Sharkies Machine: Jeff Lacy Still Untested!

07.11.05 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr., photo by Wray Edwards - Saturday night in Lake Tahoe Nevada, 28-year-old, IBF Super Middleweight Champion, Jeff "Left Hook" Lacy (21-0-1 ND-17 KO's) put 38-year-old, Scott Pemberton (29-4-1-24 KO's) on the canvas twice en route to a TKO victory. Before the knockdowns, Pemberton was working his jab and out boxing Lacy for most of the first two rounds. Whenever Lacy started swinging, Pemberton clinched and forced him to reset. That strategy was working well until late in the second round, when Pemberton got careless with his footwork and got nailed by a wild, Lacy left hook to the topside of the head that put him down. Pemberton was a bit shaken up but rested on his knee and took a full eight count before getting up.

When action resumed, Lacy raced to finish Pemberton off with a barrage of sloppily punches.

A Lacy right hook found the top Pemberton's head while he was in an awkward stance, and he went down for a second time. Though Pemberton went down hard, he wasn't out. But the ref waved him out without bothering to count. Though Scott tried to get up, the ref, Vic Draculich (no known relationship to Count Dracula), immediately waved his arms over Pemberton and held him down by pressing his knee over Scott's shoulder as he waved the fight off. Pemberton at least deserved a count. He didn't get one.

After the ref finally let Pemberton get up, Scott was visibly angered at what the ref had done. Lacy had his arms raised in victory. The fight was over and though Scotty was clearly capable of continuing, he wasn't given the chance to do so in a situation not uncommon in Jeff Lacy fights.

It was unfair. I doubted Pemberton would win the fight because he looked shaky on his legs and didn't seem to be in top condition but he deserved a chance to get up. Jeff Lacy walked away with another victory that in my memory will have an asterisk next to it.

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In February of 2002, Jeff Lacy and Francisco Bojado were on the same fight card at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville Connecticut. Lacy fought first. His opponent was Glenn Thomas. His record was 29-7. In the first round, Lacy barely hit Thomas with a shot to the body and Thomas dove to the canvas. Lacy won the fight by KO 1. While Lacy was soaking up the victory, it was announced that the Tribal Gaming Committee refused to pay Glenn Thomas because they felt that he "threw the fight."

Some confusion ensued but the show went on. Next up was stable mate, Francisco "Panchito" Bojado vs. a relatively unknown guy who just lost two of his last three fights. But the unknown guy just saw what happened to Thomas for throwing the fight and must have been inspired to make his fight look real.

Unknown guy did well, out boxing Bojado for the first few rounds. Suddenly, he got into a groove, working his jab, landing clean shots and winning round after round. Bojado was out gunned and out classed. Unknown guy must have forgotten that he was supposed to lose so the promoters could promote their next marketable fighter, the young Francisco Bojado. Juan Carlos Rubio was the first guy to beat the highly hyped Francisco Bojado.

That was the beginning of the end of Bojado, who came back and beat Rubio convincingly and later suffered a loss at the hands of old veteran Jesse James Leija and has since dropped off the hype radar.

Jeff Lacy has been spared such a fate. He has been handled in extremely careful fashion. Lacy is marketable. He has a chiseled physique, knockout power and loves the limelight. He's not much of a boxer in the technical sense, but he has managed to rise in the rankings without ever being tested by a high quality contender. That scenario is commonplace in boxing these days.

With carefully selected opponents, Lacy bypassed top contenders and was practically given his IBF Title when the ref prematurely stopped his fight against aging veteran, Syd Vanderpool for the vacated Title. Since obtaining the IBF Belt, he has defended it four times, all against guys who did not quite earn a shot a major Title.

Lacy's rise to fame has been facilitated by powerful promotion and cheap demonstrations. He has not beaten a single great fighter. If Lacy fought Scott Pemberton three years ago and won, it would have meant a lot more than it does today, where Scott is 38-years-old and more famous for his game attitude than his boxing skills. (Marginal, token Titles notwithstanding.)

A look at Lacy's last four Title defenses:

Scott Pemberton (29-3) who hadn't fought in a year and hadn't beaten a top ten guy since Omar Sheika (if you considered Sheika a top-ten guy when they fought). The behavior of the referee was controversial to anyone who noticed the subtle way he pinned Pemberton to the canvas with his knee upon stopping the fight. Pemberton protested the stoppage before accepting the loss and what had to be his best payday ever.

Robin Reid (38-4), who was suddenly ranked at #1 on right before he was slated to face Lacy. How do you justify Reid being given a Title shot when he hadn't beaten a string of top contenders? Reid is a scrappy fighter, who lost to Sven Ottke (32-0), then went on to beat Brain Magee (22-0), following with a win over Ramdane Serdjane (17-16) before making himself available to Jeff Lacy, who won when Reid's corner threw in the towel. Though Reid had a snowballs chance in hell to win the bout, he protested his corner's decision to stop the fight.

Rubin Williams (26-1) was good against lousy competition, which makes up 90% of his resume. In November of 2002, he fought a man with a record of 58 Wins and 238 Losses! There's no way he deserved a title shot when his last five fights were against unknown fighters with dubious records. That fight ended in a TKO when the ref stopped it after Lacy landed a series of
unanswered shots in the seventh round. Williams, who gave Lacy one of the toughest fights I've seen him in, suddenly fell apart in the seventh, almost as if on schedule.

Omar Sheika (26-6). How in the world does a guy who loses four of his last seven fights get a major Title shot? Was it because he beat James Buster, who just lost three of his last five? I'm sure it had more to do with Sheika having a recognizable name more than his qualifications. Like Pemberton, Sheika can surprise you with a quality, "blue collar" effort once in a while. Unfortunately, Sheika is incapable of throwing a punch and blocking a shot at the same time and is considerably one-dimensional. Sheika won a fair share of the early rounds against Lacy and it turned out to be a close fight that went the distance and rendered Lacy the winner by UD 12.

Five fights ago, Lacy fought his first unbeaten opponent, Vitali Tsypko (13-0) and the fight was stopped and called a No Decision after Tsypko suffered a cut caused by a head butt. They never settled things with a rematch.

Jeff Lacy is probably a nice guy and its nothing personal, but he has been fed a steady diet of tame competition in the process of making his bones in boxing. What I see when he fights, is a kid with the look of a great fighter, who lacks quality boxing skills. He fights in a spurting, attack style on offense. He wings his punches, lacks accuracy and relies on volume to connect with his best asset, his power and the referees that are too often too quick to wave off his opponents when they get in trouble. His defense is questionable at best and since he never faces big bangers, no one knows what kind of chin he really has OR HOW HE WOULD DEAL WITH ADVERSITY?

Lacy is a Star because boxing has no legitimate structure or administration. There's no real ranking system (it's more like a bribery system) that decides who earns a Title shot. Fighters can be built up to undefeated status fighting hand picked opponents. Depending on who promotes you, there's no mandate to fight legit top contenders and no need to fight the other so-called Champions. This is not the way it should be. Boxing is the greatest individual sport in my opinion and it is sad what it has been reduced to in this era of Pay-Per-View, Showtime and HBO contracts.

All that talk about Lacy wanting to fight Joe Calzaghe is a joke. Calzaghe is another guy who is too carefully managed and rarely in with fighters that deserve a shot at his Belt. But Joe is not the only guy with a major Belt; there is also WBA Champ, Mikkel Kessler and WBC Champ, Marcus Beyer. I never hear any gossip about Lacy wanting to fight either of them. Lacy said he wants to fight Antonio Tarver too. I can see why too. Tarver didn't look very inspiring in his last performance against a man who rarely threw a punch. You remember him; he used to be touted as the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing, Roy Jones Jr.

I think even on a bad day, Tarver is probably more than Jeff Lacy can handle. Tarver hits hard, knows how to counter punch and has the length of arm reach to keep the untested Lacy behind his right hand jab. If Lacy does fight Tarver, that could be his first true test as a pro boxer. I'd put my money on Tarver in that one.

Just because talking heads like Max Kellerman, Steve Alberts and Al Bernstein have been singing Lacy's praises ad naseum, does not mean Lacy is a great fighter. Until I see him face a dangerous, top-level challenger, the jury is still out on Jeff Lacy.

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Article posted on 07.11.2005

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