Too Far Gone: Can Jeff Lacy Be Salvaged?

By Paul Magno

Boxing is the only sport where, at 31 years of age, someone can be considered “washed up” or “shot.”

Former IBF Super Middleweight Champion Jeff Lacy is at the point where the silent whispers behind his back are full-blown shouts. “Stick a fork in him, he’s done.”

But it wasn’t always like this. At one point, Boxing fans, especially American Boxing fans, were enamored with “Left Hook” Lacy…and they had every right to be.

After a stellar amateur career that topped-out with a place on the US Olympic Boxing Team, Lacy began his pro career with 11 straight KO’s.

He became the IBF Champ in his 17th Pro fight against Syd Vanderpool and things couldn’t have been going better. He was becoming a fan favorite and one of Showtime’s house fighters.

Over the course of his title reign, Lacy defended the title four times against marginal, at best, competition, but all of his fights were compelling, exciting affairs. His most impressive defense was against the normally durable former world champ, Robin Reid, who he blasted away in 7 rounds.

However, as is often the case, a good power punch combined with an impressive overall image sweeps many fans off their feet and many were more than willing to blindly declare Lacy a future superstar and among the best overall fighters in the world.

They were willing to overlook low-end fighters on his resume and the life and death struggle with the marginally skilled Omar Sheika who managed to stun Lacy a number of times. More importantly, though, Lacy, himself, was buying into the hype and his limited skill-set eventually was becoming reduced to one punch and one menacing scowl.

Then, Lacy got the call from the long-reigning WBO Super Middleweight Champ from Wales, Joe Calzaghe. Their IBF and WBO title unification bout was a one-sided schooling with Calzaghe being the stern professor to Lacy’s clueless pupil. The crafty, southpaw WBO champ presented problems for Lacy that a short career of Scotty Pembertons and Syd Vanderpools couldn’t solve.

The post-Calzaghe Lacy has been sluggish and deflated. Despite a legit shoulder injury, the Jeff Lacy of today has little to offer Boxing- His bad luck culminating in his most recent majority decision win over the slightly better than club-level Epifanio Mendoza who stunned Lacy often and was on the verge of stopping the former champ on a couple of occasions. Lacy even resorted to flat-out tackling Mendoza to save himself from an embarrassing ESPN-aired KO.

Lacy spoke of retirement after the fight, citing money issues instead of the real reason- his horrible performance against a fringe opponent on national TV. Despite the new deal with Golden Boy and the injuries and excuses, Lacy has to see the writing on the wall. But it has to be a bitter pill to swallow for Lacy who, essentially, is the same one punch-at-a-time, scowling fighter that he was before Calzaghe, but now, nobody is taking him seriously. From promising Olympian to burnt-out pro in less than 9 years is a pretty tough fall from grace.

Now, his career has come full-circle as he’s scheduled to face his Olympic teammate, Jermain Taylor, in a title eliminator in November. A loss ends it all for Lacy and even a win, if he remains the same fighter, will only hold off the inevitable; He will still be a limited boxer ready to be exposed by anyone with some style and class.

Conventional Boxing wisdom says that Lacy is done with, but is there a spark of hope for the former world champ? I guess, at 31 years of age, anything is possible, but Lacy has to first admit the harsh truth of his sad career and then start some really hard work. At this point, I don’t think Lacy has hit rock-bottom on a personal level yet, But if Jermain Taylor beats him badly later this Fall, his “rock-bottom” just may be the end of his career.

 

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