies as much. I’d like to keep it that way haha, so much for telling you about my other interests lol but you do know, that I watch anime- Monster being my favourite, I read a lot; I shifted from fiction to non-fiction back in 2016. Before that everything I used to read was fictional novels like Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami. Murakami’s novels introduced classical music to me. I started listening to classical music Bach, Mozart, Beethoven when I read Kafka on the Shore. I read that a few times. I am going to be taking a long detour if I keep talking about what other novels, I have read lol. So, let’s steer back to the topic of the post. That said, every time I write, my lateral thinking keeps jumping around. I can’t really think linearly, it’s a struggle.

Ok…. Let’s try remembering some of the highlights when I watched Joe Calzaghe’s documentary. Joe’s father Enzo was his coach, an Italian who left the country to pursue his dreams, however he gave up on his dreams which was becoming a great musician to focus on his son’s potential and dream. It was an odd combination for a boxer to be coached by a musician. This tells you 1) You can learn anything 2) Great master artists see the similarities in different paths. Joe’s dad looked at boxing from his musical perspective. It starts off with a jab, jab, jab just like music haha well I don’t know any musical notes to replace those jabs here haha but you get the point. Imagine them jabs are a single 🎹keyboard key 🎵🎵🎵and then a rhythm starts🎶🎶🎶. It’s followed by a chorus where the piece centres towards, and then begins again. Joe’s boxing was pretty much that same way. In fact, more similar to a jazz🎷🥁🎺🎹 performance, in Jazz there is real-time collaboration and music shifts and adjusts and adapts. Joe’s boxing was like that too. He was able to shift, throw rapid fire combos, dance around and then go at it all over again.

Joe started at a young age and went to amateur boxing, he grew up in Wales, the son of a Welsh mother and a Sardinian father. At the age of nine, he fought his first boxing match but lost.

By 1993 he had held Amateur Boxing Association (ABA) titles in three different weight categories, the first British boxer to do so. As an amateur boxer, Calzaghe maintained an impressive record of 110 wins out of 120 fights. His first coach closed down his gym and that’s when Joe’s father took the reins in his hands, trying to keep the wild beast tamed. Keep him on track, keep the discipline instilled in him. I wonder what Joe would have turned out like, if his father didn’t do all that for him. He probably would have taken his frustration and anger out on the school kids that bullied him. He probably would have started getting in fights on the streets and lost himself. The good thing is that never happened to him. He had a huge share of his own struggles on the road to greatness. Fortunately, his struggles were keeping him on his path constantly. This is the kind of persistence you want to develop. Something that keeps you on your pursuit of your potential despite the setbacks and struggles. The consistent and persistent pursuit of your potential is what is living a good life is about. I got this from David Meltzer, he uses that line a lot. Like many self-improvement authors and coaches, he also loves talking about 80/20 rule, 1% improvement and aggregation of marginal gains. My writing is influenced a lot by Atomic Habits, Principles, Chimp Paradox, and many other books that I have read.

Joe Calzaghe’s road to greatness was truly realised once he beat Chris Eubank. I can recall his early amateur career and a little of his first professional fight. He knocked the guy out (Paul Hanlon) in first round. Let’s do a wiki recap of his boxing career. 46-0 a professional career lasting from 1993-2008. He unified the WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO and the Ring Magazine super-middleweight titles. He also held the Ring light-heavyweight title- those being his last 2 bouts against Hopkins and Jones Jr. You can read more about his personal life, amateur career and everything on here Joe Calzaghe on wiki and here.

What I loved about his style was his rhythm and hard punches. His hard punches led to Joe fighting with injured fists many times. Hmm, I am starting to wonder how good is my memory lol? I can’t really recall most of the matches that were shown in the documentary. The few that stuck with me and his best fights for me are against Eubank, Kessler the unification match for super middleweight division, and his two matches in the US. I can recall his early life, high school bullying by older kids that led to him eventually dropping out of school and his relationship with his father and the talk in between the rounds he always had with him. It’s like his father always had the right words for him as a coach to ignite his fighting spirit. He would come back after getting knocked down. An interesting development was most his fights lasting full 12 rounds after his match with Chris Eubank. This prompts me actually to take a look at his knockout ratio before and after Chris Eubank. He had 21 Knockouts out of the 22 fights before going against Chris Eubank which ended in a unanimous decision in favour of Joe Calzaghe. 11 knockouts after Chris Eubank’s match out of 23 fights. However, that said out 14 wins by decision, only 2 of them were split decisions. First against Robin Reid and the second against Bernard Hopkins- which highlights Calzaghe being the dominant force in the ring against his opponents.

This article Calzaghe vs Lacy, truly sheds light on Joe Calzaghe’s boxing career. The crossroads he faced after his match with the Kenyan boxer Evans Ashira. Joe injured his left fist in the 3rd round after knocking down Ashira and had to continue the rest of his match on the defence and using mainly his right hand. He won the fight by Unanimous decision despite injury. However, his next fight against the famed American middleweight IBF champ Jeff Lacy was delayed by 6 months. On 4th Mar 2006 Joe Calzaghe fought the unification match against Jeff Lacy with an injured wrist.

Calzaghe had been WBO champion since shocking the great Chris Eubank in 1997 but his star was on the wane – and he was dismissed by the influential American media as another overhyped European fighter.

“Joe was injured all the time, fighting domestic fighters and was doing it on satellite TV, people weren’t interested in him,” Enzo recalls.

Calzaghe Jr added: “The fight before Lacy, I got booed out of the Cardiff Ice Rink for my fight against Evans Ashira, when people didn’t know I was injured. I was a frustrated champion for eight years but knew the Lacy fight could put my career to another level. “

“It was my dad who convinced me to take the fight. I was in the best shape of my life and dad could see that.”

“The doctor told me not to fight, but dad wasn’t having it. The special relationship we had, nothing demonstrated it better. He said I could beat him with one hand – and he was right.”

Enzo added: “I told him he might as well retire if he pulled out because people would think he was a joke. I was harsh with him. I needed to be.” BBC article

The match against Lacy late in his career was the career defining moment and a true boxing masterclass. He landed over 1000 punches versus Lacy who only threw 444 punches and landing only 116. He sent Lacy on the floor for the first time in his career. Lacy at that point was nicknamed Left hook Lacy with an undefeated record of 21 wins and 18 knockouts. No one in the boxing industry expected Calzaghe to stand a chance against Jeff Lacy.

After this match he went on to have 5 more fights including the matches against Kessler, Hopkins and Jones Jr. He retired in February 2009 remaining undefeated.

In 2014, Joe Calzaghe was included into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. There’s a lot of good lessons for peak perfomer to learn from Joe’s documentary, one of them being perseverance and pushing forward despite the odds.

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