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Tommy Cooper

Joe Calzaghe

Joe Calzaghe is one of the biggest names on the boxing scene and fought his way into the public eye in 1997 with a spectacular win over Chris Eubank, realising long-held ambitions for success nurtured since childhood.

Born in London, Joe was raised in Wales and in 2002 his Welsh credentials were confirmed on winning the BBC Welsh Sports Personality of the Year Award.

Born in March 1972 at Hammersmith Hospital, Joe's family moved to Newbridge when he was just 2, returning to the homeland of his mother. Encouraged by his Italian father Enzo, Joe showed promise on both the pitch and in the ring as a youngster, but later would choose boxing over football.

Encouraged by his father, Joe first put on his boxing gloves at age nine, though Joe would hold on to his footballing dreams into his early teens. Although he felt "picked on" at school for being good at sports he persevered with his dream, going on to compete and win in British Schoolboy Championships.

With some 120 amateur fights under his belt he went on to win four schoolboy ABA titles, followed by three consecutive senior British ABA titles from 1991 to 1993. This made him only the second boxer in history to record the feat of securing these belts at Welter, Light Middle and Middleweight divisions.

Keeping his father as trainer-manager, Joe moved on from amateur to professional boxing in 1993, making his professional debut at the Cardiff Arms Park on the Lewis-Bruno bill. He wouldnt stay a warm-up act for long.

After a sensational amateur career that included three consecutive ABA titles, each at different weights, Joe Calzaghe looked a sure bet to rule the world when he first turned professional in 1993 - and four years later he fulfilled his dream.

On October 11, 1997, Joe faced his moment of truth on 'The Full Monty' card in Sheffield. That night he faced British boxing legend Chris Eubank in a 12 round battle for the vacant WBO super-middleweight championship. Taking part in his 22nd WBO world title fight, Eubank obviously had the experience over his somewhat untested southpaw rival.

What Chris did not have, however, was the youth, speed and fitness of his opponent, and it showed. Eubank was unceremoniously dumped on the canvas in the first round and after 12 ferocious rounds the Newbridge hero was declared the new champion. Calzaghe's concussive fists had ushered in a glorious new era in Welsh boxing.

In his second defence Joe, and his father/trainer Enzo, were up against one of the most durable fighters in the world, challenger Juan Carlos Jimenez. Jimenez was the mandatory challenger to the WBO title and had already acquitted himself well in two world title fights before in Britain. Neither Nigel Benn nor Chris Eubank were able to halt the tough Paraguayan, but Joe did, another great accomplishment for the Welshman. And then came Robin Reid, the former WBC Champion, at Newcastle in February 1999 when Joe won a split decision in a cracking domestic showdown despite badly bruising his fist early in the fight.

In April 2001, in an emotional homecoming to his beloved Wales, Calzaghe blasted out Mario Veit inside a round in front of a capacity 5,000 crowd at the Cardiff International Arena.

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