Boxing


Jermain Taylor versus Jeff Lacy: Are You Serious?

Jermain TaylorBy Michael Klimes: Am I entering old age prematurely? Let me share my symptoms with you. Recently I became grumpy on two accounts. Firstly I decided upon skewing HBO after they announced Bernard Hopkins and Kelly Pavlik was going to be on PPV. Secondly I was overwhelmed by a new shock as people were and are thinking that Manny Pacquiao fighting Oscar de la Hoya is a fair match up.

Usually the level headed Freddie Roach is spot on in his judgements but he believes Pacquiao can put enough meat onto his frame, move up to the welterweight division and defeat de la Hoya. Some fans even think Pacquiao can knock de la Hoya out!

The best fighter in the world confronting the best former fighter in the world sounds tantalising. Putting two marquee names on neon signs in the fantasy land which is Las Vegas seems brilliant.. But inspect the issue forensically and alas it is not so. De la Hoya matured into comfortable junior middleweight years ago and Pacquiao has already shifted five weight classes or thirty pounds from where he started boxing originally. That is remarkable. Asking him to go north two further degrees is crazy. Now a third idea has come to my attention which is almost as stupid, a Jermain Taylor versus Jeff Lacy stand off appears to be in the pipeline. Where did this insanity come from?

The difference between Jeff Lacy and Jermain Taylor is two words: world class. Jermain Taylor has lost his last couple of fights to Kelly Pavlik but he was conquered with a fighting spirit. True, it did not alter the end result but a lot of the time a boxer can gain more in defeat than victory. In the rematch with Pavlik, Taylor demonstrated a technical polish and strategic acumen which has never quite accompanied his athletic gifts. By using nimble feet and clever head movement, Taylor made life tedious for Pavlik. Taylor found a more methodical and mature style that was considerably different from the wild machismo approach of the first bout. Similarly, Taylor is the Zab Judah of the middleweights. He is big, powerful and fast with the psychological short coming his smaller companion suffers from that is a lack of focus which dilutes consistency. However, Taylor’s chances like Judah’s can never be disregarded because of the talent level. Taylor might disintegrate during the second half of a bout but in the first five or six rounds he has the ability to be extremely dangerous and have eye catching moments.

Although Jeff Lacy is only a year older than Taylor at thirty one, a vastness separates them. He is not as preserved as Taylor, was never as athletically formidable and most importantly is not world class. To understand the drubbing which Joe Calzaghe delivered in March 2006, you had to be at the MEN Arena. During the fight, I was “caught in the moment” but reviewing the fight at a later date on tape I realised I had been too bloodthirsty. The fight should have been stopped during the ninth round, perhaps the tenth and should never have gone to a decision. Unfortunately, I had to be honest with myself and admit a brutal euphoria had subdued my rational judgement. Any person who has been to an event of any description involving tens of thousands of people will know that a religious fervour, quite a scary one in fact, erases your individuality. A person becomes part of the gawking masses and engages in mass hysteria intoxicated by far too much emotion. The exhilaration of seeing Calzaghe humiliate Jeff Lacy and the experience of seeing the championship bout in a calmer state showed me the gap between watching a fight in a crowd and seeing it on your own.

Furthermore, Lacy was damaged further by the completely arrogant Gary Shaw. Shaw admitted his camp had utterly underestimated Calzaghe and it was downright callous of him not to have minimised the savage beating his fighter took. Lacy is not and will never be the same again. Hence this is the reason why the bout should not happen. I can understand the argument that Lacy should have the right to have another big fight and earn loads wads of cash. Indeed, he retains the right but at what cost? Considering the evidence is grim. Since losing to Calzaghe, Lacy has only had three fights and all them have been ten round affairs. They have also been very scrappy and he has absorbed a lot of punches to the head. Lacy has a world class chin, resilience and courage but these are the very qualities which can undo a fighter. The eloquent Larry Merchant located the right register when he said during the Lupe Pintor versus Wilfredo Gomez classic, “It is a virtue to be able to take a punch but not too many punches.”

In terms of his career accomplishment Lacy has encountered decent competition in Omar Sheika, Robin Reid, Rubin Williams and Syd Vanderpool. The only really impressive fighter he has faced is Joe Calzaghe. Taylor’s opposition is better as he has fought Bernard Hopkins, Kelly Pavlik, Corey Spinks, Kasim Ouma, Raul Marquez and Winky Wright.

Perhaps I am being over sensitive in my analysis and I am vulnerable to the charge of being over protective. The premise runs that boxers are grown men and can look after themselves. Nevertheless, the amount of boxers who have retired too late, never did or wasted all their career winnings undercuts that argument for me. In my opinion, the fans and the media need to be more proactive in demanding the retirement of certain fighters. Even if a bad fight does go ahead, at least our voices will have been articulated. Getting hurt is part of boxing but it should not be criminally inflicted by horrible mismatches. This is what the WBC Title Eliminator between Taylor and Lacy will be. Taylor will administer the pain and Lacy will soak it up.

Article posted on 21.08.2008



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