Calzaghe: I am legend killer
Within minutes of his split decision victory over Bernard Hopkins here that brought a world light heavyweight crown to place alongside the supermiddleweight title he has held for 11 years, Joe Calzaghe opened a new season of "legend killing" by identifying Roy Jones Jnr as his next target.
Though his promoter, Frank Warren, said no details had yet been fixed it seems certain that a Calzaghe-Jones fight will be filling Cardiff's Millennium Stadium in November with the possibility of a second fight back here in Las Vegas next year.
Jones, 39, is eager for the high-profile collision. After announcing, "I'm the legend killer," Calzaghe said that he too likes the idea.
"Yes, it would be good to fight Roy Jones. I've always admired him and I think this would be a great fight for the fans," said Calzaghe.
It would certainly be an extreme contrast to the war of attrition that Calzaghe was required to fight against the 43-year-old Hopkins, who knocked the Welshman down in the first round and was a winner on the card of one of the three judges and in the opinion of a considerable section of the American media, including the Associated Press, which gave him a one-point margin.
Though Calzaghe was delighted, and relieved, by the recovery that brought him the more comfortable margins of five and three points on the scorecards of the two other judges, he admitted that Hopkins had been a tough and dangerous opponent.
"I knew it wouldn't look pretty tonight," he said. "He's so awkward. He gave me some good shots. It wasn't my best night but I won the fight. The world title in a second weight division and a win in America is just the icing on the cake of my career."
Still, there was a bitterness in Calzaghe's victory mood when he revived the racist controversy launched by Hopkins with his declaration that he would never be beaten by a "white boy". At the end of the fight, Calzaghe asked Hopkins, "How did you like having your arse kicked by a white boy?"
Hopkins, though, was more interested in telling the world that he did not accept he had been beaten. "I gave him a boxing lesson but they took away my victory. But I know who I am and what I have done and tonight I did everything I said I would. So they didn't give me what I deserved. Well, I'm cool. I've got other things to do, including spending some time with my family. I could congratulate Joe Calzaghe but what is the point if I don't think he beat me?"
Jones also once said it was time he retired to do other things, including work as a TV boxing analyst, but his broadcasting career was cut short by his reluctance to attend "production" meetings. Now he plainly sees another bout of mega-earning in colliding with a 36-year-old Calzaghe who is looking to add to his "legacy" and his fortunes with the scalp of another ageing celebrity of the ring. From Jones' perspective it helps enormously that Calzaghe has at last won himself a profile in the rich American market.
Jones, who has held world titles in every division between middleweight and heavyweight, would certainly offer a more crowd-pleasing spectacle than Hopkins. He was at ringside here and said: "Although it was very close, I thought Joe won the fight. But I saw enough to tell me I can beat him.
"The fight will not last the distance."
The man from Louisana brings more lustre that Hopkins, but it is also dated. He was voted "Fighter of the Decade" by the American Boxing Writers Association but that was back in the Nineties. One of his more remarkable achievements, at least on the record, came five years ago when he beat John Ruiz for the IBF heavyweight title in the same ring here in which Calzaghe beat Hopkins. Jones conceded 33lb but proceeded to dance around the leaden Ruiz. In the process he became the first fighter in 106 years to move from the middleweight to heavyweight titles.
The question that is bound to be asked is why these big-name fighters have taken so long to appear on the dance list of a world champion who has reigned for so long and has just taken his first foray into an American ring.
Calzaghe provided a candid enough answer early in this decade when he was asked if he resented the decision of men like Jones and Hopkins to get into the ring only with handpicked opponents. "No," said Calzaghe, "they have achieved their positions in the sport and they can take their choice. This is a business. Maybe I would be the same if I was in their position."
That, most of a decade along the road, was the considerable irony surrounding the latest bout of negotiations between fighters whose natural point of collision belongs in almost another age. However, this will do nothing to limit the public interest in the proposed fight between an old member of boxing's superclass and a Calzaghe who has become the newest member.
Calzaghe said: "At the moment I just want to go on holiday and relax. I can do it in a great frame of mind because what happened here tonight was a dream that has been fulfilled. I would have liked to put in a better performance but the important thing was that I got the job done. I don't like to think how I would have felt if I hadn't beaten Hopkins. He made it a very tough job, both in the ring and outside. But it was something I had to go through. I couldn't have retired happily without taking it on."
The date of that retirement is likely to be pushed back for some time. The shadow of Hopkins has disappeared and in its place is a much more engaging prospect. It is the high profit offered by at least one more season of legend-killing.