Youthful Lacy eager for next phase
By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -- Here?s what I learned this week...
When interviewing former super middleweight title-holder Jeff Lacy, there's one topic you should never seriously consider bringing up with him, unless you're mindlessly trolling for disagreement.
But surprisingly enough, the taboo area has nothing to do with Joe Calzaghe.
No, rather than the fury you might expect when asking the Florida native about the only man to beat him in a professional ring, his temper is noticeably piqued instead by questions about his age.
"I'm 30 years old. Since when is that old?" he said with raised voice during a Wednesday phone interview, though admittedly more in feigned anger than actual rage. "I'm just getting started. That's not old, unless you're talking about those Mexican guys who've been fighting pro since they were 18.
"That's not me. I've got a long way to go in this game."
Jeff Lacy is set to fight Peter Manfredo Jr. on December 8th.
The initial step in that still-remaining journey comes Dec. 8 in Las Vegas, where Lacy will end a year-long sabbatical by taking on Peter Manfredo Jr. -- yes, the guy from the television show -- on the Mayweather-Hatton undercard at the MGM Grand.
The fight will be his first since December 2006, when he took a majority decision from Ukrainian southpaw Vitali Tsypko at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, but in the process suffered a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder that forced the extended absence.
Regardless of its origin, however, Lacy said the break actually turned into a good thing.
"It was a mental vacation for me," he said. "I didn't need to go to the gym. I didn't need to think about boxing. I just took care of my therapy (on the shoulder) and did other things. I spent time with my family. I enjoyed being at home. I traveled a lot. It was a positive.
"But eventually, you start watching the fights on TV and you hear people say things about you and it starts to get you motivated again. After a while, it got to where I was ready to come back. So now that I'm 100 percent again, I'm looking forward to being in a fight again."
Much of what was said about Lacy in his absence revolved around Calzaghe, who pitched an impressive 12-round shutout when the two met in an IBF/WBO unification bout in March 2006.
The Welsh-born Calzaghe has racked up three wins since that match, including a third-round defeat of Manfredo in April, and, most recently, a unanimous nod over Mikkel Kessler to win the WBA and WBC belts at 168 pounds.
And, in nearly every story describing that subsequent success, there was a spot reserved to mention the conquest of Lacy -- whose stock plummeted from pre-fight betting favorite against Calzaghe to overhyped, overmatched and overprotected pretender, seemingly overnight.
"Being a fighter and being competitive, it absolutely bothers you when you hear stuff like that," Lacy said. "It's like they can't get enough of you during your good nights -- and I had 21 straight good nights between the Olympics and the Calzaghe fight -- but when you have one bad night that's broadcast around the world, every door is suddenly closed on you.
"But it gives you a choice to make, too. Either you can just sit and completely lose yourself based on that one bad night, or you can get back up and continue to prove yourself and come back. I'm not going to let one bad night be the bottom line for my career."
The bout with Manfredo, who?s fought and won twice since his own Calzaghe loss, figures to be a good barometer for the now six-plus year pro, who won his championship with a TKO of Syd Vanderpool in October 2004 and successfully defended it four times in 13 months.
The "Contender" runner-up is not a murderous puncher -- having scored knockouts in less than half of his 28 wins -- stands an inch shorter than Lacy at 5-foot-9 and figures to present an available target with a straight-forward style.
Such a foe, after the elusive Calzaghe and the tricky Tsypko, has Lacy licking his chops.
"He's going to try to fight me because he's really not the kind of guy who can box," Lacy said. "And that's exactly what I'm looking for. To be able to come out after a year layoff and fight a guy like this on such a big card in front of a sold-out arena, I couldn't have asked for a better situation."
A week's gone by, but it hasn't dulled the luster of Miguel Cotto.
The unbeaten Puerto Rican officially "arrived" last Saturday night in New York, unanimously defeating multi-class champion Shane Mosley in a competitive, but surely decisive bout at Madison Square Garden.
Though the scorecard breakdowns of 7-5, 7-5 and 7-4-1 indicate the undeniably spirited effort given by the 36-year-old Mosley, there wasn't a single minute over 12 rounds where it appeared the one-day Hall of Famer was either in control of the bout or on the verge of winning it.
Rather, Cotto was clearly in charge through the initial nine rounds -- winning seven of them on the FitzHitz card -- then was content to simply remain busy, while avoiding major combat over the final nine minutes.
That early dominance was nowhere more evident than in the behavior of Mosley, who, rather than pressing forward with an all-out blitz in the final stages -- as he had most notably in bout No. 1 with Oscar De La Hoya -- was too impacted by the early body attack to produce a stirring rally.
FitzHitz scored it 116-112 -- or 8-4 in rounds -- for Cotto.
"You're going to have Miguel Cotto for a long time," he said.
That seems certain, but just what it'll mean in terms of opponents is anyone's guess.
A fight with pound-for-pound king Mayweather is presumably tops on the list for fans, though Mayweather began hinting at retirement before his win over De La Hoya in May and said in a recent conference call promoting his bout with Hatton that he was "bored" with the sport.
Hatton, should he defeat the "Pretty Boy" on Dec. 8, would seem destined for his own bout with De La Hoya next spring, already rumored for Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in early May. A loss to Mayweather, meanwhile, would dent his status as a legitimate contender at 147 pounds.
Other champions in the division include lanky power puncher Paul Williams and Puerto Rican export Kermit Cintron, who are penciled in to unify their WBO and IBF crowns in February.
That could leave Cotto most likely to meet ex-WBO kingpin Antonio Margarito, who lost his belt to Williams in July, but returned with an impressive one- round destruction of veteran gatekeeper Golden Johnson on Saturday night?s MSG undercard.
The two also shared a card in Atlantic City last December and seemed destined to meet in mid-2007, before Margarito instead chose Williams. Cotto went on to meet former champion Zab Judah, winning by TKO in 11 rounds in his last outing before Mosley.
"I'll fight whoever they tell me to fight," Cotto said. "All the big names."
The weekend's one major title fight takes top billing on Saturday.
Unbeaten Dominican puncher Joan Guzman -- nicknamed "El Pequeno Tyson" -- defends his WBO 130-pound belt for the second time when he faces veteran Humberto Soto atop HBO's "Boxing After Dark" card at the Borgata Hotel Casino in Atlantic City.
Now 27-0 with 17 knockouts, Guzman won his crown with a split-decision nod over Jorge Rodrigo Barrios in September 2006 in Las Vegas. He traveled back to the Dominican Republic three months later and scored a unanimous verdict over Antonio Davis in defense No. 1.
Soto, who now lives in Tijuana, hasn't lost since dropping a majority decision to Kevin Kelley for the regional NABA featherweight title in July 2002. He's unbeaten in 21 bouts since, including a unanimous defeat of Rocky Juarez for the WBC interim title at 126 pounds in August 2005.
His last outing came Sept. 14 in Mexico, where he defeated Ismael Gonzalez in three rounds.
Elsewhere on Saturday, two former champions are looking to restart win streaks.
The aforementioned Judah -- 1-3 with a no-contest in his last five fights -- returns to face journeyman Ryan Davis for the lightly regarded IBC junior middleweight belt at the Casablanca Casino on the main island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos chain.
Now 30 years old, Judah is 35-5 with 25 knockouts.
And in Lake Charles, La., former 175-pound champion Glen Johnson faces fellow veteran and ex-champ Reggie Johnson in a scheduled 12-rounder at Burton Coliseum.
Johnson No. 1 is 46-11-2 overall and has won four of five bouts since dropping a decision and losing his title to Antonio Tarver in June 2005. He's had one title fight since, dropping a split 12-round verdict to Clinton Woods 14 months ago in England.
Johnson No. 2, now 41 years old, has been largely inactive since his salad days in the 1990s.
He held the WBA middleweight and IBF light heavyweight titles, making a combined five defenses at various points between 1992 and 1999.
He was shut out over 12 rounds by Roy Jones Jr. in a WBA/WBC/IBF unification bout at 175 pounds in June 1999 in Biloxi, Miss. and has fought just five times since -- losing only to Tarver in January 2002.
His last fight was in August 2005, a ninth-round KO of Fred Moore in Marksville, La.
Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at email@example.com. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show -- broadcast weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com) -- and provides "In the Ring" boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com).