|Jeff Lacy: “I am coming back to dominate”
Interview By Gabriel Montoya (Aug 8, 2006) Photo © Everlast Inc
Coming into his bout with current 168-pound World Champion Joe Calzaghe, it seemed all Jeff Lacy had to do was simply show up and the rest would take care of itself. Whatever test lay in front of him, be it boxer, slugger or any combination of the two, Jeff’s left hook combined with his power/pressure style and iron will had always seen him through. In one instance, his opponent simply left the podium upon seeing Lacy’s physique at a weigh-in. The opponent, who shall nameless, did not return.
March 4, 2006 was supposed to be the day that Jeff ‘Left Hook’ Lacy became a superstar. Having fought six times since June of 2004, Lacy was on a tear that saw him stop Syd Vanderpool in a hard fought war for the vacant IBF title (Lacy’s first major belt), go life and death with Omar Sheika, and be the first to drop and stop Robin Reid. Coming off the Scott Pemberton fight, which was yet another brutal display of Lacy’s power-punching ways, the time had come for Lacy to claim his throne and fight perennial 168-lb titleholder Joe Calzaghe. The fight was to be on, once again, the Welsh fighter’s home soil in England. USA vs. Britain. Our 168-lb answer to Mike Tyson against a man many referred to as Joe ‘CalSlappy’, who was often reviled for inactivity and pulling out of fights due to injury. The table was set: an oft-injured southpaw British champion (who had made seventeen defenses of his title, by the way) against one of most savage power punchers in recent memory. For a man who once won a fight simply by showing up to the weigh-in, it seemed once again all he would have to do is show up.
The fight, along with the grueling schedule leading up to it, would prove disastrous.
“From the first two punches I threw in the fight, everything ran out of me,” Lacy explained to Doghouse Boxing from his home last Friday. “The only thing in was to keep trying and trying and trying, never giving up, as you see for twelve rounds. I kept trying and trying and trying to the point of I just did not have it. I felt like my punches had nothing on it. It was a crazy feeling where you don’t feel weak but you don’t feel like your punches are doing anything. I felt he fought a handicap for twelve rounds and he still couldn’t get me out. The way I feel about that performance, anybody could have beaten me that night. I just didn’t show up.”
Lacy took the first prolonged beating of his life, being out-boxed by the Welshman over twelve rounds in a shocking upset loss that solidified Calzaghe’s title reign and sent Lacy back to the drawing board. Now some five months later, Jeff Lacy is at something of a crossroads. A once overpowering offense is at this point in need of a little defense. Luckily for Lacy, he has in Winky Wright, one of the best defensive fighters in the game, as a sparring partner as well as the man who has trained them both for years, Dan Birmingham.
“When we go back to the gym, we are working on a lot of things," says Lacy. "I think it [the Calzaghe fight] was a wake-up call. The way I look at my life, everything that happens, happens for a reason.”
The retooling process doesn’t end with just adding new skill sets. Lacy’s go-for-broke fight schedule will be retooled as well.
"I was out there trying to get as much experience as I can. [My attitude] is still is the same. I‘ll fight anybody. I just have to slow my pace down. All the things I thought were working for me, worked against me in the end. I love to always train. I love to be in great condition. It hurt me. It hurt me for the Calzaghe fight, fighting as much as I did. I have to pace myself with my training, and taking the fights so close together.”
Since before the Calzaghe fight, Lacy had been trying to get now former Light Heavyweight Champ Antonio Tarver into the ring. “I wanted the Tarver fight before the Calzaghe fight. Bottom line. It’s impossible to negotiate with Antonio Tarver. It’s totally impossible. He thinks he God’s gift to the world. And that’s where it fell out. It fell out in negotiations. That’s why that fight didn’t happen.”
Lacy, being the true warrior he is, eschewed the idea of a comeback fight, and tried again to lure Tarver into an October showdown. (Tarver is fresh off a shutout loss of his own to Bernard Hopkins in June.) But once again, the fight fell apart in negotiations.
“It came down to money,” says Lacy.
The offer from the Tarver camp was for $1.5 million. But as with all big paydays, there were strings attached.
“The $1.5 million is a lot, but the attachment to the $1.5, that’s the thing. He wanted the entire gate. Why would I want to give up all the gate when I know the reason for he and Roy Jones coming here [St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, FL] was because I packed in 12,000 in the arena. Then they came here and they only had 3,000 more than I had, and that’s two big names. I fought a nobody. Nobody knew who Robin Reid was [in the States], and I did 12,000 here. Why would I want to give Tarver my entire gate when I know what my gate is? That’s gonna generate three more million. He wanted all the rights to international TV, and all my gate. And then wanted to pay me 1.5? Why would I do that? I wanted to do a 50/50 split deal. He doesn’t have nobody to fight to make that kind of money. Nobody wants to see him fight Glen Johnson. Nobody wants to see Tarver and Roy Jones. People calling him to do a movie. That’s his best bet. Bottom line, I think he is definitely scared to take the fight. He don’t have the heart to take the fight, and now that I have moved on, the fight is not going to happen.”
After the Tarver fight fell through a second time, another opponent search began, and soon enough 168-pound rising contender Allan Green was being lined up, but that fight came off the table too. This time, the reason was not money or an opponent overestimating his worth; time and weight turned out to be the culprits instead. When we spoke in June, Lacy as well as Gary Shaw had mentioned an October comeback bout against a fighter to be named later. But the Tarver fight, which was envisioned as a November headliner on Showtime, was to be at 175lbs. When that fight fell apart late last month, Lacy’s fight date was moved back to October on the Corrales vs. Casamayor undercard but at the 168-lb limit, a weight harder to make in the now short amount of time left to prepare.
Says Lacy: “I thought I had a November date for me. Not a fight on an undercard. I thought I had a November date for me. That’s the difference; I didn’t care about fighting in October, but I didn’t find out until the last minute. Till two months out when I am 200 pounds heavy. That’s the main reason I pulled out. I didn’t say I didn’t want to fight Allan Green. I just wasn’t going to kill myself to make 168 when I had two months to do so. [Usually I have] three-month camps with the first month being conditioning. It was a weight issue.”
For now, the Green fight is on hold, but may be rescheduled.
“There might be a chance I might fight in December," says Lacy. “But if I don’t fight in December, I’ll come back at the beginning of the year."
Whomever he fights next, Lacy’s desire to hold belts at middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight has not changed. Although a future match up with middleweight titlist and fellow Olympic classmate Jermaine Taylor is a possibility, Lacy says that not too much can made of their past sparring sessions.
"We sparred in the amateur Olympic camp. That was in 1999-2000. We both have learned a lot. It’s all about what the people expect. No matter what I tell you now, how I think it would be, people still want to see it for itself. I think it will be a great fight."
Though contemplating immediate future opponents, Lacy still has Calzaghe on his mind first and foremost.
"It was an off night,” Lacy said. “I dealt with southpaws. I never had any problems with southpaws. In fact, I like fighting southpaws better than right handed [fighters] because that is the first style I learned to fight with Winky Wright. The southpaw style wasn’t it. It was things that I didn’t say leading up into the fight. In camp, I was burned out. I tried to take a couple a weeks off to regain everything that I usually have. I came back to the gym, and I was thinking 'I don’t want to back out of this fight, because [Calzaghe] has always done this and I don’t want to look like I am backing out’. No matter how it looks, not fighting in March would have looked like I was ducking Calzaghe. Then I would have had that pressure that he has always had. I was burned out. You think about all the things you are going through, but you don’t think about [what it means] as it’s happening. I was just thinking, 'I want to go in there and win’. And then I was thinking about taking a vacation right after that. I can honestly tell you that I had things that were going on behind the scenes that I don’t usually normally go through. For one, the biggest thing, was I felt burned out. My trainers knew. It was out, but I kept it away from [the media] because of the fact that I look at this fight like 'okay, my vacation is going to start after this fight’. I thought that I was going to rise to the occasion. I have always been that type of person. But in this particular fight, coming into his hometown, eating the type food I am not used to eating... Everything entered into it. I am not taking anything away from Calzaghe’s performance. I want to see if he is able to take that easy win that he got over me and put it on the line again. That’s the question. Is he able to do that? Trust me, if I won that easy the first time, I wouldn’t think twice to do it again."
If a Calzaghe rematch cannot be made, Lacy’s career philosophy has not changed. He wants only the toughest fights.
"The thing is, everybody has a goal in life. Every fighter is different. My goal is to let the fans know that I never ducked nobody, took all the tough fights and won. You have some fighters that want to be the best pound-for-pound, but if you look at it, it’s still saying the same thing I’m saying. To be pound-for-pound entitles you to fight the best out there. So my focus isn’t [making] the pound-for-pound [list]. My focus is to fight the best out there. I want to come back and dominate like I was doing before Calzaghe. When I come back to fight, I am coming back to dominate. I am looking to get my titles back. I am looking to Calzaghe. I am looking to redo this thing.”