LAS VEGAS – Joe Calzaghe left the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday night trying to block the graceless and bitter jibes of his victim, Bernard Hopkins, from filling his ears.
But after he accepts a hero's welcome in his beloved Welsh homeland this week and then takes a well-earned vacation, it will be by listening carefully to the strongest calling in his heart that will define the new light heavyweight king's immediate future, and his boxing legacy.
Calzaghe has ticked off one major item on his to-do list by travelling to the United States to take on Hopkins, an icon, albeit one who was 43-years-old and showed an embarrassing lack of grace with his rambling protests over the split decision that handed the visiting Brit the victory.
Now Calzaghe needs to figure out how he wants to be remembered in the fight game and how hard he wants to push himself in the twilight of his career.
If it is the sound of an adoring home crowd of more than 60,000 at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium that entices him the most, then he could walk into retirement following his next fight, likely to be against Roy Jones Jr. on Nov. 15.
Calzaghe gave encouraging signs to Jones at his post-event news conference Saturday and reiterated his desire to step out of the ring by the end of this calendar year.
Whatever he decides, the 36-year-old will go down as one of the greatest, having defended his super middleweight title for 11 years and cleaned up that division before taking on Hopkins at light heavyweight.
Yet the tantalizing call of legendary status, especially in the United Kingdom, will certainly enter his subconscious over the coming months – even though it would mean putting his "0" in danger's path.
As things stand, Calzaghe will be a Hall of Famer. But whether he wants to be just another member of that illustrious club or a true all-time icon, depends on his next few big decisions.
It is uncertain whether undefeated Kelly Pavlik would be prepared to make the jump to light heavyweight, but if he was, around this time next year, then it would present Calzaghe with a golden opportunity to cement a golden legacy.
A Pavlik/Calzaghe superfight in Las Vegas or New York would give Calzaghe the chance to go out on the ultimate high, with the glowing respect of the boxing world warming his back as he entered a new life away from sweaty gyms and grueling workouts.
Though Jones' only win over a notable fighter in the past five years came against an undermotivated and recently inactive Felix Trinidad, he would provide the sort of well-known name to please the television execs and bring in the Welsh public in droves.
Yet the Florida native's reputation has diminished considerably since his all-conquering heyday, and while that fight would offer a glorious "welcome home," it would do little to further Calzaghe's lofty status.
Pavlik though, would be a different proposition. To sign off by taking on a younger man, on foreign soil, and emerging victorious, would be an incredible and defining farewell.
Calzaghe may feel that after surviving Hopkins' pre- and post-fight taunts, the American's wrestling and holding, and his first bout in the U.S., that he has little more to prove.
For the sake of the fight game, his growing army of passionate fans and his place in the history books, hopefully the calling of immortality will be too strong for him to ignore.
- Joe Calzaghe
- Bernard Hopkins