He’s got Popeye’s arms and Mr. Rogers’ disposition.
You can get away with being a nice guy in the fight game as long as you leave Mr. Rogers in the locker room on fight night and switch to Genghis Kahn once the bell rings.
That little mood swing hasn’t been a problem for IBF super-middleweight champ Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy. Undefeated in 19 fights with 15 KOs, he was the first member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic team to win a world title when he stopped Syd Vanderpool in the eighth round last October. He’s defended his title twice since then.
He defends it a third time against former WBC super-middleweight champ Robin Reid on Aug. 6 at the St. Pete Forum in Tampa (SHOWTIME, 9 p.m. EST), the first time Lacy – from St. Petersburg – will have fought in front of his hometown as a pro.
“I don’t feel the pressure from the crowd because of my style,” said Lacy, who stayed in the Tampa Bay area to train. “It’s not like the crowd is going to make me fight different. My style is to put pressure on and the crowd is only going to want me to do that.”
Reid, from Runcorn, England, isn’t exactly a walkover for Lacy. He’s 38-4-1 with 27 KOs. He‘s been a pro for 12 years and has twice as many fights as Lacy.
“He’s a pretty slick counterpuncher,” Lacy said Monday afternoon between training sessions. “He‘s not a fighter to come in and set the pace. I can figure him out. He‘s a durable guy who comes to fight. He’s fought a lot of big guys and never been knocked out.”
At a press conference last month announcing the fight, Reid said his experience in big fights will give him an advantage in the fight. Lacy isn’t buying into it.
“I‘ve been fighting for 18 years, and I think my amateur career counts for something,” he said. “I know it’s different in the pros, but boxing is still boxing.”
And Lacy’s notorious left hook is still part of the agenda. But it isn’t his punching power that is Lacy’s favorite weapon.
“My strongest point as a fighter is my conditioning and determination to win,” he said. “I get stronger and stronger as the fight goes on.
“If there‘s something I need to improve on, it‘s my jab. I need to use my jab more and I need to become more comfortable using it.”
Asked what he thought of Saturday’s middleweight title fight won by Jermain Taylor in a close, controversial decision over Bernard Hopkins, Lacy said what a lot fight fans have been saying.
“I always thought the challenger for the undisputed middleweight championship had to really beat the guy to win the title,” Lacy said. “And I don’t think Taylor did that.”
Does he see himself fighting Taylor somewhere down the road?
“I’m sure me and Jermain are on a collision course,” he said.
“Me and Jeff have even talked about it,” Taylor said Wednesday. “Jeff is looking forward to it and I’m looking forward to it.”
But that inevitable crash is a ways down the road. Lacy still has to get past Reid.
“I will retain my title,” he said. “Trust me.”