Date:Monday April 9 2007
Young Greg will absorb penalty blow to come back as a champion
Last Saturday Joe Calzaghe pummelled his way to a 20th defence of his WBO Super Middleweight title against Peter Manfredo in Wales, winning after three rounds. Six days previous, Reading`s Greg Halford gave away a deciding penalty, after handballing against Tottenham in the Premier League. Different games, yes, but can you spot the common thread?
Sport`s harsh capacity for branding competitors as winners and losers is perhaps emphasized nowhere better than in the boxing ring, but former Colchester player Halford was dealt an almighty blow when an adjudged infringement marred his otherwise competent full debt in the Premiership.
The 22-year-old was practically in tears, because he had waited almost four months to play a first complete game for the Royals, conceding the spot-kick that lead to Robbie Keane`s match-resolving shot, taken from twelve yards out.
A week after Halford had made two successive appearances for Reading that he`d probably rather forget (one for 60 seconds against Portsmouth, the other a full ninety minutes in London), Calzaghe extended his undefeated record to 43 professional victories in front of 35,000 in his hometown Cardiff.
Both athletes are in a results business, which means being deemed only as good as the last thing you did.
Calzaghe is a serial winner; his longevity at the top is impressive. At 35, and almost half of his wins being resolved with straight knock-outs (23), the Welshman has his eye on becoming the prize-fighter with the word`s best middleweight all-time record.
It is in his sights, just four wins away from surpassing Joe Lewis`s 25 title defences. Calzaghe has never lost a professional fight in ten years, and 43 wins, which is why he famously called the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award as a prize "for losers."
"Does it bother me that I have not won it and might not? Of course not," he told the Daily Mail last year. "Maybe its because I`m a winner.
"I look at Greg Rusedski and Tim Henman and what have they ever won? No disrespect, but they are losers."
A decade of supremacy grants him the liberty of adding fuel boxing`s already blazing fire of ritual bravado, were the trade`s staple claim is that adversity stimulates successes.
Translate Joe`s triumph at the Millennium Stadium`s ringside back to the Halford saga pitchside against Spurs, however and there is a clear parallel.
Greg had the sympathy of many thousands watching on after his White Heart Lane ordeal, but the metaphor here is not that rage of the ropes can serve him well on the field. It is that he will absorb the hit, get up again, and move on.
Regardless of whether the handball was intentional or not, losing still hurts, even in the comparatively cushioned world of professional football. Yet, surmounting obstacles, in order to return stronger, is a metaphor for life, as well as sport.
Date:Monday April 9 2007
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