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"There is only one position for an artist anywhere," wrote the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, "and that is upright."

Joe Calzaghe, the artistic 34-year-old Welshman who campaigns as a super-middleweight, has remained upright throughout his entire boxing career. He kept upright in 1993 during his pro debut at Cardiff Arms Park, a first-round TKO of Paul Hanlon. He stayed upright in '97 while creaming Chris Eubank in Sheffield to win the WBO championship.

And he was upright last March in Manchester in snagging the IBF crown with a lopsided decision over Jeff Lacy, a former U.S. Olympian and the prefight favorite. If not for the point deducted in the 11th for holding and turning, Calzaghe would have won every round on every card. His record is now 42-0, with 31 KOs.

Fresh off his 19th successful title defense -- a unanimous decision over Cameroon's Sakio Bika -- the Italian Dragon, who until now has fought exclusively in Europe, finds himself at an interesting intersection.

Should he go down Unification Road and fight Danish power puncher Mikkel Kessler (38-0, 29 KOs), the 168-pound champ of the WBC and WBA? Or should he skip down Pushover Place, score an easy victory in Defense No. 20 and set up a summer showdown with Jermain Taylor, the recently deposed middleweight king? Such a face-off could find comfortable homes on HBO and at Madison Square Garden.

The only thing certain -- inasmuch as anything is certain in boxing -- is that the allegedly retired Bernard Hopkins wants no part of the Welsh southpaw. Or at least his wife doesn't. Hopkins says Jeannette will only let him come back for a shot at WBC heavyweight champ Oleg Maskaev. She reportedly told her Executioner: "If you get hit, you're done, but you can get away from him because you have the speed."

SI.com: Is Hopkins still on your dance card?

Calzaghe: Sure. It's a long dance card, though. Funny, but the so-called big names in American boxing always seem to have a handy reason not to fight me.

SI.com: And Kessler?

Calzaghe: That too would be a great fight. Kessler is 27 and everyone tells me how good he is. I'd love to fight him in America. My critics insist I'm too much of a home boy, but I've shrugged my chains off and I'm ready to explore.

SI.com: Taylor wouldn't agree to fight you anywhere but the States.

Calzaghe: That's fine. Taylor is the opponent I want most. He outpointed Hopkins not once, but twice. Yet I don't fear him in the least.

SI.com: What do you fear?

Calzaghe: I don't like spiders. I don't like heights.

SI.com: What about a spider that's really high up?

Calzaghe: Very, very scary.

SI.com: And if you saw a spider on the canvas?

Calzaghe: I'd jump out of the ring.

SI.com: Your dad used to be a singer, right?

Calzaghe: In the '70s he fronted a band called Foreign Legion. The name came from the fact that he's Italian and the keyboard player was Russian. They played at the Apollo Theater in London, supporting Shirley Bassey. Remember her?

SI.com: Goldfinger, he's the man, the man with the Midas touch ...

Calzaghe: A spider's touch ...

SI.com: Does that lyric scare you?

Calzaghe: Not particularly.


(Sports Illustrated)
 
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