'Call Em Out Fridays': Jeff Lacy - Does Mr. Left Hook Have Any Hooks Left?
By Vivek Wallace, photo by Tom Casino - This weeks 'Call Em Out Fridays' segment shines the spotlight on one of the sports most enigmatic figures. A fighter who once showed great promise, yet after being derailed across the pond against Welshman Joe Calzaghe, his career has seemed to take an unexpected twist. No one technically knows at this point what the future of Jeff Lacy will be, but if the recent past has been any indication, it may not involve a great level of success. As he prepares himself for his latest shot at redemption, we take a look at that full circle that surrounds him. In standard 'Call Em Out Fridays' fashion to keep the spin of this article fair and balanced, we'll analyze a 'Supportive' perspective, a 'Critics' perspective, and before turning it over to the fight fans for their angle, I'll first throw in my own perspective. So with no further ado, Mr. Lacy now stands under the proverbial 'spotlight'.......
Article posted on 14.11.2008
Jeff Lacy - (Supportive Perspective): In February of 2001 Jeff Lacy started what most at the time felt was an inevitable quest to reach the top of the sport in his respective weight class - the super middleweight division. The outcome was a victory in a rather astonishing fashion, which saw him end the night for his opponent before the end of the first round. After 210 amateur fights and numerous other accolades, it was finally time for the world to see what many felt for a very long time - which was the birth of a new star on the rise.. Witnessing Lacy cause havoc in the ring was pure excitement in the minds of those who watched him. A brilliant crescendo of speed and power left many wondering if the man who had soon become known as "left hook" could do any wrong. In his career opening assault, Lacy knocked out the first 9 men placed in front of him. It wasn't until the tenth fight that we learned that his power - as great as it was - could be overcome, and that as he went up the ranks, his ability to soundly execute a gameplan over the course of a fight would be just as paramount. He ended up winning that fight on the score cards with little problem, showing that he could out-think an opponent, as well as out power them. He would continue his assault, tearing down another 11 opponents - nearly all by KO - in a list that included Syd Vanderpool, Robin Reid, and Omar Sheika; None in which were considered to be great fighters, but certainly adequate competition for a fighter who was on his way up the ranks looking for a way make a name for himself. After demolishing everyone placed before him, suddenly it was time for the rising star to take his act on the road and test his skill level against perhaps the most formidable opponent of them all - The "Pride of Wales", Mr. Joe Calzaghe. For most American fight fans this was an opponent who had been sheltered and untested, but little did they know that Lacy was about to face an opponent unlike any he had ever faced before. As time passed and Lacy got closer to this showdown, it became more and more evident that all of the knowledge gained throughout the various Golden Gloves and Olympic trial experiences would be needed, as this time around he'd finally meet a man who's talent rivaled his own in more ways than one. Despite all the great success of the past and all of the mystique developed after years of annihilating talent deemed decent at best, March 4, 2006 would start a new era in the life of Jeff Lacy. Perhaps one that few knew would ever come.......
Jeff Lacy - (Critics Perspective): The fight between Lacy and Calzaghe was one of high anticipation and was so eagerly awaited that despite being held in Manchester, it wouldn't start until 2am to accommodate the U.S. television market. In the midst of a packed house and a global audience, from the beginning bell, Welshman Joe Calzaghe was all over Jeff Lacy like white on rice. Every move Lacy made was met with a better counter action as Lacy would quickly learn he was in for a long evening. Also visible from early on was the fact that Lacy had dominated his opponents for so long that now when he really needed to understand how to out-maneuver and out-class them, it didn't come as easy as he probably felt it should. Absent was the cleverness of a skilled veteran, present was the nerves of a quickly sinking champion. As early as the first round Calzaghe had already bloodied Lacy's nose as well as puffed the area below his right eye. After tasting the canvas for the first time in his career in the 12th round, Lacy would go on to lose a rather lopsided affair after never really being a factor throughout the whole fight. The experience was an extremely humbling affair to Lacy who returned to the U.S. and by all accounts went into a shell that separated him from everyone but his very immediate family. The loss gave many fight fans and media members much to speculate about as it relates to Lacy. A career that had been so carefully crafted had been suddenly torn down after one bad night at the office. Of all the things that came to light after the loss about Lacy, perhaps the question of his heart and mental psyche were the ones that deserved the most merit. After knocking out nearly everyone that he had previously faced in very little time, suddenly, the man with so much power was stripped nearly powerless. In his next four fights, Lacy's performances were all very sporadic and less than entertaining as he often appeared very much out of sorts. This would mark the first time in his career that he had gone two fights or more without knocking an opponent out, and rarely even knocking them down as he eeked out extremely narrow margins of victory in each fight.
Jeff Lacy - (This Writers Perspective): What became evident in Jeff Lacy after all the peaks and valleys of his career to this point is the fact that this was an extremely talented fighter who's confidence had been thoroughly stripped. Like so many other fighters, what was once viewed as impossible was proven as inevitable. What he really needs to do at this point is go back to the basics, the fundamentals. For so long he'd been able to rely on his above average power and from the very beginning, those who followed his career knew that was the only thing his handlers every relied on when drafting up gameplans. The truth of the matter is, when you look at it, how effective could he have been had he learned how to properly execute solid combinations with consistency to setup that power, or keep an opponent at bey with a solid bone-crushing jab? How effective could he have been if he had ever learned proper footwork and balance, or even mental techniques to help him sustain his drive when things weren't going his way in the ring?
I think when it all boils down, Lacy has alot of natural tools that could propel any fighter to greatness, but if he can't step over the mental obstacles and condition himself to per sever and remain confident, all of those tools will mean very little in the end. One other thing that probably hasn't helped Lacy much is the fact that the match-makers who set up his fight have done him no favors. When you look at a fighter like Miguel Cotto who had raw talent from the start as well, but was fed a wide variety of opponents to face - and subsequently learn from - it's easy to see how the mental game is won much easier because there's a certain ring education level achieved. With Lacy, he went from facing a group of cupcakes, to a couple opponents who posed a slightly greater risk, to perhaps the best super-middleweight of all time, all in 5 a year period. After barely squeaking past his last few opponents, they've done the unthinkable again by putting him in the ring with what I view as a still-very-dangerous Jermain Taylor. What's sad is that had things been handled a bit differently with him from the start, Lacy could have walked a totally different stretch in the sport, but instead, he now finds himself in a do or die type match that many don't expect him to win. It's unfortunate but we live in an era of the sport where one too many losses today means Wednesday Night Fights in basement locations tomorrow. It would be tragic to see Lacy fall off the major fight circuit, but if he does end up on that track, in my estimation, he'll have a number of people in his camp to thank as well. As much as I'd like to say he's not damaged goods, it sure looks that way, and a loss Saturday night nails the door shut. At the end of the day, I think Lacy is a formidable talent which lacks certain viable lessons. Who we point the finger at as the core problem is not my job to assess, but come Saturday night, I have a strange feeling that someones gonna have to accept the blame because his career as we all know it could very well be done. Stay tuned.
(Got Questions or Feedback?: Contact ESB's Vivek Wallace at firstname.lastname@example.org and 954-292-7346, or show some love at www.myspace.com/anonymouslyinvolved)
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