Best I Faced – Julien Lorcy
Talented Frenchman Julien Lorcy was a two-time WBA lightweight titleholder in late 1990s-early 2000s.
Lorcy was born in Argenteuil, in the northwest of Paris, France on April 12, 1972.
“When I was little, we didn’t have a lot of money,” Lorcy told The Ring. “Life was hard but I never lacked anything. My parents did what they thought was best. We were travellers.
“I learned when I was around 8-years-old that my father was polygamous. At school the teacher told us to make a necklace with pasta for our mother, I said, ‘Miss, I have two moms at home.’ She answered, ‘It is one dad and one mum.’ So, I asked my brother, Pierre, who my mom was. He told me, ‘It’s the blonde not the brunette.’ and that’s how I found out at the same time I have half-sisters.”
Lorcy never liked boxing but his father, who was the head of the local gypsy community, demanded his son box. The youngster took up boxing at 10.
“I had done one week of training and after one week my father wanted me to spar a guy who was tougher than me,” he recalled. “He made my nose bleed; I didn’t know how to box and I got beaten up.
“The summer holidays were long and I trained hard for three months and when the guy went back after the holidays, I had much more technique and practice and I could outbox him.
“One day, the guy came to the gym at 10 p.m. I was in the car heading home but my father ordered me to put my boxing gear on and beat the guy up. Then over time I beat everyone in my weight at my gym and then all the gyms surrounding my gym. Then I beat all the boxers up in Paris. Then I had to go further away to get good sparring.”
It didn’t take long before Lorcy focused solely on boxing.
“When I was a young lad my father told me I had to consider boxing like a job,” he explained. “So, at the age of 10, I quit school and worked in the market selling fruit and vegetables, getting up very early, coming back at 2 p.m. for two hours sleep, and at 4 p.m. I was heading to the gym.”
His father’s tough love approach and Lorcy’s dedication brought out the best in him as he excelled as an amateur. He was a national amateur champion in 1990 and 1991. He represented France at the 1991 World Championships in Sydney, Australia, losing to eventual gold medalist Marco Rudolph in the second round.
Lorcy qualified for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, but again lost to Rudolph, this time at the quarter-final stage.
“I was robbed versus a German guy,” he said ruefully. “If I hadn’t been robbed, I would have fought Oscar De La Hoya in the Olympic final in Barcelona. Amateur boxing is full of shit and lies.”
Lorcy turned in May 1991 professional, after going 67-5 in the unpaid ranks. He gained valuable experience over the next couple of years.
“I had the chance to fight all over the world,” said Lorcy, who fought on the undercard of several world title fights at home and overseas in Argentina, America, Ireland, Denmark, Puerto Rico. “It allowed me to open my mind and know the customs of others. Extraordinary for a little gypsy.”
“Bobo” became European junior lightweight champion when he stopped Boris Sinitsin (TKO 7) in November 1996. The win also meant he could focus full-time on boxing and stopped working on his market stall.
The following March, Lorcy met unbeaten Mexican Arnulfo Castillo, in Paris, for the vacant WBO 130-pound title.
“When I fought Castillo, I went down twice,” he explained. “First, I thought I had miss-stepped on the canvas. The second time, I went down, he hit me on the back of the neck. During the second round, I took care of not being hit. In the third round, with nothing to lose I marched forward. In the ninth, he received two warnings. So, we were equal on cards. The decision the judges took is a shame.
“After I fought Castillo, I peed blood at 4 a.m. Then we went back home. My wife was pregnant and near to giving birth. So, I took a hot bath and, on the Sunday, we drove to hospital. My son Mattison was born on Sunday at 5 p.m.”
Castillo and Lorcy met in a rematch seven months later, and again couldn’t be separated after 12-rounds.
“I thought I had won,” he said. “The decision is less a shame than during our first fight. I pressured him more during our first fight than during the second one.”
Lorcy was matched with a different opponent to fill the vacancy, but things changed the week of the fight, throwing the Frenchman off his game.
“Before I fought (Anatoly) Alexandrov, I was supposed to face Barry Jones, he was a good opponent but suited me,” Lorcy explained. “Five days before, he had a problem and they offered me to fight Alexandrov but I was not prepared for a southpaw but as everybody has already bought their tickets, I accepted. I didn’t want to disappoint the public.”
Alexandrov was able to out-hustle Lorcy over 12-rounds via majority decision. Although it was the first loss of his career, Lorcy was written off by his backers.
“I fought Moises Rodriguez [on the undercard of Jean-Baptiste Mendy’s WBA title defense against Alberto Sicurella] and I fought a decent fight, not brilliant but OK,” he said. “Some people had crossed the world to see me fight. Michel and Louis Acariès say Mendy is flabbergasting. But a friend of theirs told them, ‘On a good day, Lorcy can beat Mendy.’ They made a €150.000 euros [Close to $160,000] bet on that.
“They called me, and without the agreement of my father I signed, after a 10 minutes conversation regarding the amount of my purse. I went back home and told my father I was going to fight Mendy. He said I was going to get killed. As boxing is a very narrow environment in France, I flew to Morocco for my preparation in order to avoid the spies.
“Mendy was taller than me so I had to pressured him. His strategy was to start the fight after the sixth round. So, our strategy to start fast was accurate.”
The game plan worked accordingly, and Lorcy dethroned Mendy by six-round stoppage.
In his first defense, Lorcy was surprisingly edged out by European stalwart Stefano Zoff (SD 12) in August 1999.
“The anti-doping controls were quickly done in France because the promoter does not pay, they pay the mandatory minimum €150, not like €1,500 for more comprehensive tests,” he said. “Especially when the opponent has already tested positive. Zoff has often been charged for doping so I certify that he was doping.”
To his credit, Lorcy quickly rebounded and claimed the European lightweight title to keep himself highly ranked. After notching seven wins, he met WBA incumbent Takanori Hatakeyama in July 2001.
“The fight in Japan versus Hatakeyama was indeed very special,” said Lorcy, who won a wide 12-round unanimous decision. “I was the first Frenchman ever to take a belt in the Land of the Rising Sun.”
Once again Lorcy wasn’t able to hold onto the title, losing his title just three months later against grizzled Argentinean veteran Raul Balbi by 12-round majority decision.
“The WBA forced me to fight Balbi,” he bemoaned. “I don’t I had enough time to recover from the Hatakeyama preparation that was very heavy.”
Lorcy decided to make one last title run and after seven wins met WBA ruler Juan Diaz in San Antonio, Texas in November 2004.
“My preparation hadn’t been as good as I wanted,” admitted Lorcy, who dropped a 12-round unanimous decision. “I wanted a sparring partner but the Acariès told his coach that if he came to spar with me, they wouldn’t work with him anymore because I had signed with Don King. It was very complicated.”
Lorcy decided to retire from boxing, aged 32, with a record of (56-4-2, 40 knockouts).
“My career has been what it was,” he said. “I never refused anyone and have never been knocked out.
“I stopped my career even though they nearly offered me millions of Euros, to get [used as a stepping stone.] Money has never been my priority. My priority has always been my family and my health.”
Lorcy is going to embark on a new venture in West Africa.
“Ivory Coast has revolutionized boxing in Africa,” he said. I am also launching a boxing gear brand, called Worldboxing. The company is based in Ivory Coast but we will have branches U.K., Ireland and USA. It is a lot of work strategically wise, to define the models and study what the other brands are making.”
Lorcy, now 50, is married and has four children. He lives between Yvelines, on the outskirts of Paris and also the Ivory Coast, where his wife is from.
He graciously took time to speak to The Ring about the best he fought in 10 key categories.
Jean-Baptiste Mendy: He was a tall southpaw. He had a good jab. I had to press to beat him.
Raul Balbi: He had a good guard; he was an experienced boxer.
Arnulfo Castillo: In the first round of my first world championship, he was fast and slow at the same time. It was difficult to read him because you never knew how fast he would punch.
Jose Sanabria: He was a former world champion. He gave me a lot of problems even if the judges gave all the rounds in my favor.
Mendy: He was an artist of the ring but his coach only wanted him to start in the sixth round. His coach asked him to start slow and finish hard. I started very hard.
Takanori Hatekeyama: Hatakeyama was physically strong. I tried to jostle him several times, he came back. He was a suicide bomber.
Oscar Cano: He was knocked down in Round 11 but he held on and went 12-rounds.
Hatakeyama: I went down three times as a professional, twice against Castillo and once against Balbi. I was never stopped inside the distance amateur or professional. Hatakeyama had punching power, you had to be smarter to beat him.
BEST BOXING SKILLS
Juan Diaz: He was a skilful boxer, a good talent, a top boxer and a nice guy.
Hatakeyama: He was a fast boxer, good combinations and a great puncher who kept coming forward.
Karim Ben Ismael helped co-ordinate this feature. The Ring appreciated his assistance.