Jeff Lacy, The New Tyson? Can Mr. Shaw Handle The Task?

07.11.05 - By Wray Edwards: Fresh back from Lake Tahoe, and after a good night’s sleep, the mind begins to clear from the jet-lag, the roar of slot machines and the chaotic jostle of promoters, Showtime reps, writers, photographers and arena security. What first emerges is greater clarity about what one has just witnessed. The immediate tasks of editing photos and meeting a writing deadline, make it all but impossible to competently reflect on the subtle, but possibly more important impressions which were, at first, swamped by the swirling excitement after the fight.

Now is a good time to share those impressions as they bubble to the surface. First, this writer has been to countless post-fight news conferences, but never one like this. There was an expectant electricity in the room which surpassed almost every other. Of course everybody wants to be enfolded in the glow of immediate victory and the enthusiasm for more and more of all that triumph brings.. Before we get to the Tyson comparison, it is imperative to review a few FACTS about Jeff Lacy’s support base. True, it is only he who enters the ring to face his destiny, but in order to do so with optimum opportunity for success, a good boxer needs more than raw talent and power to become a great one.

The dictum of caution that “Pride cometh before a fall” must be weighed against the statement that, “There is a tide in the affairs of men when, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures” ~ William Shakespeare. Mr. Shaw, Mr. Birmingham and Mr. Lacy know full-well what that means, and they do not intend to miss the boat.

To our right was the entrance to the press conference room. During the meeting, if one looked out that door, there could be seen a swelling crowd of new fans of Jeff Lacy, and of the sport of boxing itself. In their eyes were looks reserved only for the most famous and talented humans on the planet. Rock stars, war heroes, Lindburg, presidents, kings and queens all inspire such adulation. And so too, now, does Champion Boxer Jeffrey Scott Lacy inspire such lustful adulation. “Danger! Danger Will Robinson!”

What must one do to follow the Bard’s advice, while avoiding the pitfalls of improper associations with vacuous groupies, conniving money managers, pushy reporter/photographers and all who would take selfish advantage of one? In Jeff’s case, get a good trainer and then find or be found by a good manager. Lacy has done just that. Mr. Birmingham and Mr. Shaw are the perfect combination for Jeff. Every Lacy fight venue the author has had the privilege of visiting, was operated with near perfection. This requires an authority, in place, with the requisite experience and motivation assure such quality.

There is one, and only one person responsible, in Jeff’s case, for such successes, Gary Shaw. With the aid of people like Fred Stermburg of Sternburg Communications, and Chris and Rudy from Showtime, the physical facilities, event staff and media management have been, for the most part, impeccable. On the boxing team side of things, Dan Birmingham has selected the right equipment, the right sparring partners, the right conditioner and the best training emphasis to create the optimum setting to get the most out of Jeff and his current potential. BTW the author has no intention of gleaning anything other than professional respect from any person mentioned. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

Only serious boxing fans will recognize or even care about these realities. The sport has many problems such as weight-shifting, alphabet sanctions, blurred divisional discipline, inconsistent judging and disassociated statutory and national commissions, but superior managers and trainers can overcome these problems and make each boxing event they control to be successful and credible. By witnessing enough events in person and on TV, one may, if motivated, discover the reasons why they are successful and credible.

There are essentially three kinds of boxers, and boxing events. They are, in order of importance to the sport: Professional, such as the Shaw organization; Amateur, such as Catholic Youth, Golden Gloves and the Olympics; and lastly Barnum-style, hype events. The reader is invited to fill in the blanks regarding the last category. The sport, of course, really needs the first two to thrive and survive. Any confusion of the categories, such as when a potentially great boxer gets mixed up with a shallow hype organization, leads on to disaster and even tragedy.

The nuts and bolts of boxing success are well known. Along with those things mentioned above, one must include, to be a true professional, the following things which, by the way, typify the Lacy career. Jeff stays in shape pretty much all the time like a basketballer. The roundball season is very long and expects its players to participate in high frequency. True Jeff does not fight three or four times a week, but he is one of a new breed of PROFESSIONAL fighters who don't just blow up between fights, and then wrack themselves to get to some silly, arbitrary weight, only to pack on the pounds of a weight class two or three divisions higher before the fight.

Jeff Lacy “walks around” closer to his division requirement than most fighters. That is professional. Jeff works out almost all the time for two reasons: It makes him stronger as a boxer (a good thing) and he actually enjoys the process. That is professional. Lastly, Jeff is, essentially, a good person. He is one of those rare people who can turn into a well-oiled monster in the boxing ring, and then, out of the ring, be a soft-eyed, friendly and responsibly generous, normal guy. That is indeed rare.

His power and skill are prompting ever increasing comparison’s to Mike Tyson. As noted a day or two ago, Jeff has become a champion six or seven years later in life so that he is able to manage success with more maturity. His family background was more stable and he inherits, to some degree, his boxing from his father, who was a fighter himself, and, ironically, got his son into the sport when Jeff was sent to a boxing gym as punishment for street fighting.

That became a seminal event in Jeff’s life as he was whipped by a smaller guy. To his credit, he was smart enough to become curious how the other kid had done that. Instead of reacting with frustration and a rejecting attitude, he set about learning the skills which now serve him so well. This guy is smart. He is a prevailer not a survivor. What’s the difference? G. Gorden Liddy in his book “When I Was a Kid, This Was a Free Country” defines “survivors” as those who merely wish to get by; Sort of a minimum effort mentality. A “prevailer” is one who hardly knows when to quit, and gives his all for victory and success, usually in the service of others. Jeff Lacy is of the latter class of men.

Tyson, IMO, became enamored of the adulation in general, and in specific was unwisely generous to, perhaps, acquire the affection he so desperately missed in childhood. When he took the keys to the Escalade belonging to the brother-in-law of this writer, and left camp to return to the social whirl of Marina Del Rey, it was probably to get back to the reassuring company of adulation, rather than remain in the Spartan isolation of high-mountain training. It is a setting which now precludes, for him, successful dedication to the sport. Jeff Lacy is able to combine the two.

Every time we meet with him, it is obvious that he wearies of mere talk about the sport and, truly, is able to back up the old cliché “I will let my hands do the talking in the ring”. When one is tempted to draw parallels between Tyson and Lacy, it is only in the ring that such concepts are valid. Kevin Kincade’s excellent series on Mike, details full well much of the history of the Iron Man. With those statements in mind perhaps a practical comparison might be appropriate.

Mike has a two inch height advantage (5’11” to 5’9”). Jeff makes up for that with a three inch reach advantage (74” to 71”). Their muscle bulk to height ratio is key here. Both are orthodox in stance and have very tight, bunchy, high leverage punching skills. Jeff hits from the floor just as Mike did in his early successes. In fact Gary Shaw mentioned that during the press conference. Boxers who can thrust, in a balanced fashion, from the floor, transferring power first to legs and hips, then to the torso, shoulder, arm and fist are like a great baseball pitcher who does, basically, the same thing.

This skill, combined with the blind accuracy exhibited by early Mike and present day Jeff, makes for devastating contact. Reviewing films of Mike’s KOs and Jeff’s KOs reveals a tantalizing similarity. Their general physiques regarding muscle size and bone-length ratios are very close. Their striking positions during the more powerful KO’s, look like instant replays of each other.

There is a great possibility that Jeff Lacy will become a Boxing icon. His successes in the ring, combined with his winning smile and clever conversation are ready made for boxing history. He is articulate and intelligent about the sport and his obligation to properly represent it. Should he continue to prevail, the tide of his success will raise all ships in the boxing harbor. He will, if this happens, continue the recent decades of the decline of the heavyweight division. That is a good thing, for only the naïve boxing fan still clings disproportionately to heavyweight chauvinism.

It would be capitol for the sport of Boxing for Jeff to increase its popularity through great bouts. Then, true greatness, at any weight, will be recognized and not be overshadowed by contests which merely adore size for its own sake. The current shambles of the HD is only serving to hasten that trend. Good! Of course it’s a lot to ask, but if anyone is up to the task, it will be the Mayweathers, Castillos, Wrights, Cottos, Hattons and others who will help drive the sport’s resurgence.

From Corbitt, Johnson, Robinson, Hagler, Hearns, Leonard, Ali, Tyson, and others to Jeff Lacy, the boxing torch must be passed with little regard for size or weight, but with an emphasis on all that boxing portrays. The courage, skill, heart and power of single combat warriors have, and always will, represent the most human enterprise: that of any soul who confronts adversity and prevails. Once again: “Boxing treads the fine line between civilization and anarchy, and in doing so, instructs us with a severe mentality.” Limbaugh’s often voiced opinion that, “This planet is ruled by the aggressive use of force” applies in almost every circumstance.

We are being reminded daily that romantic, family and social love can only exist in a safe-house protected by the threat or use of force. “To ensure peace, prepare for war.” Jeff Lacy is now entering territory where, added to his power, skill and determination during a fight, his opponents have already been struck by trepidations from having seen what Lacy has done to others. This is yet another similarity he shares with the Tyson of yesteryear. You can be sure there are already belt-holding boxers out there who are starting to lay awake nights dreading the day their manager brings up the subject of Jeff “Both Hooks” Lacy (thank you poster). See you at the fights.

Article posted on 07.11.2005

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