Former undefeated world champion boxer Joe Calzaghe says he is ready to return to the sport as a trainer or manager.
Calzaghe and sons Joe Jr and Connor are planning to reopen the Newbridge Boxing Gym made famous by Joe’s father Enzo, who died in 2018 at the age of 69.
The WBO super-middleweight champion for over a decade, Calzaghe walked away from the sport after retiring in 2009.
“I always said that when the time was right I would come back into boxing,” Calzaghe told BBC Sport Wales.
- Joe Calzaghe: Boxer to re-open his father’s famous gym
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‘We could have world champions again’
The death of Calzaghe’s father, trainer and best friend Enzo has since seen the boxer nicknamed ‘the Pride of Wales’ re-examine his relationship with the sport.
Calzaghe has distanced himself from boxing but says he is now looking to give back to a sport that gave him so much, having retired with a record of 46-0. He recently renewed his licences for training and managing fighters.
“Yeah I have my trainers and management licence now but do you know what, due to circumstances in the last couple of years I didn’t really follow that on,” Calzaghe explained.
“But boxing is in my blood, it is what I know best and what I am known for most of all. But you can’t do it with 50% commitment you have to be 100% committed to be involved and to be great at what you do in any aspect of the sport.
“I have had the opportunities in the past to train top fighters, even world champions, but because of my situation I was not in a position to do that.
“I am not saying that in the future that is going to happen, but we are working hard to get the energy back in our gym.
“It is a place of blood, sweat and tears and in the past great sessions, fiery sessions, and it is great, dad would be proud, proud of the boys and we want to get it back up and rolling and everyone will be welcome here, everyone.
“But we would be open to professionals coming here to train and like I said, there have been world champions in this gym in the past and who is to say there might not be again in the future.”
‘The memories will last forever’
Calzaghe says he feels reopening the gym where he and other boxers such as world champions Enzo Maccarinelli and Gavin Rees enjoyed such success has helped him with his grief, as the Calzaghe family pay tribute to the man who won trainer of the year at the 2007 BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.
“Yeah of course, the memories from this place will last forever,” he said. “My dad is not here now so it’s not got the crazy buzz that we used to have here but, at the end of the day, we are doing it for my sons and for the sport of boxing, because I love the sport of boxing.
“It would have been a shame to just leave the gym as it was. We had amazing days, three world champions, incredible times over the last 20 years in this gym, but now it is time to take the next step.
“My boys have always loved boxing and wanted to follow me into the sport and they teach it down here, so it is continuing the legacy really, continuing the legacy of the gym, of my dad Enzo and of myself and going forward – boxing is a great sport.
“This is like the Kronk Gym [the famous American boxing gym in Detroit] of Britain, this is the champs’ camp, that’s how I like to look at it and it has been sleeping long enough now, it is time to get back into it. I have more enthusiasm now to be involved with the gym again.
“It is such a magic place and my sons Joe and Connor will continue the legacy. It is going to be really good, there is lots of interest and we are revamping the place to what it was like before.
“The boys really enjoy it, they have loads of enthusiasm for the sport and it makes me proud, they can kick on and achieve good things and who knows, maybe one day a world champion could walk through these doors again. It is a possibility.
“Dad would love it, he would be proud of the boys, of course.”
Heavyweight boxing ‘frustrating’
Calzaghe says he is frustrated as a boxing fan by the current impasse in the heavyweight division.
The former two-weight world champion says he wants to see Britons Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury fight each other.
“It is frustrating. Boxing is a business and promoters and managers, different TV networks, you will always have someone looking to protect their fighters,” he added.
“It is different promoters, different networks and no one knows who is the best. You have Anthony Joshua, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.
“The heavyweight championship of the world is one of the biggest names in the whole of sport and you want unification fights.
“Me, being a boxing fan, the boxing public, for boxing itself, we need to find out who the champion is. So unless these guys fight each other I think it is a travesty and is just damaging the sport.
“That is difficult, you have different styles, I think they could all on any given night beat each other. Personally I think it’s Fury or AJ who is number one.
“I think Fury has the style to beat Joshua… that’s a fight I want to see, definitely, and I hope it happens in the next 12 months.
“You don’t want the situation where one of them gets knocked out or beaten and then they fight a few years down the line. It is interesting I think, the next 12 months, it would be good for British and world boxing if those two guys fight.”
Wilder’s statement ‘pathetic’
Calzaghe blasted Wilder for his controversial recent comments. The WBC world heavyweight champion has faced criticism for stating he is “trying to get a body on my record”.
“I think that is a pretty pathetic statement. If you look at his style, he doesn’t fight like a guy who wants to hurt someone,” Calzaghe said.
“Maybe Wilder is doing it to be controversial; I have heard he is not a bad guy in real life. But you draw the line in saying certain things and killing someone in the ring, that is a bad, bad statement.
“Especially in boxing where obviously you can get injured and killed.”