Remaining unbeaten in any sport over more than fifteen years is almost unthinkable. Yet on Feb. 5, nearly three months after beating Roy Jones Jr at Madison Square Garden to maintain his 46-0 professional record, boxer Joe Calzaghe announced his retirement. Calzaghe hangs up his gloves as the best British boxer of his generation and, arguably, the greatest British champ of all time. Calzaghe, who held the WBO, WBA, WBC and IBF super-middleweight belts during his 16-year career, said he had thought "long and hard" about retiring but insisted it was the correct decision. Trained by his father Enzo, Calazaghe captured his first world title in 1997, beating fellow Brit Chris Eubank, and went on to defend it 21 times straight. His victory over the hitherto undefeated American Jeff Lacy in March 2006 was hailed as career-defining, but Calzaghe has always maintained that his triumph over the Danish WBC and WBA champion Mikkel Kessler in front of 50,000 fans at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium was his finest night. While critics may sneer that his recent back-to-back defeats of American legends Jones and Bernard Hopkins only occurred because they were getting on in years, fans reply that the bouts were delayed by the American fighters' astronomical purse demands. And ultimately, it would be they, and not he, who ended up seeing stars come the end of the fight.
Joseph William Calzaghe was born in Hammersmith, London to Sardinian Enzo Calzaghe and his Welsh wife, Jackie, in 1972. The family moved to Wales when Joe was two.
Began boxing at age nine. In more than 120 amateur contests, he won four school titles, followed by three consecutive British Championships between 1991 and 1993.
In October 1993, on the undercard of a Lennox Lewis-Frank Bruno fight, Calzaghe made his professional debut at Cardiff Arms Park.
In 1997, Calzaghe took on the recently deposed WBO titleholder and British boxing legend Chris Eubank. Calzaghe emerged victorious over the two-time champion, knocking Eubank down in the opening seconds and claiming a unanimous points win.
Calzaghe, who has two sons, Connor and Joe, says he now plans to concentrate on his charity work and becoming a boxing promoter.
He's been awarded two British honors, the CBE and MBE, and won the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year in 2007 the first Welsh winner since 1960.
"The best British fighter we've ever had." Fellow boxer Ricky Hatton, BBC Radio Wales, Feb. 6, 2009
"It's nothing about money, it's about getting up in the morning. Enzo Calzaghe, his father and trainer on one of the reasons for his son's retirement, Wales Online, Feb. 6, 2009
"I think he's the number one British fighter, no doubt about it. It may be another 50 or 100 years before a fighter like Joe Calzaghe comes along." Former opponent Ritchie Woodhall, BBC, Feb. 6, 2009
"I've got no other goals to go for. That's why I am calling it a day." On why he's decided to retire, Yahoo!, Feb. 5, 2009
"I said I didn't care last year but I lied." Though he won the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year award in 2007, he wasn't happy that he didn't even make the top three in the voting in 2006, BBC, Dec. 10, 2007
"It's not bad for a 35-year-old!" After beating Danish boxer Mikkel Kessler in Cardiff in a fight generally regarded as securing his place in the pantheon of great post-war fighters, The Independent, Nov. 4, 2007Read TIME's 2-Min. Bio of Joshua DuBois: Obama's Pastor-in-Chief