Muhammad Ali called it 'the touch', whilst others call it the execution of class. Whatever your views on the kinetic poetry of the fight game however, if you were present in Manchester in 2006 (like I was ) when Joe Calzaghe fought American Jeff Lacy then you were witness to something that stands up to pretty much anything ever seen in a British ring.
The irony of course was that it wasn't supposed to play out like it did. Calzaghe may have been undefeated world champion at the time but the clinic of disdain towards him was as far reaching as it was consistent. A homespun fighter the American's called him, papering over their own recent history somewhat - their own fighters hardly pole vaulted abroad unless there was a belt at stake. Then there was his record. The calibre of opponent was also picked over like sneering vultures on a cable line by his opponents camp. Short of an early win over a fading Chris Eubank, they claimed his victories had been put together cynically against challengers who had no real right to be fighting at world level in the first place.
If Calzaghe's reputation was having a bonfire lit under it, his opponent Jeff Lacy may as well have gusted into Britain on a hot wind with the amount of hyperbole that was being blown his way. He was seen by many stateside as the next potential superstar of middleweight boxing. Admittedly a great amateur, he'd put together a string of victories that whilst solid were debatable to such claims of grandiosity. He had an all round game sure. He was both a powerful, slick puncher and supremely athletic, but against a crafty southpaw like Calzhaghe there was still a huge question mark over whether he had the necessary intelligence to outthink a world champion.
There was actually a huge clue to what was to unfold way back in Calzaghe's aforementioned fight with Eubank, and the way he'd clawed back from the brink and used a front forward fighter to his own advantage.
Not that the Lacy camp saw it coming. They simply hadn't done their homework. From the opening bell it was an absolute clinic from the Welshman. Commanding the ring with a frightening authority he tagged the American so many times in the early rounds that it must have seemed that someone was dropping an avalanche of boxing gloves on his head. By round three Calzaghe even began smiling at him. It was the start of what legendary trainer Emmanuel Steward would later call the most 'lop sided title fight in boxing history'. A dismantling of an opponent. Round after round of Lacy being hit with imperious angles and cruel leather until his spirit was pretty much broken on the rocks like a grounded rudder.
Things got so bad for the American in the ring that night in fact, that by the end of the ninth even the usually biased British commentators were calling for the Lacy camp to pull their man out. They didn't and those last nine minutes were a classic example of a promising boxer being dismantled both physically and mentally. By the end of the fight Lacy looked like he'd been involved in a car crash. He was never the same again. A shot fighter in fact. The reality was underestimating Calzaghe had been his ultimate downfall in a fight that his camp demanded and thought they'd ultimately breeze through. Sometimes you need to be very wary what you wish for.