Who’s your Olympian: Taylor or Lacy?

04.10.04 - By Joseph Buro: Some say the question is as easy as preferring a jab or a hook, a textbook one-two boxer or a looping power-puncher. The question really goes much deeper. Before Saturday night, Jermain Taylor was touted as the class of the 2000 Olympians and the heir-apparent in a paper-thin middleweight division. His bronze medal and HBO backing were hard to overlook. Against Alex Bunema (a blown-up junior middleweight), where Taylor displayed a shotgun jab and an overpowering right hand, most concluded that the hype surrounding Taylor was being fulfilled.

Jeff Lacy, by contrast, has received an onslaught of criticism, ranging from his supposed inability to generate consistent offensive output to a general lack of defense, which was manifest against Donnell Wiggins.

Neither fighter had really been tested before Saturday night. Both traveled to the path of least resistance. Both were also making very little progress in their development.

Taylor, who faced Raul Marquez in his twenty-first fight, was still shooting the jab with little purpose, and telegraphing the right hand, which caused tangles time and time again. While commentators were praising Taylor’s use of the jab against Bunema, it was really just evidence of what was to be confirmed his next fight: Taylor has trouble figuring out alternative ways of breaking down his opponent, and has little creativity in following up the jab.

Lacy was similarly making little progress; he fell in love with his power and grew impatient with the mechanics of delivery. His decision win over Richard Grant exemplified the syndrome perfectly. Yet he will be the first to tell you that his recent fights have been less than spectacular.

Where most fighters with what Lacy had to lose would go back to the drawing board, Jeff asked himself a question: Do I have it or not?

After only sixteen professional fights, Lacy took on a talented and experienced southpaw for the IBF super middleweight title. For Lacy, there was no better time than now to throw himself into the fire pit. At what point in a fighter’s career he decides to take the dive tells volumes about the fighter because it is the point where he stops gauging his opposition and simply believes in himself. He believes, despite any stylistic snafus, that he will prevail because he and not his opponent will dictate the pace of the fight. The fighter that asks the question shows true heart. The fighter that passes his own test becomes a legend.

That Lacy asked was telling. That he persevered was inspiring.

Early in the fight Vanderpool exploited his advantage in experience by mixing up his attack. He was moving laterally, jabbing, and throwing short punches from different angles. He was also avoiding Lacy’s heaviest shots while delivering some of his own. Lacy, on the other hand, didn’t panic, and decided to throw himself at Vanderpool like a blunt object, cutting off the ring and slugging it out. In the middle rounds, he began capitalizing on his advantage in power by trapping Vanderpool on the ropes and going to the body, at one point almost flooring his opponent with a hook to the liver. By the end, it was all Lacy. He knew what to do and any advantage Vanderpool had at that point meant was quickly neutralized. Lay found the left uppercut and fired away, causing Robert Byrd to call an end to the fight.

The menacing stares he shot into the crowd between rounds didn’t give the look of a man trying to answer his critics; it was the face of a man possessed by his own will to win, a man taking control of his own future. He asked and answered his own questions. He became a man, a real fighter, and set himself apart from Jermain Taylor as the 2000 Olympian to watch.

Photo: Tom Casino/Showtime

Article posted on 04.10.2004

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