IT was many happy returns to Wales' greatest ever boxer yesterday as Joe Calzaghe turned 41.

Now retired for the best part of six years, Calzaghe's 46-0 record and the incredible sequence of fights with which he brought his career to a close, have ensured he remains as popular as ever with the British public.

Calzaghe has now made the step to bona fide British sporting royalty, his name a coup for charities or other organisations alongside the likes of Redgrave, Holmes or Farah.

It is utterly deserved and more so, is a direct result of the man Calzaghe became later in his career, more outgoing and confident and yet without the cocky and brash edge that so often comes hand in hand with a boxer.

Calzaghe never fought in front of over 60,000 people though, as George Groves and Carl Froch will in May at Wembley Stadium.

Calzaghe was unlucky to fall between two great eras of super middleweight boxing.

He entered the sport too late to face Steve Collins, Nigel Benn or Michael Watson, though he did face Chris Eubank and he was finished too soon for the likes of Froch, Andre Ward and the lucrative Super Six competition, though he did face Mikkel Kessler.

Calzaghe fell between two generations and defined the era he fought in, but there are three opponents I wish we'd seen him face.

The fight his father Enzo always wanted for him, against Steve Collins, Enzo believing the Irishman was 'tailor made' for Joe's skill.

In terms of the relentless, almost decade long verbal campaign against Welsh fighters in general, I'd love to have seen Calzaghe v Froch, but neither of those two tantalizing tests for Joe would be my top fantasy match-up.

I'd have absolutely loved to have seen Calzaghe in his prime against Andre Ward, both in front of 50,000 at the Millennium Stadium and in front of 20,000 in Vegas or New York.

Ward's speed, his defence and his combinations make him the best in the world and his style would combine beautifully with Calzaghe's.

However, thankfully, there are no prospects of a comeback, Calzaghe doesn't need the money and retired with his dignity and faculties still intact.

Hopefully he's enjoying every minute of his retirement.