CWMBRAN, Wales -- Enzo Calzaghe was almost 20 years old. It was the hippy era and his hair was long. He had completed his national service in the Italian Air Force and decided that it was time to explore the world and his place in it.
Carrying a guitar on his back -- he sang and played bass guitar with his uncle, Vicenzo, in a band -- and a small suitcase, he left his home in Bancali on the island of Sardinia and set off for mainland Europe.
Over the years, he had worked as a barman, a chef, a cleaner and a clothes shop assistant. He was a busker on the streets of Vienna, Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Paris and he slept on park benches when there was no money in his pockets for a room. Still, nothing could dampen his enthusiasm.
When he visited his aunt, Nina, in Bournemouth, a coastal resort town in southern England, she fixed him up with a job in a local restaurant. But Bournemouth was not Calzaghe's cup of tea, so he left for Southampton to catch the boat to the French port of Le Havre, intending to return to Italy.
Then a bottle of whiskey and fate intervened.
"I met a guy on the boat, he had a bottle with him, we got drinking and, by the time I finished up in Le Havre, I was drunk as a lord," Calzaghe recalled in the Newbridge Boxing Club, where he has been training Gary Lockett for his challenge of world middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik this weekend in Atlantic City, N.J.
"Somehow, I made my way out of Le Havre and ended up in a little French village in the middle of nowhere. I fell asleep underneath a lamppost and got woken up by a gendarme [a French soldier] who, very helpfully, pointed me in the general direction of Italy. So I hitched a lift in a car but finished up all the way back in Le Havre. For some reason I decided to take the boat back across to Southampton, I returned to Bournemouth -- and the rest is history."
In Bournemouth he met a man who drove him to Cardiff, Wales. In a restaurant on the outskirts of the city, he ordered food from a waitress named Jackie Phillips. They got married four weeks later.
When their first son, Joseph, was born on March 23, 1972, Calzaghe split his time as a factory worker making nails and screws and as a waiter at the bed and breakfast he and his wife lived in. Jackie was a secretary at the London offices of Twentieth Century Fox.
Boxing wasn't exactly the first thing on their minds.
Fast forward more than 30 years and the irrepressible Calzaghe is recognized by the Boxing Writers' Association of America, The Ring and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in their annual Sports Personality awards as the trainer of the year.
His only boxing experience prior to training his son how to throw combinations into a rolled-up piece of carpet was as a child, when his father, Giuseppe Calzaghe, would match him with other kids to provide entertainment at village parties.
"I knew [former world heavyweight title challenger] Joe Bugner when we were kids," said Calzaghe, whose father moved his family to Bedford, England, in the late 1950s before they returned to Bancali. "Me and Joe were at the same school. He was a year younger than me [but] huge; I was a 5-foot little squidge. Even so, I used to tease him something rotten until one day, he whacked me over the head, and boy, did I cry."
Calzaghe never boxed as an amateur or pro, but he became a boxing aficionado. Muhammad Ali, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Sugar Ray Leonard were his favorite fighters.
"My mum would always send me and my two sisters [Melissa and Sonia] to bed early, but when my dad came home from playing with the band somewhere, I could hear the sound of his Winklepicker boots in the distance and I knew that he would let me get up to watch the football or a fight on the TV," said Joe Calzaghe, the world light heavyweight and super middleweight champion.
"Football was my first love. It was also my dad's, who was a very [swift] and skillful winger. But he loved boxing, too, and he was in my corner from the first day he ever brought me to a boxing gym and, for me, he's been the best trainer I could ever have had."
When it comes to boxing knowledge, Joe feels no one knows the sport as well as his father.
"He knows what buttons to press and he's a great motivator," Joe said. "Sometimes in the corner he will make things sound worse than they are, so that I pick it up in the next round. He's a good judge of fights, too. He backed Evander Holyfield all the way before his first fight with Mike Tyson and that was a huge upset at the time, but he knows about styles and temperament. He knows the game."
While Joe Calzaghe has established himself as one of the most accomplished boxers of his era and one of the best ever to come out of Britain, Enzo Calzaghe has accumulated an impressive body of work with other fighters as a trainer.
Enzo Maccarinelli froze in his world cruiserweight title bout in March against David Haye, who stopped him in the second round, but he has improved his boxing skills under Calzaghe's tutelage. With Haye's departure to the heavyweight division, Maccarinelli will look to bounce back against the likes of cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham.
Newbridge's own Gavin Rees was considered to be an ordinary lightweight before he challenged Souleymane M'baye for a junior welterweight title last year and claimed the belt, showing relentless aggression in winning a unanimous decision.
Bradley Pryce, also from Newbridge, Wales, is the Commonwealth junior middleweight titleholder and Nathan Cleverly, from Blackwood, Wales, is one of the more promising young prospects in British boxing.
Significantly, of the 68 titles awarded by the four main alphabet organizations, only 13 were held by American boxers at the end of 2007, while the small Welsh town of Newbridge, with a population of only 9,000, was home to four (Maccarinelli, who lives 50 miles away in Swansea, held a belt at the time). Out of the 10 belts currently held by boxers recognized as world champion by The Ring, Joe Calzaghe holds two.
Still, Enzo Calzaghe's credentials are not appreciated by everyone.
"I see where Lockett has become inspired by Joe Calzaghe's victory over Bernard Hopkins in his U.S. debut and is predicting the same result against Kelly [Pavlik]," Jack Loew, Pavlik's trainer, declared recently. "Well, maybe Enzo Calzaghe can teach Lockett to slap like a girl, just like Joe."
Enzo Calzaghe's response was measured.
"When Pavlik is world champion for 10 years and has made 21 title defenses, then I will listen to Loew," he said. "Pavlik has not even held his title for a year yet [and] Loew had better hope and pray that Lockett doesn't slap like Joe because if he does, it's going to be good night for Kelly Pavlik."
The little ball of energy from Bancali, who left home with a guitar on his back and dreams in his head, has refused for 35 years to be subdued.
Sometimes it seems that only a good left hook from Joe Louis could do it.
Brian Doogan writes on sport for the London Sunday Times and is the longtime European correspondent for The Ring magazine.