News

Calzaghe coke criticism hardly a knock-out

KEVIN MITCHELL, in The Guardian‘s sports blog, offers a different view of the weekend’s revelations about Joe Calzaghe

So, Joe Calzaghe snorts coke. He is not the only fighter, nor will he be the last, to deal with retirement by reaching for the powder.

I know of a few former world champions who have been marching the white line to Peru for years. The real story would be if none of them had tried it.

Cocaine is the drug of choice on the celebrity circuit and that is where a lot of champions hang out when their fighting days are done. Nearly every boxer who quits the ring has to deal with losing the buzz of public performance, and coke is an easy alternative. They miss the thrills, the sounds and the attention. Some of them lose the plot completely when released from the tyranny of their training regime for the first time, because they have known little else since they were kids. Redundancy in your early 30s can be a dark, lonely place.

Coke and recreational drugs of all kinds are as much a part of the boxing scene as they are in football and the entertainment world. Often, they mingle.

Frank Bruno revealed in the autobiography we did together that he had Colombian dealers on his case from the moment he went to Bogotá as a teenager (unaccompanied by his management, by the way) to have his detached retina fixed. For years, they sent him cards and pestered him for tickets and contacts whenever he had a major fight. From a young age, he’d smoked the occasional spliff, although never before a fight. It was only when he retired that Frank fell in with a bad crowd and started mixing cocaine and skunk, a cocktail that contributed significantly to his mental breakdown.

Pernell Whitaker tested positive for coke after a fight in 1998, Oliver McCall has struggled most of his life with a crack habit, Mike Tyson has been done for dope, Tommy Morrison was arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession last month … It is a long a depressing list. And these are just the well-known ones.

Drugs ought not be regarded lightly – but I would bet that a fair number of you reading this will have done a line or two. There are dabblers and there are addicts.

What I found absurd about the News Of The World sting, however, was the self-righteousness of it, as if it was doing society a favour by tricking Calzaghe into revealing something a little bit less than shocking. Someone who was not in possession during any of these chats, hardly has been “KO’d by cocaine”.

The Screws’ stingmeister also coaxed Joe into having a go at the abilities of Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan. They were mild digs, at best, the sort of stuff you hear in private conversations ” which was, of course, what Calzaghe thought it was.

This was no great public service. All the paper has done is embarrass a proud fighter whose reputation, in the eyes of a sneering army of hypocrites at least, is diminished. He needs a helping hand (if he wants it), not a kick in the guts.

This is an abbreviated version of Mitchell’s regular online boxing column. To read it in full, click here


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