WBO super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe (rated #1 by Boxingtalk) is locked, loaded and ready for his hotly anticipated domestic matchup against Northern Ireland's dangerous Brian Magee (Boxingtalk # 15), on March 18th in the Ulsterman's backyard of Belfast, Northern Ireland. Not only will "The Italian Dragon" be placing his WBO crown in danger for the 16th consecutive time, but also the undefeated super middleweight's entire professional future is at stake. If Calzaghe, promoted by Sports Network, fails against the rock solid Magee he will lose not only his unbeaten record and WBO crown but the world's best super middle can say goodbye to the likelihood of lucrative unification matches against the likes of Jeff Lacy, Mikkel Kessler and Markus Beyer. Any hopes the Welshman held of fighting the elite of the light heavyweight division would be reduced nothing more than a dim possibility.
Going back to his amateur days right up through his impressive pro career, Joe Calzaghe, trained by his father Enzo, hasn't lost a fight in an astounding 86 consecutive contests. As an amateur he knocked out future world champion Glenn Catley as well as future British champion Dean Francis. As a pro such well respected names as Charles Brewer, Omar Sheika and Chris Eubank show up on his undefeated resume. The fast-handed southpaw has had his share of bruising bouts however, pulling out a controversial win over former WBC titlist Robin Reid in 1999 and climbing off the canvas to outslug former WBA champ Byron Mitchell in one of 2003's most furious firefights.
Lately the punches the 32 year old hasn't been able to slip have come from injury. A dehabilitating back problem suffered in training caused Calzaghe to pull out of a proposed super fight at light heavy with Glen Johnson last summer and another bout was called off last month when the Calzaghe camp felt the lack of adequate time to prepare for the contest. On this occasion against Magee, the native of Newbridge, Wales has had sufficient opportunity to prepare for the title defense and can be expected to put on an electrifyingly vintage high-output performance in the ring on March 18th.
While that is the intention of the "Pride of Wales", Brian Magee will have a say about that happening or not as he comes forth from the opposite corner on the evening of March 18th.
Boxing has a long and respected tradition in Belfast, Northern Ireland, most recently embodied by featherweight Barry McGuigan, who thrilled audiences and brought together a divided community long polarized by secretarian violence. At the height of his career McGuigan body punched his way through the legendary Esubio Pedroza for the WBA title before losing everything to Stevie Cruz in the burning Nevada desert. It's been two decades since the proud city of Belfast has had a hero to pin their world title hopes on but that's all changed recently with the ascendancy of Magee.
The twenty nine year old Irishman, 23-1 (16), enjoyed a heavily decorated amateur career. High water marks were winning a European Silver Medal and posting a win over current IBF champion Jeff Lacy. Magee has continued such high level success in the professional ranks, claiming the IBO belt in 2001 by stopping Ramon Britez and defending it 7 times against such accomplished foes as Hassine Cherifi, Jerry Elliot and Andre Thysse. It wasn't until last June that Magee lost a bout and the IBO belt by dropping a unanimous decision to Robin Reid.
Can the WBO champion overcome his recent injuries and the efforts of a motivated hometown fighter looking for a shortcut to legitimate world class standing? Joe Calzaghe is confident of doing so and is planning an impressive lightning fisted display that will serve notice to future opponents that he is far from done on his quest to become an undefeated two division world champion.
Make no mistake, Calzaghe - Magee will be a huge fight in the UK. Both fighters have dedicated and loyal followings that will pack Belfast's historic King's Hall to the rafters. Britain's Sky Television is expecting a high number of viewers and the boxing world will be watching with great interest to see if Joe Calzaghe can pass this latest test and move onto the defining fights that will give his career it's final shape.