Working with Enzo Calzaghe

Boxing writer Michael Pearlman gives us the inside track on what it was like to work with Enzo Calzaghe to produce the trainer’s autobiography “A Fighting Life” (Great Northern Books, 2012).

The opportunity to work with Enzo Calzaghe on his autobiography seemed like a fascinating one, albeit a task I considered might be impossible.

When I took the reins on the project Enzo (by his own admission in the book) was somewhat bitter about how his career in boxing had unfolded and somewhat angry at certain individuals he blamed for that situation.

That made teaming with him a risk in terms of his attitude towards some of the people who play an integral role in his life, especially in boxing. There is very little point writing a book if you are subsequently sued by said characters.

Thankfully, over the course of the project, the enthusiasm Enzo had for documenting his incredible life overtook the anger he felt towards some of his boxing contemporaries. As I kept telling him, no one wants to read about someone who might come across as bitter.

Enzo thinks as he speaks and behaves, at 100 miles an hour, usually with little time for reflection

I am sure everyone who ghost writes an autobiography feels the subject they are working with has a fascinating tale to tell, but with Enzo I took that as read.

My issue was how best to tackle the intricacies of transferring the tale from his mind to the written page.

Enzo thinks as he speaks and behaves, at 100 miles an hour, usually with little time for reflection. I realised after about 20 minutes of interviewing him that a conventional approach simply wouldn’t work. We were going round and round in circles.

Instead, I embarked on an experiment I feel bore fruit; purchasing dictaphones in bulk and delivering them to Enzo, one at a time, with different subjects to ponder.

“Here’s dictaphone one, please talk about Joe’s childhood,” I would tell him.

A week later, I’d return with a new dictaphone, a new topic and would spend the next seven days sorting through hours upon hours of Enzo talking to himself about subject X.

It paid dividends. Enzo is a marvellous story teller and he embraced the idea, each entry considered and measured and delivered to me as if it was my own private version of Jackanory. Whenever there was something I liked or wanted more of, I’d merely call and he’d then elaborate as I took more notes.

Enzo’s family were hugely supportive of the book and all contributed in their own ways, with both his brothers Sergio and Uccio and, of course, Joe, giving many hours to discuss the wider points of the Calzaghe story.

Very often ghost writers and the subject of autobiographies have no prior relationship with the subject, they are merely paired by the publisher, but that would never have worked for Enzo.

Having covered boxing on the South Wales Argus for approaching a decade, he and I built up a friendship and that, ultimately, is what got us over the line. He trusted my methods, I extended him considerable patience, and more than a few laughs were shared along the way.

I’m exceptionally proud of the book and, more importantly, Enzo is too. I couldn’t have asked for more.

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