WE can all hum the theme tune. We all remember the opening credits. The voices are familiar, the graphics are familiar, and it surely isn’t a fight night without Jim Lampley breaking down in tears, Max Kellerman getting all slow and serious, Larry Merchant grabbing hold of someone, George Foreman belly-laughing, Manny Steward losing his s**t, or Roy Jones chastising some poor fella for not being Roy Jones (or, in the case of a co-commentator, not having boxed before). Ah, the memories.
It’s with disappointment, then, that we discover US broadcaster HBO has decided to end its live boxing coverage after 45 years, responding to seismic shifts in the US boxing landscape and consumer habits.
Call it competition, call it market saturation, but broadcasters ESPN, Showtime and Fox have all secured major deals for premium live boxing content over the coming years, and DAZN, a new streaming platform, have linked up with Matchroom Boxing USA and set out some grand plans of their own.
HBO, meanwhile, has remained the old face of the sport, a memento from halcyon days, yet seems to have somehow also been lost in the shuffle. They’ve relied on fighters signed to Golden Boy Promotions, who recently agreed a deal with Facebook, and it is reported many of HBO’s boxing events have averaged around 800,000 viewers in 2018.
Not good enough, apparently.
Let’s remember the good times, though. Because when it was good – when boxing was good, when HBO were good – nobody did it better.
The funeral for the inimitable Enzo Calzaghe took place this afternoon at the Our Lady of Peace Church in Newbridge, Wales, and an account can be found here.
(Excerpt below from Boxing News, September 20, 2018)
On Monday, September 17, Enzo Calzaghe, the Duke Ellington of British boxing, passed away at the age of 69. With his passing, the music stopped, a band mourned the loss of its leader, and boxing became a quieter, less colourful place.
A life well-lived, Calzaghe, boxing’s great improviser, played bass guitar and sang in jazz bands, busked for pennies around Europe, hitchhiked, slept rough, and eventually ended up in Cardiff by way of Sardinia, Milan and then Bournemouth.
It was inside a ramshackle boxing gym in Newbridge, however, where Enzo, father of Joe, the future super-middleweight and light-heavyweight champion of the world, mastered his second art form and put the Calzaghe name on the map.
“Boxing’s just like music,” he once told me. “A song lasts around three minutes and a round lasts three minutes. You start with a jab, just as you start with a verse, and that begins the whole process. That is the foundation. It searches. It leads somewhere.
“After that, you build a bridge, you introduce other punches that fit together nicely, and you push forwards. Then, once you feel good about yourself, you’re ready to sing the chorus and unload like hell.”
Despite boasting no previous boxing experience, Calzaghe confounded the doubters by guiding not only his son to world honours but also Enzo Maccarinelli to the WBO cruiserweight title and Gavin Rees to the WBA super-lightweight crown. In 2007, he deservedly won ‘Coach of the Year’ at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.
“He was a very passionate trainer, a great motivator, and we had a special relationship,” Joe Calzaghe said in 2013. “There was always fire in his belly and the smoke would fill the room. He made you want to work harder; he made you want to push yourself to breaking point. And he knew exactly the right things to say to p*ss me off.
“When we were in the gym we were boxer and trainer, and when we were outside the ring we lived like father and son. We’d have our arguments, we’d make up and we’d hold our grudges. But when we went to the gym it only made us both push harder.
“A good gym session was always a great way of making up, and then after the gym we might get some food or place a bet down the bookies. Whatever it was, we’d do it together. Everything was connected.”
En route to the Charles Brewer fight in 2002, the Calzaghes bickered in the car to such a degree that Joe decided to get out and walk to the venue on his own. Yet, four years later, Enzo was the person responsible for convincing Joe, worried about an injured hand, to go through with a career-defining fight against Jeff Lacy.
“Joe rings me up a week before the fight and I was at the bookies in Newbridge, just laying down some bets,” Enzo recalled. “I step outside, take his call and he goes, ‘Dad, just so you know, I’m not going to fight.’
“I thought he was joking at first, so got him to repeat it. After he repeated it, I said, ‘What? Don’t talk rubbish. What time are we training?’ He replied, ‘I’m not joking, Dad. I’m not training and I’m not going to fight.’
“I had heard enough by now and was outside the bookies screaming and shouting down the phone at him. He was doing the same. Then I shouted, ‘You f**king chicken! You f**king chicken! You f**king chicken!’ I told him to f**k off a few times and then hung up.”
Two minutes later, Enzo called him back.
“After I put the phone down I realised it was out of order,” he continued. “How could I tell my son to f**k off like that?
“Joe was now nearly in tears. He was asking me why I told him to f**k off and reminding me that he was my son and all that kind of stuff. Really laying it on thick. I then said he was the one who told me to f**k off, not the other way around, and we started up again – arguing, shouting. It was a f**king beauty of a row.
“Then Joe said, ‘Okay, Dad, tell me one thing: why do you think I can beat Lacy?’ I said, ‘It’s the easiest fight you’ll ever have. If you throw five punches and move once, you’ll beat the c**p out of him.’”
With pace, rhythm, timing and self-belief, Enzo was right.
“He was spot on,” said Joe. “This guy, my dad, who’d never boxed before, figured something out that every so-called boxing expert had apparently missed. They all thought I’d get knocked out. They didn’t have a f**king clue.”
A special style. A special relationship. A special man. Joe Calzaghe fought the way Enzo spoke and, together, dancing to their own energetic and uniquely beautiful tune, they ruled the boxing world. The bandleader will be sorely missed.