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ON THIS DAY: Joe Calzaghe is late for a party and brutalizes Jeff Lacy

Joe Calzaghe certainly took a long time to become a superstar and fighter safe in the knowledge that he has won over critics on both sides of the Atlantic. Calzaghe may have won the WBO super middleweight title with his October 1997 decision win over Chris Eubanks, and Joe may have held an astonishing 17 titles since then. But Calzaghe never fought in America, and aside from victories over Eubanks and Charles Brewer and a win from the ground over Byron Mitchell, Southpaw of Wales had yet to defeat anyone the average American fan was familiar with.

Added to Calzaghe’s disrespect towards American critics was his chronic hand problem, which led to some significant delays between his fights (only one fight in 2003, for example). Calzaghe had not yet had what might be referred to as a “coming out party”.

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Enter Jeff Lacey.

Lacey, a diminutive puncher who some have been compared to heavyweight great Mike Tyson, has been the IBF 168-pound champion since October 2004 and has impressed fans with some big wins over Robin Williams, Calzaghe’s former Robin opponent. Reed and Scott Pemberton. Known as “Left Hook,” Lacy was, in the eyes of many, the next big thing.

Calzaghe, 40-0, was already considering pulling out of the fight ahead of schedule on March 4, 2006, this after pulling out with a bad hand once already (with promoter Frank Warren literally telling his fighter his career would be all over if he didn’t go forward with the fight this time). The fight went on, finally, and when it did, Calzaghe had the fight of his career.

Calzaghe, 33 and in his prime, broke up Lacey before “Left Hook” had a chance to peak. Lacey, 21-0 and the guy five years younger, were not involved in the fight. Fans inside Manchester’s MEN Arena, as well as fans watching live television, witnessed the massacre. And a masterpiece. Calzaghe, lightning fast and possessing a massive engine that runs all night, beat Lacy with a punch all night. Joe outdid, outmaneuvered, and outwitted his rival, sometimes to the point where it was awkward.

Only Lacey’s raw bravery plus a very brave corner kick kept him in the fight for the next 36 minutes. During this time, Lacey was dealt more than 1,000 punches, mostly to the head and jaw. Busted and hit, Lacy somehow managed to hear the final bell. But in doing so, the former champ was a devastating fighter. Lacey was never the same again. The scores were as lopsided as could be, this one at 119-105, 119-107 and 119-107 again, all by Calzaghe.

Calzagne shone like gold, and was now the super middleweight.

Nobody doubts him now. on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Was it really that long 17 years ago?

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