NEW YORK -- Joe Calzaghe toiled for years in relative obscurity, winning titles and building a virtually unmatched resume -- but never venturing from Europe to challenge boxing's best.
It turns out he should have done so long ago. There was nothing at all to fear.
The popular undefeated Welshman overcame a first-round knockdown to beat Roy Jones Jr. in a bloody one-sided unanimous decision Saturday night, delighting a raucous crowd at Madison Square Garden that seemed to be heavily in his favor.
After winning a close decision over savvy veteran Bernard Hopkins in April, Calzaghe has little left to prove on boxing's biggest stage, and few can fault him if he follows fellow British star Lennox Lewis into retirement at his peak.
"This year I just beat two legends, with Hopkins and Jones, and I came to the United States to do it," Calzaghe said. "I took the risk. They didn't come to me. I took the risk."
With blazing hand speed and a constant push forward, Calzaghe (46-0) opened a deep gash over Jones' left eye in the seventh round, forcing the ringside doctor to take a close look at it. The bout was allowed to continue, blood flowing down Jones' face, but it hardly mattered after that.
"Super" Joe indeed looked super.
All three judges scored the light heavyweight fight 118-109 for Calzaghe, as did The Associated Press, every round going to him after the first.
"The pitter-pats were harder than I thought," said Jones, who couldn't see out of his left eye in the later rounds. "I don't know. He won the fight. He definitely won the fight."
The numbers certainly back it up.
Calzaghe threw a staggering 985 punches, landing 344 of them, to just 475 for Jones, according to CompuBox statistics. The number landed by Calzaghe was the most by a Jones opponent in 31 fights tracked by CompuBox.
"I knew I had to make Roy Jones respect my punches," Calzaghe said. "I think I did. I think I stunned him on a few exchanges."
Calzaghe said he doesn't fancy rematches, but Hopkins was sitting ringside and would love nothing more than to reprise a fight he still believes he won. Mikkel Kessler was also on hand, the Danish champion who gave Calzaghe everything he could handle in their super middleweight unification.
Then there's IBF champion Chad Dawson, who called Calzaghe out almost the moment the fight ended, issuing a press release in which he offered to fight in Wales.
"I just stepped out of the ring 15 minutes ago," Calzaghe said, smiling. "Let me enjoy the fight now before I think about another fight. What do you think I am, man, a sadist?"
The bout figured to hinge on Calzaghe's ability to pressure Jones, who works well against the ropes, without getting caught by his speedy left hook.
It landed right off the bat, knocking Calzaghe to the floor midway through the first round, not unlike the flash knockdown Hopkins scored against him in their April bout.
"Yeah, it was a good shot," Calzaghe said, "but I came back stronger."
Jones (52-5) stood defiantly in the center of the ring when the first-round ended, chants of "USA, USA" filling the arena, the crowd undoubtedly pleased that the 39-year-old Jones showed at least some of the hand speed that once made him so dangerous.
But just like the Hopkins fight, Calzaghe began to outwork his opponent.
The taller Welshman backed Jones against the ropes and into corners, pounding him with relentless body shots. When the 36-year-old Calzaghe circled back to the middle of the ring, Jones walked directly into another barrage of hands that seemed to come at all angles.
When Jones put his gloves to his face in defense, Calzaghe would drop his own and lean in close, peering in as if looking right into Jones' eyes. Then another flurry of punches would spring forward, most of them catching flush.
"I felt really relaxed tonight with my hands at my side," Calzaghe said. "That's just my style and I felt in the rhythm. After the first round I was a little weary, but I knew if I just fought my style I would be OK."
Jones has had trouble with slick southpaws in the past, losing a stunning second-round knockout to Antonio Tarver in May 2004, then losing their rematch by decision. Along with a knockout loss to Glen Johnson, many began calling for Jones to spare his stellar career any more embarrassment.
Dropping their promoters to put the fight together themselves assures Calzaghe and Jones, taking a 50-50 split, each a hefty payday.
That along with the severe beating he received might be enough for Jones to finally hang it up himself, after four losses in his last seven fights.
"I don't know what's next," the former pound-for-pound king said. "I don't know."