FHM spies on the Pride of Wales’ brutal regime ahead of the biggest fight of his life

Joe Calzaghe, undefeated in 17 years and 44 bouts, could be forgiven for kicking back with a curry and a beer, catching his reflection in the 2007 BBC Sports Personality Of The Year trophy and basking in a sea of overdue recognition. The problem with that plan is that the ‘Italian Dragon’ has a fight this month against a certain Bernard Hopkins, a legend and ex-con who likes to hurt people. Joe needs to be ready or suffer.

Yet unlike many boxers of his generation, including Hopkins and Ricky Hatton, Calzaghe refuses to incorporate bodybuilding into his regime – even though he’s going up half a stone from his usual 12-stone weight to challenge Hopkins at light heavyweight. “I never lift weights,” he says, “because they stiffen you up and in a fight you need to be flexible.”

His father and lifelong trainer Enzo agrees. “Instead we do extreme cardio to help fine-tune Joe’s supreme fitness and hand speed. And let me tell you, I put him through hell. I’m incredibly proud of my son, but when he leaves the gym I want him to go home in pain and feeling physically sick.” Welcome to one of boxing’s most unrelenting fitness drills…

Joe Calzaghe is no Ricky Hatton. His weight isn’t up and down like a lilo on a family holiday. “I eat lots of vegetables and pasta,” says the champ. “So my diet’s basically high in carbohydrates and very low in fat. After the weigh-in before the fight, there’s obviously the temptation to eat like a pig after all that dieting, but I prefer to wait and just take my time.” Joe also stays on the wagon for eight weeks before a bout. “Plus I give myself a week without sex,” he says, “and that really is tough.”

The spit-and-sawdust surroundings of the gym where Calzaghe trains are a world away from the razzmatazz of a Las Vegas fight. Instead the Newbridge Boxing Club near Newport, South Wales is a windowless old gym in the middle of an industrial estate. Surrounding it, however, are lots and lots of hills, which Calzaghe takes full advantage of. “I train twice a day, six days a week,” he says. “First I go running in the morning for about six miles, which takes around 45 minutes,” often covering much of the ground doing 150-metre sprints, “and then I do two hours training in the gym in the afternoon.”

 

How Calzaghe manages his 12-round marathons...

SPEED STEPS

‘1000 steps’

Stand beneath a stairwell with at least 40 steps ahead of you then sprint up them as fast as you can, before returning back down to the start position. Repeat this 25 times, eventually covering ‘1000 steps’ in the process. Pause. Look back up the stairwell. Hate life.

 

PUSH STRENGTH

Push your training partner

Heft your mate (who’s facing you and therefore forced to sprint backwards) along a 175-metre-long straight and up an extremely steep hill. Get to the top. Look back down. Ask God why. Jog back down together, elated. Repeat until you break.

 

HURDLE BALANCE

Bundling over hurdles

Joe uses the waist-high metal bars around the pitch in front of his gym, but you can line up a row of hurdles across a footie pitch. Bound over each one, then duck back underneath it and go on to the next one. Repeat five times. “And if you hit your head,” says Enzo, “so what? Do it again.”

 

BAG PUNCHING

Boxing

Exhausted yet? Then this should finish you off. Hit a punch bag for 10 three-minute rounds (with a 30 second rest between). “You need to be punching as hard as you can until the time’s up,” says Enzo. Then shadow box for another five rounds – trying to throw 100 punches per minute.

 

RESISTANCE PUNCHES

‘Luggage strap’ boxing

Nail two springy car roof rack straps to the wall and wedge handles on each one, slip your hands through, then open your legs shoulder-width with your arse facing the wall. Now, for five three-minute rounds, attempt to throw 300 left and right punches per round without letting the cord droop.

 

ABS CRUNCHES

Medicine ball sit-ups

Calzaghe then does either 500 raised-knee sit-ups without stopping or, on a particularly masochistic day, get his dad to pound his belly forcefully with a medicine ball every time he lowers his shoulders towards the floor. Phwoaar! Was that you?

 

2/ Punch like Calzaghe

How to land the perfect blow

“Hold your fists up by your cheeks,” says the champ, “and make sure your feet are shoulder-width apart. If you’re left-handed like me, you need your right hand and right leg to lead. If you’re right-handed, do the opposite. Make sure the non-leading hand is held up by your cheek like you’re answering the phone.”

“Then,” says Joe, “blast your ‘phone hand’ out from your shoulder while getting extra spring and power from your legs.”

“Just as the punch is about to land,” he continues, “screw your fist anti-clockwise if you’re throwing the ‘phone’ hand or clockwise if the opposite, so that your fist lands on your opponent’s chin with the knuckles down. Meanwhile lean into the punch with the hip of your throwing hand for extra force, while lifting your back foot slightly. That way you’ll stay balanced as you throw the punch.”

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