As fight fans know, the great Joe Calzaghe retired unbeaten, spotless at 46-0, with “The Pride of Wales” a long-ruling 168 pound champion, as well as a light heavyweight champion. There are, however, two men who believe to this day that they deserved to take Calzaghe’s ‘O’ – these being Robin Reid and Bernard Hopkins. While it’s true these two former champions have absolutely nothing else remotely in common, Reid and Hopkins are the only two fighters a fan can point to if he or she wishes to make the argument that Calzaghe did actually lose a pro fight (although not officially).
Reid, on this day 25 years ago, in Newcastle in the North of England, and Hopkins, in April of 2008, in Las Vegas, each dropped a split decision against Calzaghe. Both fights continue to be discussed, with both losers, Reid and B-Hop, adamant they did enough to win.
The Calzaghe-Reid fight is a pretty curious one for a couple of reasons. Firstly, why was there no rematch? The fight of a quarter of a century ago was a good fight, and it was of course controversial in terms of its decision – one judge having Reid win by a wide, 116-111, this how the other two officials had it for Calzaghe, who was making the third defence of his WBO belt at the time.
Secondly, why did Reid, who was later stopped by the same Jeff Lacy who Calzaghe ruined, give Joe so much trouble? Did Calzaghe merely have what could be called an off-night against Robin? Or did “The Grim Reaper,” as Olympic medal winner and WBC super-middleweight champ Reid was nicknamed, have Calzaghe’s number? Then again, was Reid simply past his best by a considerable margin when he met Lacy?
Reid, who had a fine career but was never as great, as celebrated, or as rich as Calzaghe, is often asked about the fight of 25 years ago. And Reid, who has kept himself in fine physical shape, has never once wavered on his opinion, his strong belief, that he won the fight.
Speaking with Chronicle Live some years back, Reid brought up some interesting things about the fight, the decision, and what came – or should have came – after.
“Yep, I believe to this day that I won,” said Reid, who has repeated his belief numerous times since, to the present day. “The more I’ve looked at tapes of the fight the more convinced I am. I won by at least two rounds and that includes the point [I was] deducted for a low blow. However, we were both involved professionally with Frank Warren which made it a peculiar situation from the start because Calzaghe was his undefeated champion and therefore must be favoured.
“I was told afterwards to be gracious in defeat so my press conference quotes reflected that. But I went home, watched the tape, and it confirmed to me that I won. We were both as dirty (in the fight) as each other. The difference was the referee always seemed to be on my case. It ought to have been like Froch-Groves, the underdog who almost won getting his just desserts.”
It really is quite odd that these two didn’t fight again. Reid certainly wanted it, and one would have thought Calzaghe, as proud as he was, would have wanted to wipe away any claim that another man had either beaten him but had gotten robbed, or had at the least made him look quite ordinary. Had there been a rematch, who would have won, and how? We will of course never know, and we fans, British fans in particular, are the losers as a result.
Reid says the return never came about because of money issues, with the now 52 year old saying he was offered far less than he was worth.
“I was told I’d get what I was worth. I was told it would be an offer I couldn’t refuse, but it all dragged on for three or four months,” Reid recalled. “Frank [Warren] eventually took me out for a big meal at the Savoy and he told me the offer was $90K – only £15K more than the first time around. I was flabbergasted. All I wanted was to be paid what I was worth.”
So, was Reid low-balled, and were we fans robbed of a fascinating rematch as a result? Maybe so. But Reid knows in his heart today that – a certain “Alien/Executioner” aside – he came the closest any fighting man ever came to beating the great Joe Calzaghe.