JOE Calzaghe is set for one of the biggest honours of his career this weekend as he’s inducted into boxing’s hall of fame as a first ballot entrant.
Ahead of his trip across the Atlantic, Joe sat down for an interview with Argus boxing writer Michael Pearlman.
This is part two of a four part special with the Calzaghes ahead of their huge honour. See Friday and Saturday’s Argus Sport for the concluding parts.
Today Joe acknowledges why he’s stayed retired, the toll it takes on a sportsman mentally and confesses to some health issues, including arthritis
On the ‘0’ in 46-0 being the decisive reason he never returned to the ring
“If I’d have ever lost, at any stage in my career, if I’d have been 45-1 instead of 46-0 I can say with 100% certainty I wouldn’t have stayed retired.
“Not a chance, I’d have come back, I’ve had the itch more than enough times, but I’ve listened to the little voice telling me to protect my legacy. If I came back and lost and was 46-1 I’d be richer, but it would haunt me for the rest of my life.
“But it was also about listening to your body. I’ve got back trouble nowadays and did on occasion when I boxed and my hands are a mess, as they were throughout my career.
“However, now, I’m not even sure they could license me with the state of my hands. One of them is arthritic, according to the doctor and I do have a lot of issues with them, they are even more fragile now, time hasn’t really helped to heal them!
“I boxed from age nine, has my first amateur fight in 1982, I trained like a professional, was doing five mile road runs from the age of 12 or 13, so it’s hardly surprising the toll it has taken on me physically.
“My body took a pounding.”
Flipping that question, did he actually, in terms of his health, retire too late?
“Absolutely without question, yes, my decision to retire came far too late in terms of living a totally normal life with my physical condition and well-being.
“If I’d have listened to the doctors I’d probably have never turned pro.
“I had hand problems from age 15 and even now I can’t bend back my left hand (reporter note: at this point he demonstrated and indeed, he can’t bend it) I boxed for money and to feed my children.
“I had periods in my career where I’d be promoting fights and telling everyone I was in the best shape of my career and the actual truth wouldn’t have been as appealing.
“Can you imagine? ‘Yeah, I don’t feel great, I’ve not been able to do one minute of sparring and I’ll have to beat this guy with one hand as the other one is so badly damaged’ it wouldn’t have sold out too many arenas, lines like that.
“That’s the way it is, I patched myself up with as much as I could, be it a cortisone injection or extra padding in sparring and I got on with things.
“But I didn’t retire too early aged 36, far from it. I should’ve retired when I was 16!”
On finding contentment in retirement and how it isn’t easy to achieve
“I’m in a good place, I feel happy in myself and that’s a big thing, it is tough, leaving behind a career you were dedicated to.
“You’ve mentioned to me Freddie Flintoff who has started again with the cricket after trying his hand at boxing and I understand it, I understand missing that buzz, that rush from doing something you love and something you are very good at.
“At first it’s easy. At first you don’t even notice you’re retired, it took about a year for me.
“When you’re a champion you probably only box twice a year anyway, so for 12 months my life wasn’t all that different, other than when people invite you out socially, you say yes instead of saying no.
“Then you reach the point though, where you start to think more and more about what you’ve given up and then it’s easy for wistful thinking to become melancholy. You want to be in the gym training, but what is the point? What are you doing it for?
“I don’t want to use the word depression, I don’t think I was ever depressed as such, but of course, you do end up bored and you do end up with a lot of time on your hands and no idea how to fill it.
“So in my case, that meant a couple of years of probably going out too much and maybe doing some things that you shouldn’t, but it’s boredom, you have to solve it.
“I moved to London and threw myself into other things, even dance shows! and when I got used to my new circumstances, I came through it, and I felt better in myself.
“I knew way before the fight with Roy Jones I’d retire, I think I told you at the time that after I beat Mikkel Kessler, I saw it that I had two fights left in me.
“I planned it and it worked out, how can you top going out at the Millennium Stadium, Vegas and Madison Square Garden? You can’t, I certainly saw no way I could.
“The only reason to hang on is money and that isn’t me, I made more than enough in my career for me and my family and if you are one of those people who always want a bit more, you’ll never stop.
“Most people can’t stay retired, but I am glad I have been able to. It was time for me to get out of boxing and I am glad I was able to do so on my own terms.”