I followed much of Joe Calzaghe’s epic career whilst working for BBC Sport, but here’s a report I did before that, for his second world title defence. I was writing for the Cardiff University student newspaper when Calzaghe took on Juan Carlos Gimenez on 25 April, 1998.
“The Sky Boxing bandwagon arrived at the National Ice Rink last week to see Joe Calzaghe – Newbridge’s WBO super-middleweight world champion and one of the hottest rising stars in British sport – against Juan Carlos Gimenez of Paraguay.
World championships in boxing are two-a-penny these days, but Calzaghe is the genuine article; the best fighter at his weight in the world, and soon destined for a more glamorous stage.
A disappointing crowd of around 2,000 was warmed up by an entertaining undercard on which Newport’s promising Paul Samuels defeated the experienced Del Bryan on points. Next, Cardiff’s Steve Robinson prepared for his world title clash with Luisito Espibosa with a fight against Jean-Pierre Dibateza of Zaire. The African, a late replacement, did well to survive the full eight rounds, but Robinson’s victory was never in doubt.
The fans had come to see Calzaghe, and excitement reached fever pitch as he strutted towards the stage. Looking supremely confident, he encouraged the chanting of the crowd and the chords of ‘Bread of Heaven’.
It was soon obvious that Gimenez was overawed and outclassed. He had not come to fight but to survive and barely threw an attacking punch all night. Gimenez, 37, has clearly seen better days, but he is a veteran of 60 fights against the likes of Nigel Benn and Roberto ‘Hands of Stone’ Duran. In his career he had never been stopped or even put down; it had the makings of a long night.
Calzaghe’s approach was thoroughly professional. His powerful, accurate punches gradually wore his opponent down. Gimenez could be heard to wince from crippling body blows that lowered his guard, leaving him more exposed. After nine rounds of clinical torture his face was swollen, his body broken; for the first time in his career he was forced to quit, failing to emerge for the 10th.
Promoter Frank Warren is hoping to stage Calzaghe’s next contest in the grounds of Cardiff Castle in July. A unification fight with Charles Brewer of the USA is proposed, but it will take a big purse to persuade him to enter the ring with the Welshman.”
Here’s Calzaghe’s thoughts on the fight (from a 2007 interview on his 10-year anniversary as world champion):
“A mandatory challenger and another comfortable fight for me. I won in the ninth as his corner retired him as I’d cracked his ribs.”