Enzo Calzaghe: ‘I want Olympic coaching job!’
If Fabio Capello were to lead England to glory next year at the 2012 European Championship, his achievements would still pale in comparison to the last Italian to shepherd British passport holders to titles in a sporting arena. That man is Enzo Calzaghe, and the boxing dynasty he constructed in the Welsh valleys will take some beating in terms of achievement.
From a rickety old rugby clubhouse in Newbridge, the Sardinian godfather developed three world champions, contested 33 world title fights and guided the career of one of Britain’s finest boxers from the amateur ranks to pro domination without losing a single fight. There are top boxing trainers and then there is Enzo Calzaghe.
And the difference quickly becomes clear when Boxing Futures arrive at the Newbridge gym he calls home. Minutes after being greeted at the door, we’re ushered into his office which doubles up as a production room. On the flat screen we’re instructed to turn our attention to, is a film – written, directed, produced by and starring Enzo himself. Oh and least we forget, scored by his band as well.
The word passionate is an understatement. The man is a walking heart attack and he had a few things he wanted to get off his chest. In the first instalment of our Enzo Calzaghe box set, the award-winning coach talks undervalued trainers, the gongs he hasn’t won, and his desire to train the Olympic squad. Sit tight…
Enzo, like any good story you have to take us back to the beginning. Where did it all start?
Funnily enough when Joe [Calzaghe] lost his last fight. He was 17 and it was at the European Championships, Joe had a different coach back then and I was assistant coach. Joe’s trainer decided to quit and I was already doing loads of stuff with him at home, developing pad work and stuff, so I just took over the mantle. Another funny thing is as soon as I took over the mantle every boy that was linked with that gym quit so we were there on our own. But from that day on Joe never lost a fight for me, not as an amateur and not as a pro!
It’s a remarkable feat. Did you have any inkling that you would achieve so much?
Well I believed in myself that I was a decent trainer, I certainly had nobody tell me so. I was never national coach of Wales as an amateur, I was never this, and I was never that, but I believed in myself and I was developing these boys bit by bit. We were in every tournament and no one would touch our boys at amateur level. ABA champion, British schoolboys; you just get embedded in winning. I didn’t believe that Gavin [Rees] would be a world champion, I didn’t even know Joe would be a world champion, it was just training, winning, more training, a bit more winning, and a little item every now and then in the paper, that’s all my mind was on.
It’s well documented that you didn’t have any real boxing credentials before you got into the sport so where did your knowledge come from?
I watched a lot of sport; one sport in particular that the Italians were very good at and won a lot of Olympic gold medals in was fencing. And I love that! I'd play it in the bedroom with Joe for hours on end, so already he was learning about movement and picking points. That's where a lot of Joe's technique came from. I didn't have much knowledge about boxing so that's what I started off with.
All the hours you spent in the gym; are you satisfied with what you got out of it?
I can afford a Toyota now! To me, winning is my title, you can’t turn your back on me in a game of cards ‘cos I’ll cheat. And Joe’s exactly the same – he cannot bare losing. If we’re playing cards against each other no one can leave the game. I’ll do everything to win. I can bet on the horses and be biting my nails to the skin waiting to see if my horse comes in. And I only bet 50ps but it’s the thrill of winning.
If a top amateur walked in now, 18-years-old, just won the ABA’s; would you do it all again?
It depends what I think he wants out of it. Not money but what I think he can give; basically he has to convince me that I’m not going to waste my time. My style is a million shots and combinations in a row, and a lot of fighters are static and cannot grasp it. They think they can but when the fights come along they stay basic like they were, so it’s a waste of time.
You were in the corner for 33 world title fights, is there one in particular that sticks out?
The tension is so much that I can’t absorb a lot of it when I’m actually in the ring. I enjoyed none of the f**kers to be honest with you, but looking back on it Gavin Rees was a big one ‘cos he was a fighter that wasn’t supposed to be boxing for a world title. He had just nearly lost a six-rounder to a journeyman and I went in to see Frank [Warren] to ask for a world title fight. Frank couldn’t believe it at first but I said I want Souleymane M’baye and he made the fight. Of course it wasn’t a fight we were meant to win but we spoiled the party.
What is the next chapter in the Enzo Calzaghe story?
I'd love to be Olympic coach and get myself a gold. I know for a fact my style is the one that brings gold medals. Can you believe I haven’t even had one request, not so much as a mention? I’m sorry but look at my record: 33 successive world title fights and my first defeat was in my 31st. Not even Angelo Dundee has done that, all the legendary trainers, they all had a break in somewhere in their runs. I should automatically be chosen and this is not boasting its fact! I would bring Olympic golds back to the UK ‘cos my style would win it.
Why do you think you haven’t been asked yet?
Let me tell you something; about three years ago I won 17 awards in one year, everything from Ring Magazine Trainer of the Year, boxer writers’ awards, BBC Sports Personality, I cleaned the board. But tell me where I’m yet to win one award… Wales. I haven't won a f**king award here yet, that speaks for itself! So you ask me why haven't they asked me to coach the nations amateurs, they haven't even given me an award yet.
Talking about recognition, do you think trainers get enough credit for what they give to the sport?
I don’t believe they do. I’m resentful for that part of it, not because of me, I done well out of the sport but imagine if I didn’t. I would have put in 35 years of my life to end up at the social security. That’s a part of the game that’s got to be changed. For starters they should be put on wages instead of a cut of the fighter’s purse. The fight could fall through, one of the fighters pulls out and then they don’t get paid, so they trained for f**k all. Then there’s the respect; trainers embrace boxers like they would their own sons but its very rare a boxer has the same respect back, its just a role to them. A trainer could develop a fighter from the start and then when that fighter becomes successful and has the promoter in his ear about moving to this person or that person, the fighters are too quick to move. They’re forgetting somebody developed their style for the past 10 years or whatever; it was that person that made them a star.