Interview by Ant Evans: Jeff Lacy proved his potential in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, he proved he was an exciting fan favourite while serving a 16 fight professional apprenticeship and proved that he was good enough to win an alphabet 'world' title or two by beating Syd Vanderpool for the IBF belt last October. But it was only two weeks ago (August 6) when 'Left Hook' blasted the teak tough former WBC champ Robin Reid to pieces that he became a star.
The St. Petersburg, Florida native was widely expected to defeat Reid at the St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa, but what astonished was that Lacy had Reid, who'd never previously been off his feet, down four times and actually forced the Grim Reaper's corner to throw in the towel after eight brutal and one-sided rounds.
Yet Lacy, 28, told SecondsOut that he always expected his career-best result. "The biggest weakness I saw going in was that Reid isn't a very confrontational fighter," he began. "He allows the other guy to dictate the pace and, with my style, that's why I ran him down. Reid isn't a really big puncher like people told me he was but even before I knew that I knew (from tapes) that he wasn't a high output fighter and didn't put pressure on his opponent. With all of that, I knew I was going to stop him."
Lacy has teased us with glimpses the full compass of his abilities previously, but agrees that this 20th pro fight was the one where he finally put it all together.
"I've show bits and pieces of the package here and then but in the Reid fight it was all there," the IBF champ said. "He'd had more professional - and amateur - experience going into the fight than I had and I felt like I delt with that very well by taking his whole game plan off of him in the very first round. I took his counter-punching away by putting so much pressure on him he had to fight a fight he couldn't win: going (toe-to-toe) with me.
"I may look like just a come-forward fighter but there's a lot of skill involved. I don't just pressure, I think about every shot and combination."
And, having got an "A Plus' for his final High School exam, the ultra-confident Floridan is now thinking about going off to Cardiff College and passing the Bar exam against Welshman Joe Calzaghe, the 39-0 (31) WBO champion who has reigned at 168lbs (12stone) since October 1997.
"That's the fight I am dying to have," enthused Lacy. "Gary (Shaw, promoter) has reached an agreement with Calzaghe's promoter (Frank Warren) and Showtime (US TV backers) want it, I want it, the fans deserve it so let's hope Calzaghe doesn't get too scared off by what I did to Reid."
Yet getting 'scared off' Calzaghe is exactly what Shaw believes Lacy has done
. Calzaghe wrote in his column for a local newspaper that "Lots of things can also happen between now and (November 5), not least among them injuries..." and Shaw took this as a clear indication that Calzaghe was trying to wriggle out of the verbal agreement between Team Lacy and Warren.
Having been present at Calzaghe's 1993 debut and having followed the unorthodox southpaw's career closely ever since, I doubt it. Over the course of this 12 year career, Calzaghe has spent more time in bandages than King Tut, so maybe the unbeaten Welshman just doesn't want to tempt the Fates with a month to go before he takes a warm up fight (I'm hearing Evans Ashira).
While admitting that Calzaghe is a step up again from Reid (despite Reid's controversial 1999 points loss to his countryman) and conceding that Calzaghe has earned his status as the No.1 super-middle on the planet, Lacy doesn't believe his rival is that dangerous a puncher.
He said: "Honestly? I don't see Calzaghe as a puncher. He's really not a puncher. He slaps a lot and I'm gonna expose him like I exposed Robin Reid. I've seen Calzaghe up close when I fought in the UK and his style is suited for me. But, then again, maybe my style is suited to him and that's why I think we can have a Fight of the Year. But he's not a puncher like myself. Yes, he's got a lot of guys outta there with combinations of punchers but I can get those same guys out of there with one punch."
Calzaghe has already drew attention to his 2000 fifth round KO of Omar Sheika, the same one-dimensional brawler who Lacy failed to impress against last December. The former three-time British national amateur champion also believes that his unique southpaw style will give the 20-fight 'novice' nightmares, style wise.
Lacy laughed out loud. "Hasn't Joe heard of my chief sparring partner? Hasn't he ever heard of Winky Wright? Doesn't he know that I've sparred Wink 100s and100s and 100s of rounds? When I first sparring Wink I couldn't land a glove on the guy, but now I've learned so much that any other southpaw in the world is easy - easy - to figure out. I LIKE fighting southpaws now after years of sparring with Winky. It's a vacation after sparring with Winky.
"I won't load up on punches but I know that I will have to knock Calzaghe out. I can't come to (the UK) and expect to get a decision, no disrespect to the people there. I know I have to knock Joe Calzaghe out and I think Calzaghe already knows that's what's on my mind. I won't leave it to the judges. I don't mind coming over there because I know I am ready, willing and able to knock him out. I just wish he wasn't fighting in September because I really want to beat this guy up bad and add his title to my IBF and IBO belts."