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On this day 1999: Joe Calzaghe retains WBO super-middleweight title

The Welshman laboured to victory over Rick Thornberry.

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Joe Calzaghe defended his WBO super-middleweight title against Rick Thornberry (Huw Evans/PA)

Joe Calzaghe defended his WBO super-middleweight title against Rick Thornberry (Huw Evans/PA)

Joe Calzaghe defended his WBO super-middleweight title against Rick Thornberry (Huw Evans/PA)

Joe Calzaghe still had plenty to prove when he stepped into the ring to face little-known Australian Rick Thornberry in the fourth defence of his WBO super-middleweight title in Cardiff.

The unbeaten Calzaghe had squeezed a contentious verdict over former WBC champion Robin Reid in his previous bout in Newcastle, and was banking on a conclusive finish against his opponent.

But the curse of Calzaghe’s hand injuries struck again, effectively negating his power from the third round onwards, and allowing Thornberry to survive to the final bell, where the Welshman gained an unsatisfactory verdict.

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Joe Calzaghe floored Rick Thornberry early but could not finish him off (Huw Evans/PA)

Joe Calzaghe floored Rick Thornberry early but could not finish him off (Huw Evans/PA)

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Joe Calzaghe floored Rick Thornberry early but could not finish him off (Huw Evans/PA)

It was a tough time in Calzaghe’s career, and questions would continue to be asked after another dull points win over David Starie in his subsequent bout, as he struggled to gain the plaudits his skills deserved.

Arguably they did not arrive until his stunning win over highly-fancied American Jeff Lacy in 2006 – setting Calzaghe on his way to true boxing superstardom, and ultimately retirement with his unbeaten record proudly intact.

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