Joe Calzaghe: A Blue Collar Champion

Amit ChauhanCorrespondent IOctober 30, 2008

During the 19th century, Newbridge was one of the many towns that prospered from the coal mining boom that swept the South of Wales.

Many new jobs were created and thus the populations of surrounding towns grew. The townsfolk had a traditional blue collar mentality of hard work and a tight community.

Over the years these communities dealt with the challenges of their time, whilst retaining their upbeat demeanors.

The 20th century was a defining period for mining, the industry and its workers. It persevered through the 1926 United Kingdom’s Workers strike, the depression (1930’s) and post war nationalization.

However, the straw that broke the mining industries back, came in the form of the UK miner’s strike of 1984. A year without wages coupled with a staunch stance by the conservative English government, meant defeat for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

In the aftermath, many of the unprofitable mines perished. A large quantity was based in the South of Wales.

Towns such as Newbridge were hit the hardest by these events. Husbands lost their jobs, families expelled from their homes and strings were tightened on already empty purses.

Some would crumble under this pressure, instead the sense of community became ever- so- more present. In the blue collar community of Newbridge, it was seen as an ordeal that built character.

This blue collar community and its ideals is something that Joe Calzaghe represents in the boxing ring.

Joe Calzaghe trains in his gym situated in his home town, the small province of Newbridge. In a story that some would scoff at as fairy tale cliché, the gym is a no-thrills locale which his father Enzo trains him in.

What makes this even more unbelievable is that Enzo has no prior boxing experience.

Not only has he molded a champion, but a member of the pound for pound elite. It is the romantic and cultural aspects of Calzaghe story that has captured the English public’s heart.

His nickname, 'the pride of Wales' is probably the most pertinent of any boxer today.

What makes him even more revered is that he is still based in Wales and remains a part of his local community regardless of the stardom he has attained.

Sometimes, it is this desire to remain in his homeland that has drawn scathing attacks from critics. He was labeled as a protected fighter.

However, it was documented that in earlier stages of his career that the top fighters avoided him.

After his 1997 career defining bout with Chris Eubank, he searched for a fight with Roy Jones Jr. At the time, Calzaghe was an unknown state-side. Thus, a fight was seen as unprofitable and a risk not worth taking.

Eleven years have passed and Joe Calzaghe has destroyed Jeff Lacy, decisioned Kessler and inched a point’s victory over Bernard Hopkins.

Now Calzaghe has his career defining swan song.

Even though Jones is in the twilight of a spectacular career, a slower Jones is still faster than most boxers in their prime.

If Calzaghe were to win and retire undefeated, his tale will be the thing of legend in his town for Newbridge for years to come.

The only way we can ever achieve immortality is not by the amount of money we make, or the titles we win. It’s by memories that remain in people and the stories that they tell of us to their children after we are long gone.

Many of us will never achieve this but Joe Calzaghe has the opportunity to do so.