LAKE TAHOE, Nev. (Caesars) – Budding superstar Jeff Lacy, 21-0, 1 NC, (16 KOs ), St. Petersburg, Fla., 168, successfully defended his IBF super middleweight title with a brutal second round knockout over outgunned Scott Pemberton, 29-4-1 (24 KOs), New Bedford, Mass., 168.

From the opening bell it was clear that Lacy’s power was in a league far above that of Pemberton’s. Every Lacy punch knocked Pemberton out of position. Pemberton’s jabs and attempted combinations appeared feeble in comparison to the explosiveness of Lacy’s right hands.

In round two, Lacy quickly sent Pemberton to the deck with combination punching. As Pemberton attempted to recover, Lacy calmly followed him around the ring.

Near the close of the round, a looping, thunderous right-hand again felled the outclassed Pemberton. As he crashed to the canvas he appeared limp and the referee did not attempt a count before waving off the fight. Pemberton revived relatively swiftly but it was too late.

Attention after the fight shifted to potential February foe Joe Calzaghe. Lacy appeared more than ready to face either Calzaghe or light-heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, but he was realistic in his evaluation of Calzaghe’s true desires.

“We never know if Calzaghe will step up,” Lacy told Showtime’s Jim Gray.

He had been scheduled to meet fellow belt-holder Calzaghe, who has held the WBO titlist through 17 defenses. Many have criticized Calzaghe for taking an optional defense against unheralded Evans Ashira, in a fight that resulted in a broken hand for Calzaghe and a broken date with Lacy. Some now question whether Calzaghe ever had or has the intention of meeting the hard-hitting Lacy.

“Left Hook”Lacy, 28, combines power and pressure from his compact 5’9” frame as required in a division in which he will undoubtedly face taller opposition for much of his career.

Pemberton, ranked number 5 by the IBF, entered the ring for his first world title fight based on strong showings in two recent victories over Omar Sheika – a fighter who has now had four shots (all losses) at various belts.

He also carried the baggage of having a layoff of more than a year and, at 38, the realization that he could grow old at any moment. With his 24 knockouts he’s proven that he has some power in both hands. He has also developed a reputation for toughness despite being stopped three times over his 11-year career.

From here it will be a wait-and-see situation with Calzaghe.

He also seems to be aware of what it will take to stay at the top.

“I fight often because that is what I am used to doing,” said Lacy in pre-fight comments to Showtime. “If you fight only once or twice a year, it can affect your performance, and I want to be at the top of my game all the time.”

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Rafael Marquez, 35-3 (31 KOs), Mexico, 118, scored a sizzling fourth round cut stoppage of  Silence Mabuza, 18-1 (15 KOs), South Africa, 118 , to successfully defend his IBF title for the sixth time and add the IBO belt to his quiver.

Marquez quickly jumped on the quick-fisted Mabuza, landing a sharp left hook that sent the South African to the canvas in the opening round. Marquez continued the hunt in the closing seconds of the round that ended with a right hand that nearly deposited Mabuza on the deck as the bell rang.

In rounds two and three, Mabuza climbed back into the match landing occasional combinations in sharp exchanges. Marquez, however, dominated the action and punctuated the exchanges with the harder, more effective punches.

Marquez varied his attack, using a left jab followed by a left hook, mixed with right-hand counters, to force Mabuza out of his usual high-volume game.

A cut under the left eye was not a factor, but an apparent clash of heads in round four resulted in a cut over Mabuza’s right eye. It was not as absolutely clear that the head-clash caused the wound and it would require closer examination of the replay to confirm the causal effect.

As the cut worsened, the ringside doctor recommended a stoppage, which came at 2:08 of round four.

When the fight ended it appeared that Marquez was pulling away, with Mabuza feebly shifting to a southpaw stance to no obvious advantage.

Since capturing the IBF belt with an impressive stoppage of division stalwart Tim Austin, Marquez, 30, has racked up five solid defenses. Other victories, including two against former world titlist Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson have resulted in his name being more than whispered about on pound-for-pound lists.

His rocking power and willingness to face dangerous opponents has made him a fan favorite.

Mabuza, 29, fighting for only the third time in the U.S., combined above-average boxing skills and punching power to claim the lightly-regard IBO title in his 11th bout. Since that time he defended the belt six times and engaged in one non-title fight.

More important than his minor alphabet belt, he also improved to the point of finding himself a consensus top 10 bantamweight; something not always seen in a “mandatory” contender these days.

(A word of explanation about the word “consensus.” Most boxing people recognize Mabuza’s talent, unfortunately neither the WBA nor WBC see fit to rate him. Consider that the WBC rates 40 fighters in the division yet cannot find a space for Mabuza. If you want to understand what is wrong with the alphabets, look no further than that egrecious oversight. Ironically, on the WBC website the organization claims “the WBC has, without a doubt, the most prestigious ratings in the boxing world.”).