Two Sides of the Coin: Calzaghe vs. Lacy
08.02.06 - By Michael Klimes - The Scene: The super middleweight division has been clamouring for a definitive fight and a definitive champion for some time now. Some time now may in fact be an understatement. When was the last time the super middleweight division saw a truly meaningful contest between two equally matched combatants? I think of Roy Jones Junior vs. James Toney that was twelve years ago. I think of Nigel Benn vs. Gerald McClellan, which was eleven years ago and Joe Calzaghe vs. Chris Eubank was nine years ago. The Welshman floored the self- styled ‘Lord of Brighton.’
Article posted on 08.02.2006
Calzaghe in 2006 (like Eubank was in 1997) is the aristocracy of the division.
Calzaghe’s sad tale has become all too stale in sport. Natural talent fused with an impressive amateur career (which could have blossomed into something much more) vanished like unplugged water into the sink. Jeff Lacy at 28 is at a place where his opponent was not at his age: A career-defining bout.
Even Calzaghe’s admirers have to admit that if he loses this all- important fight than his all ready fragile reputation will enter the incinerator. His fiercest critics (who are a little unfair) are circling like hungry wolves. Jeff Lacy, however, has recently been under pressure in living up to the expectations, which he has generated. There have been quaint murmurings suggesting Lacy may be an over hyped Showtime creation.
Either way, the Calzaghe-Lacy debate arouses turbulent passions and the segregation of opinion (at least largely proportion of it) appears to be drawn on national boundaries. Americans call Calzaghe a ducker and the British (maybe seeing Calzaghe as part of their national heritage because of his age) denounce Lacy as a one-dimensional brawler.
Leaving conjecture aside, there are persuasive arguments for both fighters to be made. If we blow away the hot air in the debate, there is a lot left to be excited about!
Lacy’s strengths are a fast work rate and considerable power. Fighting him must be like having chilled water thrown onto your body in the morning, his style is designed to bring shock. A weakness of Lacy, and one that is worrisome, is his lack of defence. Lacy does not have the ‘weaving and bobbing’ of Frazier, the crouch of Marciano or the head feint of Duran to compensate his come forward antics. Against a precision puncher of Calzaghe’s standing, this is veering towards the danger zone.
Two other qualities Lacy possesses are his youth and ruthless finishing. When he smells blood, Lacy like Tyson knows how to put the other man away.
Calzaghe’s major downside is his age. 33 is not usually a reassuring figure for any sportsman to be around let alone staring down the gun barrel of their greatest challenge. Age affects the most critical quality in not just boxing but also other sports: Footwork. The feet dictate balance, movement and the overall position in relation to your opponent. You are not going to ‘sucker your brother’ with a ‘good en’ if your standing in the wrong place to do it. You will look stupid, get nailed and probably lose the fight. Lacy is exactly the style of fighter to measure how much Calzaghe has left in his feet. If Lacy is piling on the pressure, the best tactic for Calzaghe is to move out of harms way. This is going to be difficult with Lacy trying to bury himself into Calzaghe’s chest while landing those hurtful body shots.
Aside from this problem and it is a considerable one; Calzaghe has many virtues. His key asset in this fight will be his phenomenal hand speed. If Calzaghe wants to release a flurry, it is more a maelstrom. Lacy has not encountered a combination puncher with the same speed, power and accuracy. What makes Calzaghe such an accomplished range finder with his punches is his sense of timing. He just knows when to strike. Lacy will have to deal with these combinations and try and navigate past them just as Calzaghe has to avoid his forward advances and body punches.
Another distinct advantage Calzaghe has is his defence; he keeps his hands up, throws punches on balance, in good time and can clinch. He was only knocked down for the first time in his career in his 36th fight against the dangerous Byron Mitchell.
However, caution might be noted, he was knocked down a second time in his defence against Kabary Salem, only two fights after Mitchell. In a sloppy performance, he admitted he was, ‘disappointed.’ Nevertheless, Calzaghe’s sloppiness was rooted in a lack of motivation derived from frustration. With taking on Lacy, Calzaghe’s ambition appears renewed.
The chins of both fighters are good enough to take punishment.
The Fight Itself:
This title unification will have many blistering exchanges but what will be the exact strategies? If both fighters are offensively orientated here, it could turn into a replica of Marvin Hagler vs. Thomas Hearns with both blowing caution into the wind. If this is a fight of that frightening intensity, it will not go the distance. On the other hand both will not try to box one another defensively. Ironically, Lacy has the longer arm reach (an inch over Calzaghe) even though he is the shorter and more attack-minded fighter. It would be stupid for him to try and outbox a boxer who is also a southpaw, thereby making it more awkward.
The fight should progress at a fast pace but it will be for the long haul. Neither boxer is expecting an easy night. Lacy, who is indisputably the less balanced and well rounded fighter will focus all his energies on driving Calzaghe to the ropes, forcing the fight and making the space claustrophobic. Calzaghe knows he will have to use the ring, work the jab and hit with those fast hands. When Lacy ventures onto the inside, it will be his job to saturate him with punches. Once Lacy is hurt, Calzaghe will move in for the kill. One benefit Calzaghe has with the shorter hands is he can fight on the inside better. Lacy is such a pressure fighter that it is actually good to have some power and shorter arms. Even if Calzaghe was younger, moved better than he does now and had those longer arms he would have to trade eventually. Longer arms in close quarters are not an asset.
This encounter is a titanic test of attrition; it will be an ebb and flow battle with both having their moments. There will be will and skill in this fight. I cannot pick a winner. All I will do is go up to Manchester, sit in the arena and watch in awe.
May the best man win!
P.S Let us hope Calzaghe does not injure his hand until the fight is part of history!
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