British Beef #5 - Calzaghe v Reid
Joe Calzaghe was the poster boy of British boxing, Robin Reid the part-time model looking to get back on the world-title trail. They fought the day before Valentine's Day and there was no love lost...
Last Updated: 02/01/14 1:32pm
The British super-middleweight division has been a hotbed of rivalry over the decades - starting with Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank.
But long before today's enemies came on the scene, there was another rivalry that stemmed back to the amateur arena and also got very, very personal.
When Robin Reid challenged Joe Calzaghe for his WBO title in 1997, there was history behind their rivalry that went back a long way. And with the two glamour boys of British boxing in the 90's going head-to-head, there was also, shall we say, slightly more superficial honour at stake.
You can trace their conflict back several years further when, like the two men involved on May 21, the small matter of an Olympic vest had driven a wedge between them.
Reid was the man who went to the Barcelona Games in 1992, while Calzaghe was overlooked. It was said at the time that Calzaghe's flamboyant style did not carry enough substance to succeed in the Olympics and the authorities were also unlikely to welcome his firecracker of a father, Enzo, on board.
The Welshman though had the pedigree and is only the second boxer to win the ABA's at welterweight, light-middleweight and middleweight.
The problem was the second one came in Olympic year, yet it was Reid who flew off to Spain as part of the 10-man team flying the Union Jack. Much like Groves after him, Calzaghe had to watch on as 'the other guy' medalled, Reid returning with bronze in the light-middleweight category - the only boxing medal we were to bring back while Linford Christie, Sally Gunnell and the rest of the team hit the headlines.
Reid turned over in February 1993 and by the time Calzaghe followed seven months later, was boxing on the undercard as Benn and Eubank fought out that infamous draw at Old Trafford. It was only another three years and 17 fights before he claimed the world title, travelling to snatch the title from Vicenzio Nardiello, affirming himself as the successor to Benn and Eubank.
But not a million miles away from his Runcorn home, something special was happening down in South Wales. Calzaghe was emerging as a serious talent, breezing to the British title but soon turning his attention to the world scene.
With one of the belts in Britain, surely convenience would help his cause? Reid though, refused to let Joe have a crack and Calzaghe was made to wait - and wrestle the WBO title from an ageing Eubank.
Before a unification bout could seriously be considered, Reid was beaten by Sugar Boy Malinga and all of a sudden, Calzaghe stood alone, supreme in the super-middleweight division, this time with the recognition his talents merited.
Two effortless defences later though and the pair were well and truly on collision course. It was a chance for Joe to settle that Olympic score, the opportunity for Reid to return to boxing's top table and reaffirm himself as Britain's best at 168lbs. But on top of the professional pride at stake, things would take on a very personal tone as the build-up began.
The fight, dubbed War of the Worlds, was set for Newcastle's Telewest Arena on February 13 and with Valentine's Day the obvious theme, it was soon evident there was no love lost.
Reid was of course, the fighter turned model, equally at home on the catwalk as he was in the ring. Calzaghe, with his smouldering Italian looks, was not exactly a member of the flat-nosed-cauliflower-ear brigade either.
Calzaghe would admit later on that he was brash and responsible for most of the ill-feeling in the run-up, but also insisted that it was, mostly, a normal big-fight ruse.
Yet bizarrely, the main topic became looks. Not who was the better boxer, not who could really call himself the best super-middleweight in Britain, but who would have the women flocking. Reid, it seemed took exception to the Welshman's claims to be better looking and from then on, the stage was set.
Each tried to outdo each other in the build-up; Reid posed with models draped over him, Calzaghe sped to a press call in a red Porsche. This had become a battle of the playboys. Except neither was playing here.
Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy might have been a hit when Reid was boxing in the Olympics and Calzaghe the ABA's, but it soon became the soundtrack to what may have appeared a fun and frivolous grudge yet went back as far as the record itself. By the time fight night came around, the challenger was bristling, the champion happy to keep fanning the flames.
The fight itself was not for the faint-hearted. It went the distance and did little to bring the two together. Calzaghe won a split decision with two judges scoring 116-111 in his favour, although the fact that the third gave it as wide in Reid favour's gave the challenger plenty of cause for complaint.
He maintains to this day that he won, although perhaps remembering the way he was not afforded a shot at his belt several years earlier, Calzaghe never left the door open for a rematch.
The Grim Reaper would try for world titles again but could not get the better of Sven Ottke or Jeff Lacy, even if he had the beating of them in the looks department. Calzaghe went on of course to sweep all before him before moving up to light-heavyweight to finish his career undefeated and in some style with wins over Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jnr.
He would though, never have the same ill-feeling towards an opponent and many would argue, rarely had as tough a time in the ring as he did that night with Reid. Neither's looks were done any favours by 12 tough rounds, but once the initial indignation had died down, they did at least bury the hatchet.
They might not be the best of friends but at least these days they can say hello and share the odd acknowledging look when their paths cross. And for those two all those years ago, looks were, apparently everything.