Friday, February 9, 2007


The blood faucet that became Jeff Lacy’s face that horrible night in Manchester stopped leaking months ago. The cuts have healed. The swelling has subsided. To see him now, one would never know of the punishment he endured against Joe Calzaghe. But the real scars run deep.

A lesser man would likely have quit that night, but Jeff Lacy didn’t. No, he stood in there like a man in a storm and he took those shots one after the other, round after round. It ended up being a frightful beating and the question many ask now is this: Can Jeff Lacy make it back?

The one man who can answer that question is Lacy himself, but for now, he’s not saying much.

Prior to the Calzaghe fight, Jeff "Left Hook" Lacy was a young man who seemingly had it all. Lacy appeared on the cover of The Ring magazine, had a bit part in an ESPN commercial and had a legion of loyal followers. He still possesses a rock-solid support group that consists of advisor Jim Wilkes, promoter Gary Shaw and one of the best boxing trainers in the world in Dan Birmingham.

Most of Lacy’s professional career bouts were televised main events where he received top billing amongst great fanfare. Lacy was at the very point where he was on the verge of becoming what they call in boxing a "crossover star". Simply put, Jeff Lacy was poised to become the next big thing.

However, since the March loss to Calzaghe, the bright future that once appeared as though it had no shadow is shrouded in dark uncertainty. Lacy has gone into virtual seclusion and the rumor is that he may not enter the ring again this year. The plan was to have Lacy return in October against either rising contender Allan Green or in November against the better known and established Antonio Tarver. Negotiations were ongoing and the bout with Green was said to be a "done deal" by Lacy himself. Then Tarver briefly entered the picture and for whatever reason, Lacy’s plans for a return to the ring in 2006 began to unravel.

Jim Wilkes, always one of those closest to Lacy has said that he’s not sure what the immediate future now holds for Lacy. Wilkes, who has been with Lacy since he was an amateur and who used to speak with Lacy several times a day admits he hasn’t talked to Lacy at all recently. Commenting on what’s next, Wilkes had this to say: "He’s trying to figure out what he wants to do. Truthfully, I don’t know."

Boxing history is rife with tales of fighters that suffered humiliating defeats in their first losses and were really never the same again. On a sultry night in the African jungle, Muhammad Ali stripped George Foreman of his aura of invincibility, his heavyweight championship and some say, his very soul. It took Foreman twenty years to exorcise the memory of that night, untangle the Ali albatross from around his neck and regain his heavyweight championship.

Davey Moore was a young protégé with loads of promise before meeting up with the wily Roberto Duran on a June night in Madison Square Garden in 1983. Moore was on the wrong end of a rejuvenated Duran and he was humiliated and bludgeoned by Duran’s stone hands before losing his title and whatever future he may have had. Davey Moore was gun shy from then on and his career was over before it ever really began.

Lacy now finds himself in much the same boat as Foreman and Moore - facing a long road back to the top. The rumor mongers whisper that Lacy is about twenty pounds over his best fighting weight and that he has not touched a boxing glove in four months. In order to feel fully confident for a return to the ring Lacy has said he will need three months of solid training. The St. Petersburg, Florida native has indicated that he will not accept a fight in October against the dangerous Allan Green because two months notice is simply not enough time for him to be ready.

When recent negotiations for a November, all-Florida fight against Tarver from Tampa, Florida disintegrated into chaos fingers were pointing in every direction. Some said Tarver was demanding $5 million to Lacy’s $1.5 million and that was apparently unacceptable to Lacy’s camp. The fight would have been a ticket seller in Florida and have been a natural fight to have taken place at the St. Pete Times Forum and the Showtime network was reportedly interested in televising the fight.

The thirty-seven year old Tarver, who always has lots of offense with his mouth but less with his fists, and who will be appearing in the sixth Rocky movie, "Rocky Balboa" said that he deserves the lion’s share of the money were he and Lacy to face off. "They (Lacy’s people) don’t realize what I bring to the table. I’m a movie star. I have marketability and crossover appeal and that’s what puts butts into the seats. They need to understand they may never get another opportunity like this."

Not surprisingly, Gary Shaw viewed the breakdown in negotiations differently than Tarver and claims, "Tarver was holding us hostage. I tried to give in on many issues to make this fight happen, but maybe he just doesn’t want to fight. If he does want to fight, he doesn’t act like it."
For his part, Tarver’s promoter issued a press release earlier this week blaming Lacy and his people and said that Lacy and his camp categorically turned the fight down. Nobody in Lacy’s camp would comment on a particular reason for the breakdown in negotiations or actually when or against whom Lacy would fight.

Allan Green, 21-0 (15)KO from Tulsa, Oklahoma is only 26 years-old and appeared devastating against Anthony Bonsante 10 days ago on an ESPN televised card. Green is waiting in the wings and called out Lacy by name after his victory. As for the mouth-watering match against Green, all Gary Shaw would say about that fight is, "The Green fight is dead for right now."
To get a sense of what Jeff Lacy might be going through, the thoughts of the sensitive former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson might shed some light on helping observers understand the situation Jeff Lacy finds himself in.

Patterson once spoke on what it meant to lose his fight, his championship and his confidence to Ingemar Johansson. "You’ve got to understand how it is – being the champion of the world and then not being the champion. You’ve got to be able to feel what it means to be somebody – to belong – and then suddenly you don’t belong, and you wonder whether you were ever meant to be a human being other people could look up to." Patterson sank into a deep depression after the loss to Johansson, rarely ventured outside his home and spent hours in solitude contemplating his life and his boxing career.

What becomes abundantly clear by the day is that Jeff Lacy may have lost that confidence that Floyd Patterson spoke about and because of it, perhaps Jeff Lacy just isn’t ready to fight yet. Lacy, still a fistic youngster at 29, may be suffering from the after effects of the complete drubbing to Calzaghe and the unquestionable damage to his psyche. Jeff Lacy has retreated into his own world and has locked out those closest to him.

By saying nothing, Jeff Lacy has said it all.

August 2006

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