Live Saturday night from the MEN Arena in Manchester, England, Showtime brings us the super middleweight unification bout between Jeff Lacy and Joe Calzaghe. This fight, at least on paper, has it all. Two champs, both undefeated, one a boxer, one a puncher, one a Yank, one a Brit, a little something for everyone. St. Petersburg, Florida’s Jeff Lacy is a fighter on the rise, a slugger who improves with every outing, but he’s never met a boxer as wily as Joe Calzaghe. The Welshman has been at the top for a very long time, but he, like Jeff Lacy, is about to be tested. This is how The Sweet Science writers see it.
This seems like a fight between two fighters going in opposite directions. Lacy is the up-and-comer with the big dreams and the bigger punch. Calzaghe is the longtime champ with patience and experience on his side. Early on, that experience might give Lacy some problems. Calzaghe has sharp boxing skills and very good hand speed. But, lately, he's been fading down the stretch – a sure sign of age. Had this fight taken place two years ago, the outcome could possibly have been different. But now, Calzaghe just doesn't have the late firepower to hold a raging monster like Lacy off for 12 rounds. But don't be surprised if Lacy has to come from behind to do it. Lacy, by big left hook, in the 11th round.
I wonder if Lacy's airline will allow him to carry on all three belts (the IBF, IBO, and the WBO) as he returns home or if they will have to be checked?
You had to love that picture from Thursday’s Manchester press conference: The one depicting Joe Calzaghe, a boxer from the homeland of Dylan Thomas, Tommy Farr, and Richard Burton, walking around England looking like a New York turnstile jumper, a baseball cap turned backward atop his head? “Bells of Rhymney,” indeed. A decade ago we were in the same Manchester building for another highly anticipated super-middleweight title fight. It was known as the NYNEX Arena then, and before an overwhelmingly hostile crowd, Steve Collins, with Freddie Roach in his corner, successfully defended his WBO title when Nigel Benn allegedly twisted an ankle and quit in the fourth round. Collins’ back-to-back victories over Benn and Chris Eubank set a standard Joe Calzaghe has spent the past ten years trying to match, and in the undefeated Jeff Lacy he finally has an opportunity to confirm his greatness. There is no question that it is Lacy who will be stepping into the lion’s den, but even Calzaghe finds somewhat laughable the notion that Saturday’s contest represents a home game for him. As the Welshman pointed out to us in his New York visit several months ago, there have been at least three previous occasions where he defended his title in against English fighters in English venues – Robin Reid in Newcastle, David Starie in Manchester, and Richie Woodhall in Sheffield – and had to deal with a hostile crowd as well. In other words, don’t take it for granted that this is going to be an overwhelmingly pro-Calzaghe audience – especially if he wears that hat into the ring. That having been said, it could be that Calzaghe has finally met his match. Lacy might not be Steve Collins, but he is younger, stronger, and essentially fearless, and it’s hard to see how Calzaghe can keep him at bay all night. Joe is as game as they come, but look for Lacy to wear him down and possibly stop him in the late rounds.
This is the type of fight I would normally tend to side with the better boxer – Calzaghe –over the brute strength of the puncher – Lacy. Add to that the difference in experience that Joe holds and the fact he is fighting in his backyard, it makes an easy case. Still, my concerns with Joe are his age, layoffs due to injuries, and his brittle hands. Against a banger like Lacy you need to have snap in everything you throw and Calzaghe now slaps his punches from wide angles as opposed to coming down the middle with sharp crisp combinations. Throwing looping punches against Lacy, who often throws from his hip, isn't a good strategy as it may come down to who takes a better punch. I haven't seen Lacy really hurt, but he hasn't been in with a guy as good a Joe C yet. Fights against Sheika, Pemberton and Reid won't prepare him for this bout, but I see Jeff continuing to progress and getting better as a boxer. At times he is very crude and wild but being more economical and accurate with his punches is something that will help him here. After a few good early rounds by Calzaghe I look for Lacy to extract something from Joe with his heavy shots and body work. Calzaghe has been dropped in the past and it may only take one of Lacy's jackhammers to turn the fight in his favor. I think he does land that punch, and it is all downhill for Calzaghe after that.
Calzaghe will run but he can't hide from Lacy's pressing attack. When he's forced to fight, the southpaw from Wales will square up and resort to wide, slapping arm-punches. He will then get dropped – hard. Lacy's also guilty of occasionally loading up, especially the overhand right, but he's not as bad as his opponent. The Floridian's defense, speed and agility is improving with each bout. His brutal combinations never lose their force and snap. Youth and strength will trump experience Saturday night. Lacy KO 8.
Everybody's big on Jeff Lacy and some are discounting the prowess of Joe Calzaghe. Not me. I think the fight has great potential and may be the bout both fighters need to bring out the best of one another. Personally I think Calzaghe isn't given the credit he's due. He's a strong, determined and skilled fighter fighting in front of his crowd. Lacy has been looking better and better but is on enemy territory. Lacy's not all he's cracked up to be and Calzaghe has more than people give him credit for. On his home soil – Calzaghe via unanimous decision.
I think Lacy is going to have a lot tougher night than he expected, but his youth, speed, power, and ferocity should garner him a late round victory. Lacy TKO 10.
Calzaghe’s got an interesting, bounce-up-and-down, dated style…as if it was taught when a land mass split off – all paint-by-the-numbers, ramrod stiff. The only thing missing are the knee-length tights and silk sash. But why fix what ain’t broke? He punches hard with his left. His combos are quick. He’s a good finisher (though he looks like he’s cuffing) an infernal southpaw, and he’s shown some “bottle.” You go undefeated after 40 pro fights – even if you’re fighting your grandmother – you don’t lack confidence. I’m sure Lacy’s muscles and reputation don’t cow him. They should. He’s the real deal – a super heavyweight masquerading as a super middle. He can bring down a building with either hand. It’s the one you don’t see that does ya in, as the saying goes – not with Lacy. They’re big arcing shots. You can see them from across the pond and brace, but a wrecking ball still leaves you in ruin. Joe should have his early innings – between pride, hand speed and 40,000 at the MEN Arena screaming for him – but, ultimately, he’ll be
bludgeoned into the canvas by the eighth round.
There aren't too many fights these days that get you genuinely excited, but the Lacy-Calzaghe battle is a definite exception. After Saturday night, there should be no question as to who the best super-middleweight in the world is. This isn't an easy fight to pick considering both fighter's perfect records and the fact that each one has dominated the division; Calzaghe, of course, for what seems like an eternity. Lacy has destroyed his opposition with the combination of an aggressive style and heavy hands, but he hasn't fought anyone with as much ring intelligence and ability as Calzaghe. A southpaw with a heck of a chin and great punching power, this will easily be the biggest test of Lacy's career, especially fighting on enemy turf with thousands of raucous Brits cheering for his demise. The key to this fight is how well Lacy will handle Calzaghe's punches because he will get hit with some good shots early on. If his chin can take Calzaghe's best shots, then he will have no problem walking him down and beating him up according to his usual style. Calzaghe is a damn good fighter and I'm very tempted to pick him in his own backyard, BUT I think Lacy will come out more determined than ever before and will have the strength and power necessary to finally knock Calzaghe off his thrown. I see Calzaghe down for the count in Round 7.
Lacy might be something special. Calzaghe should be the test to prove it. Lacy will past the test.
This contest will raise many eyebrows. It's the longtime veteran champion who many see as untested, against the still somewhat green new kid on the block. Jeff Lacy 21-0 (17 KO's) won the IBF super middleweight title one and a half years ago. Since that time he has remained very active, something many other so-called "champions" have yet to do, defending his title 4 times, once winning by a UD, the other three by KO. Joe Calzaghe 40-0 (31 KO's) has been the WBO champion for eight and a half years. Over that span it has seemed that Calzaghe is perfectly content with staying close to home and fighting some questionable opposition. Though he made the best of the Brits look like chumps, Calzaghe has been champ since 1997. Since that time there were many opportunities for mega matches against James Toney, Bernard Hopkins, and at the time, the invincible Roy Jones Jr., but somehow Calzaghe has always weaseled his way out, just as he has tried to do for some time against Lacy. Jeff Lacy has had his chin checked a number of times against big punchers such as Scott Pemberton, Robin Reid, Syd Vanderpool, and others. Time and time again, Lacy has passed with flying colors, proving his chin to be nothing short of granite. Calzaghe, however, indeed has a questionable chin. Calzaghe has been dropped in the past by a decent puncher in Byron Mitchell, 18 of 25 wins by KO, and by the light-fisted Kabary Salem, only 12 of 25 wins by KO. Though Calzaghe got to his feet and won both of those fights, neither man's power comes remotely close to that of the man who will stand in the way of Calzaghe Saturday night, and the long-awaited respect he believes he deserves. Calzaghe will fight with the heart of a true champion, but it will not be enough to stop Lacy, who hits as hard as Tyson and is as fast as "Pretty Boy" Floyd. Lacy by KO in six.
If this bout lives up to its hype and potential, it will be the greatest thing to happen to the super middleweight division in over ten years. However, while both fighters possess a great deal of power, it will not be an exercise of spilled plasma. Each will have a difficult time inflicting damage on the other. But when the final bell sounds, Jeff Lacy will have successfully swarmed Joe Calzaghe enough times to win. Lacy by decision.
Lacy has been well marketed so he's gained attention and approval perhaps beyond what is deserved. But I like his power, love his athleticism and his hunger. Calzaghe is hungry, knows the clock is ticking on him and is a crafty lefty. This is a 50-50 proposition. I'm going out on a limb here. I see a draw.....Just kidding. Looking for Lacy to bull the Welshman, who has to prove all his smack talk over the years wasn't just posturing, but he’ll be hurt by the fact that his opposition has been less than stellar since he turned pro in 1993. Lacy TKO 4.