Joe Calzaghe: Boxer to re-open his father's famous gym

Enzo and Joe Calzaghe
Joe and Enzo Calzaghe take a break from training during their glory years in boxing

Former two-weight world champion boxer Joe Calzaghe will join his sons Joe Jr and Connor Calzaghe to re-open the famed Newbridge Boxing Gym that was run by his father and trainer Enzo.

Renovations are already under way as they bid to return Welsh boxing's most famous landmark to its former glory.

The gym has been unused since Enzo died at the age of 69 in September, 2018.

"Everyone who knew dad would know he would have loved to see my boys running the gym," Joe Calzaghe explained.

The former two-weight world champion, who was a WBO world title holder at super middleweight for over a decade, says he might even be tempted in future to follow in his father's footsteps to train professional boxers.

However, in the short term he is focused on continuing his father's legacy alongside his sons.

Joe Calzaghe (centre) with sons Joe Jr (left) and Connor (right)
Joe Calzaghe (centre) with sons Joe Jr (left) and Connor (right)

'The boys love the gym, it continues dad's legacy'

Enzo, a self-taught boxing coach who was also a musician, trained his son Joe for his whole career, despite having no experience as a trainer.

He also led Gavin Rees and Enzo Maccarinelli to world titles. In 2007 Calzaghe won coach of the year award at the BBC Sport Personality of the Year awards, as well as Ring Magazine trainer of the year. He was also awarded an MBE in 2011.

His death in September, after an illness, proved devastating to the Calzaghe family and the wider community around Newbridge.

Hundreds of locals lined the streets on the day of Enzo's funeral and his son says a chance to continue his legacy was too strong to resist.

In recent years Enzo turned the gym into a shrine to Joe's achievements - an unofficial Calzaghe museum - but now the emphasis will go back on training.

"We have just started renovating. Dad put in a bar area which we are taking out, we want to return the gym to being a place for training," Calzaghe told BBC Sport Wales.

"The boys love the gym, it continues dad's legacy to have it up and running because everyone who knew dad would know he would have loved to see my boys running the gym.

"We are probably a few weeks away from having it all done. The boys are going to be front and centre, my job is to give guidance to them.

"It is for dad, he had so much passion for that gym."

Joe and Enzo
Enzo Calzaghe described being awarded an MBE as one of his 'proudest moments'

'It is still very hard'

For Calzaghe the chance to have a similar relationship with his sons as he had with his father is a driving factor in his decision to re-open Enzo's pride and joy.

The duo spent thousands of hours together in the gym during Joe's professional career and, for both, their relationship was as much one of two best friends as it was a father and son.

Joe, who was speaking publicly for the first time since his father's death, admits that more than six months on he is still struggling to deal with the grief.

"Even now it is hard to talk about. It is not something I really like to discuss, it is hard to talk about dad without getting upset," Joe explained.

"It is always nice to be back in the gym and to remember all the amazing times we had together throughout my career.

"But dad was like my best friend, it is still very hard for all the family, we miss him terribly."

Joe with Eddie Hearn (promoter) and Nathan Cleverly (boxer)
Joe Calzaghe (right) has never trained a professional fighter but has acted as a mentor for Welsh boxers Nathan Cleverly (centre) and Kody Davies

'Never say never' to training professionals

Enzo was in Joe's corner throughout an incredible professional career that saw Calzaghe retire with an undefeated record of 46-0.

At one point, the gym was one of the most decorated in the world, with three world champions and a host of other boxers such as Nathan Cleverly, Bradley Pryce and Gary Lockett winning further honours.

Every one of Enzo's boxers had the distinct style he taught and, despite always insisting he would not follow in his father's footsteps as a trainer, Calzaghe is now deploying a "never say never" attitude.

"At the moment, I have no plans to train a fighter full-time - it is a tremendous amount of work," Calzaghe explained.

"For now I am happier being in the background and letting the boys do the training.

"But I suppose you never say never. If I had the chance to train a two-weight world champion then I might be tempted. I don't know.

"But for now, we are just happy continuing dad's legacy."