TO NEW YORK sports fans, Madison Square Garden is home to the Rangers (NHL), Knicks (NBA) and Liberty (WNBA).
But to the rest of the world, and particularly Great Britain, MSG is famous for being a boxing venue.
Every great fighter – John L. Sullivan, Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard and Muhammad Ali to name but a few – has graced the Garden at some stage in their careers.
To top the bill at the Garden is acknowledgement that you are among the elite.
Only a handful of British fighters have had this honor. Scotland’s Ken Buchanan, who lost his WBA world lightweight crown to Roberto Duran there in 1972, said: “From a boxer’s point of view, once you have boxed at the Garden you can die in peace.”
This Saturday, Welshman Joe Calzaghe joins this special group of Brits when he takes on Roy Jones Jr. for the Ring Magazine Light-Heavyweight Championship.
For many years, Jones was regarded as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. But, at 39, you have to wonder whether he is past his prime.
He has won his last three fights, all by unanimous decisions. But, before that, he had lost three in a row, getting knocked out in two of them.
Undefeated Welshman favorite to beat Jones
Calzaghe, in contrast, remains unbeaten in 45 contests, 32 of which he has won by way of knockout. He dominated the Super Middleweight division before switching to Light Heavyweight. Now 36, he turned professional in 1993 and has undoubtedly been the best British boxer of the last decade. Better than Ricky Hatton, who was well beaten by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Las Vegas last December.
Such is his popularity in Britain that he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2007 ahead of Formula One motor racing world champion Lewis Hamilton and Hatton.
British bookmakers believe Calzaghe will prove victorious. They make him a 1-3 shot with Jones 9-4 against.
Whatever happens, “The Pride of Wales” says this will be his last fight; that only this sort of challenge can motivate him any more.
“For years and years I’ve been fighting guys I’ve never heard of with names I couldn’t even spell,” he says.
“I’ve always said I’ve got more chance of losing against fighters I’ve never heard of than the ones I have.
“We’re not robots. It takes a lot to get tuned up and get yourself in a certain zone. If you’re not in that zone you don’t perform. You get caught with punches you’re not supposed to get caught with.”
For that reason, Calzaghe has distanced himself from his opponent after they had formed a friendship while promoting the fight.
"It's going to be one hell of a fight"
“I haven’t spoken to Roy in six weeks. We know this is what we get paid to do,” he said.
“Make no mistake about it, I respect the guy. But now he’s in my way and he’s trying to stop something that I’ve worked for all my life. I’m not going to allow that.
“That’s why I am going to go in there and leave everything in the ring and make sure I do my best to knock him out.”
Confident words from Calzaghe, but he remains wary of Jones and his record.
“Roy says he’s in the best condition he’s been in for years. I believe that. I’m in the best condition I’ve been in for years so it’s going to be one hell of a fight,” he added.
“I was one of those guys that wrote him off, but he’s come back and had three good wins. He’s Roy Jones Jr. The guy’s a legend; an even bigger legend than Hopkins.”
Calzaghe struggled to a split decision over Bernard Hopkins in his last fight in April after being dropped by a right-hander in the first round. Jones, meanwhile, gained an easy points decision over Felix Trinidad in January.
Both men have enjoyed illustrious careers. Neither wants to go out on a low note so those willing to splash out around $50 to watch it on HBO pay-per-view should get their money’s worth.