Dettloff: Is it too late for Lacy?
Jeff Lacy (left) takes an uppercut from Otis Griffin during their light heavyweight 10 rounder in Tampa, Fla. on Saturday. Lacy had to rally in the late rounds to earn a close majority decision over the fringe fighter. Photo / Scott Foster/Fightwireimages.com
Jeff Lacy won a decision over Otis Griffin in Tampa on Friday night, but it was not the kind of performance that should comfort his supporters, even if Lacy was satisfied enough with things to call out Roy Jones afterward.
Griffin, as you might recall, won Oscar De La Hoya’s derivative and regrettable reality show series The Next Great Champ competition. He has since proved himself mostly ordinary, compiling a 19-4-2 (7) record that includes losses to Danny Green and fellow hard-luck reality show contestant Jesse Brinkley, among others.
Still, Lacy could muster only a majority decision win (the scores were 97-93, 96-94 and 95-95) and was lackluster enough to give Griffin sufficient reason to complain afterward about having been robbed in his opponent’s hometown.
This is a long way from what was predicted for Lacy before he met Joe Calzaghe in Manchester in 2006. A very long way.
The consensus among boxing’s many romantics is that Calzaghe ruined Lacy in that bout that netted the Welshman the world super middleweight title.
It would stand to reason; Lacy was 21-0 (17) going into the Calzaghe match, but is 4-1 since, with the loss to Jermain Taylor, no knockouts, and no less than three majority decision wins against second-tier competition.
It would seem a classic case of a fighter having been mentally destroyed by a loss, something akin to George Foreman’s emotional unraveling following his monumental loss to Muhammad Ali in Zaire several decades ago.
Lacy, now 25- 2 (17), insists that’s not the case.
“Those people are entitled to their opinion, but the Calzaghe fight is the best thing that could have happened to me,” Lacy told me two days after the win over Griffin.
“I love to be the underdog, to have people doubting me. It only sparks me to work harder to prove them wrong. I’m more confident now than I’ve ever been.”
Lacy said, rather unconvincingly, that the unevenness of his performances over the last couple of years is the result of flip-flopping trainers.
Dan Birmingham trained Lacy as an amateur and then from 2005 through Lacy’s moribund decision win over Peter Manfredo in 2007. Roger Bloodworth handled him for the first 16 fights of Lacy’s career, and is now back again.
Lacy said he is happy to be back with Bloodworth. “It’s great. We picked up where we left off. Things that I had forgotten are coming back. It’s all coming back.”
There are others too who dispute the conventional wisdom that Calzaghe ruined Lacy.
“I don’t think that’s the case at all,” Birmingham told me just prior to Lacy’s win over Griffin.
“He came back against (Vitali) Tsypko with some fire before he got injured. I just think right now he’s in kind of a mental shell. And once he can break out of that mental shell — if he can — he’ll be fine,” Birmingham said.
The injury to which Birmingham refers is the torn left rotator cuff Lacy suffered in the decision win over Tsypko, his first fight after the Calzaghe defeat.
“Maybe the injury plays a big part. Even though he had a year of rehab it’s in the back of his mind that if he uses his jab too much or his hook he’ll get injured again. If he gets that out of his mind he’ll be fine.”
Though they remain close, Birmingham and Lacy split after the Manfredo fight because of what was going on in the gym.
“We both needed a change,” he said. “I’m the one who told him to go get another trainer. I was having a problem getting him to listen to me and you get tired of arguing with a guy round after round. It got old.”
HBO’s Jim Lampley also believes the loss to Calzaghe didn’t help Lacy, but that he’s been hindered more by the rotator cuff injury — physically and mentally.
“Joe Calzaghe was dramatically underrated by the media and boxing people. So Lacy was to a certain degree sold a bill of goods. Most of the fighters in the world would have been just as shocked as Lacy was,” Lampley said.
“There was the loss of confidence from the Calzaghe loss and then the shoulder injury. The injury becomes an obstacle to progress, and a convenient excuse.”
Lacy disputes that, too. “The shoulder feels fine. It’s great,” he said.
Bloodworth believes the difference between the old Lacy and the new is a matter of pressure.
“Early on he didn’t have a lot of experience so he was brought along against guys you can build your career against without a lot of pressure,” Bloodworth said. “Now he has to fight live opponents and has pressure every time he fights.”
Bloodworth dismisses the notion that Lacy has no confidence.
“He has confidence. In fact, I think if he was a little less confident he might be better. Sometimes you need that extra adrenalin. He has too much confidence in his power. When he boxes and jabs and throws combinations he’s much better.”
Indeed, Lacy was confident enough to challenge Jones, who was at ringside in Tampa. The former pound-for-pound king, feeling good about himself these days after his bludgeoning of poor Omar Sheika, is said to be amenable to meeting Lacy, maybe in July.
It would be an interesting fight between two guys who share in common the unsettling reality that their best days are behind them. For Jones, who is 40, it’s too late. For Lacy, it might not be.
Some miscellaneous observations from last week:
For what it’s worth, I thought Chris Arreola looked damn formidable overwhelming a typically petrified Jameel McCline. But if those C-cups get any bigger, his next fight may have to be on Cinemax.
The producers of HBO’s 24/7 series got lucky when Ricky Hatton gave Billy Graham the boot and replaced him with Floyd Mayweather Sr. Graham, with his hobo eyes and gap-toothed grit, is visually compelling in his own right, but no match for Mayweather’s reptilian charisma.
One note to said producers: We’ve seen enough now of Hatton’s ass.
The holidays will be a little tense this year in the Cotto household, no? What with all those cinderblocks flying around.
Joe Frazier: No posturing. No bling. No posse. No ‘roids. No ink. Just 100% badass. Even at 65 years old.
Where the hell was this kid Karl Dargan when our Olympic team was sucking eggs in Beijing?
Did Robert Flores really say Paul Williams and Winky Wright share a common opponent in Shane Mosley? Criminy. Never send a generalist to do a specialist’s job. That said, there are several blow-by-blow guys who could learn volumes from Brian Kenny.
The consensus seems to be that Oscar De La Hoya will announce his retirement this week. I don’t see it. He has an excuse for what happened against Pacquiao, and if De La Hoya lives another 30 years, well, that’s 30 years of thinking: “I should have fought again; it was coming in too light that did it.” That’s too long to carry that around. He needs a good performance against a decent guy to put things right.
Plus, when De La Hoya is in board meetings and on golf courses surrounded by namby-pamby money managers and other assorted suits, posers and phonies of the type that make up the corporate world, he will need a recent good memory to remind himself that he is not of their world, that no matter how rich he gets, he is still a prizefighter. The Pacquiao fight won’t do it.
On the other hand, who cares either way? Fight or don’t fight, already. What a drama queen.
Williams Dettloff can be reached at [email protected]