Tuesday night on ESPN2 we got a chance to see former Olympian Jeff "Left Hook" Lacy take a step up in class as he took on Richard "The Alien" Grant at the Playboy Mansion. Lacy has been brought along well and Grant was a step in the right direction, albeit subtle. While Grant does not have the best record (now 14-10-0 and still just 2 whacks) he certainly has been in with some solid competition. His upset win over James Butler proved that he could cause some fighters fits. Still, Grant had managed just 2 KOs in his 14 wins so he certainly was an appropriate opponent in that he was skilled enough to test Lacy but not good enough or powerful enough to beat him outright. Basically, that is exactly what we got.
Grant tasted the canvas in the first round and things looked like they would end sooner than you could say "Playboy Bunny". Immediately after getting up, Grant did what he had to do to survive, and that became the theme for the evening. The after-fight party with the Playboy Bunnies would have to wait.
Behind an effective jab, some decent right hands, and changing from orthodox to southpaw every now and then, Grant survived twelve rounds of angry left hooks and heavy rights from Lacy. That's "hooks" and "rights" . Notice how I didn't mention "left jabs" in that sentence - and for good reason.
Jeff Lacy (15-0-0 with 12 wins coming by way of the short route) is an impressive physical specimen and carries good power in both hands. His left-hook is obviously the trademark and his weapon of choice, but that is not all there is to the guy.
In this fight we all learned a few things. First off, defense is a good thing to know. Lacy took too many straight rights from Grant and also ate his fair share of jabs from "The Alien". As Lacy steps up in class, a better, stronger fighter is going to land crisp shots and cause a lot of problems for him.
Secondly, the road is long my son. After dropping Grant in the first, it seemed that Lacy assumed the veteran fighter would go out before the third round concluded. All 12 of his KO's before the Grant fight had come before the end of the third round, so why not this one as well. Not so. By neglecting the body early and trying to decapitate Grant with wicked left hooks, Lacy allowed Grant to stay in the fight with his legs still well beneath him. Had Lacy taken the body before the head, it seems he would have been able to catch Grant later and get the knockout he surely wanted. By forgetting about the body early in the bout he allowed Grant to jab, counter and move with success.
Thirdly, we learnt that Lacy handles adversity well. In the sixth round the two clashed heads and a nasty gash was opened on the left eyelid of Lacy. He didn't seem too pleased that he was cut by a head-butt and proceeded to take out his frustrations on Grant for the rest of the round. I like that.
Finally, we learned that he can go twelve rounds and still be very active. This is a good thing. Lacy looked strong at the end of the fight despite a solid work-rate and having to follow Grant around the ring for many rounds.
Still, Jeff Lacy has to be considered a work in progress for one major reason - his name is not Jeff "Left Jab" Lacy. While he throws his left hook with bad intentions and his right has knocked fighters out in the past, his jab is rather pedestrian at best. Throughout the bout Lacy merely pawed at his opponent with the jab - if he threw it at all. At times he left it short and brought it back in the same lackluster manner. Against a championship caliber opponent - dare I say, Bernard Hopkins - he would be jabbed and countered to death and eat heavy leather in the process. Only once in the fight do I recall the jab being thrown with purpose - it was such a rare occurrence that I recall it being in the eleventh round. Lacy threw a solid jab and followed with a thunderous right that nearly sent Grant down.
What the young fighter must learn still is that a jab can set up all the other punches that he clearly likes to throw and just connecting with the jab can put your opponent off-guard and susceptible for the big punch that follows. A few weeks ago we saw this in action as Diego Corrales set-up his wicked left hand in just such a fashion to end his fight with Damian Fuller in round 3. If your opponent can't see the punch coming, he can't stop it . . . other than with his face as Fuller did.
In the end Lacy is right on track, but his team certainly shouldn't be taking too great of "jumps in class" for their product just yet. Richard Grant was a good test and Lacy passed that with relative ease, just as he should have. He got the rounds in he needed and learned a few things, we hope.
Here's to seeing more of Jeff "Left Jab" Lacy in the near future. . . his alter ego "Left Hook" seems to be grabbing the spotlight a bit too much right now.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV