LAS VEGAS (March 2, 2006) – “Tick, tock, tick, tock.”
The sad echoes of a hopefully passed time came to mind as Jeff Lacy, in Manchester, England, said he has kept “all my clocks on Florida time” so that, when he meets Joe Calzaghe at 2 o'clock Sunday morning, local time, his body will think it's 10 P.M. in Tampa Bay.
I am aware of no part of Manchester resembling Tampa Bay, but then, as he said at 7 something o'clock in the morning, Sin City time, “this is a business trip, there's no time for sightseeing.”
“Tick, tock, tick, tock.” You had to be there, 25 years ago, or maybe it was better that you weren't, when Dennis Rappaport brought to Gerry Cooney's corner the mock alarm clock that was supposed to symbolize the end of Larry Holmes's reign. It was perhaps the most despicable fight since Jack Johnson-James Jeffries in terms of racist drivel.
The “alarm clock” was not part of the revulsion many of us felt. It remains just an innocent bystander to the Great White Hope crap that surrounded what should have been simply a dramatic and intriguing matchup of slugger vs. boxer, young vs. experienced, the kind of thing we have this Saturday – United States time – with the Showtime telecast of Lacy-Calzaghe.
And until I thought of Rappaport's alarm clock – and the gunshots at Caesars Palace, both sides being called in on the carpet and told to check their weapons, Ronald Reagan's minions putting in a telephone line to Cooney's dressing room in case he won the heavyweight title (denied by the White House, but reported to me by Nevada officials and in any case, there was no Presidential call to Holmes afterwards), the racism used by Don King and Rappaport to hype a fight that needed no hype.
And here we are, 25 years later, a fight between two undefeated super-middleweight champions from different countries, and there has been absolutely no mention, at least as far as I can discern, of the fact that it is another case of black vs. white in the ring. I am almost afraid to say, “Boys and girls, take a bow.” We've come a long way, babies.
Slugger vs. boxer/puncher, young vs. experienced, Yank vs. Brit, but “tick, tock, tick, tock,” there is no alarming racist bent to what is a much anticipated battle. It's another reason to love this fight.
And remaining on Florida time, which sounds like a good idea (okay, remaining on his local time didn't help Kostya Tszyu against Ricky Hatton in Manchester, but Lacy is not 35 years old), seems like another reason to love Dan Birmingham, the “hot” young trainer of Lacy.
“Tick, tock, tick, tock.” Lacy said Calzaghe's “days are numbered.” He said the Welshman, from just down the tracks, is the one who is fighting at 2 o'clock in the morning, though Calzaghe has also changed his bio-clock and, like the American, is doing roadwork after midnight, which of course is about all there is to do in Manchester.
“There's a lot of down time,” said Lacy, “but you don't want to be in my world right now.”
He has kept to his hotel room to “focus” on the fight that should tell us whether the 2000 Olympian is truly a special talent, as I happen to believe. You have to have much talent, and courage, to go over to Calzaghe's backyard and face a guy who at 33 does not figure to be much over the hill and who, in his prime just a couple of minutes ago – “tick, tock, tick, tock’ – happened to be a pretty good fighter. It is still difficult to erase the memory of Lacy struggling with the rather ordinary Omar Sheika, but under Birmingham, his defense especially has improved in recent outings.
Gary Shaw, Lacy's promoter, encapsulated why Lacy's offense may make him special: “You don't get a chance to rest for a second. You throw a lot of punches, he's there. You move, he's there. And he's a lot faster than everybody sees.”
He's also got the hunger. He said his favorite thing about boxing was hearing, “and STILL undefeated.” I think the announcer will be referring to Lacy in the wee small hours. “Tick, tock, tick, tock” – the left hook should go off about round nine.
PENTHOUSE: Yes, I can take it with me. Gary Shaw wants to go in a Super Penthouse because not only did he phone me with Lacy in tow, but he paid for the international call. Gary, you know I can't be bought, but you get in a regular penthouse – points off for waking me at 7 in the morning … Good luck to the good guys over at maxboxing, Gary Randall, Tom Gerbasi, Doug Fischer and Steve Kim. Yeah, you're all in here, too … And there's always a special place for Sugar Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas, who can still put on a show. But, listen, while each is probably, as Larry Merchant says, in the top five of the welterweight and junior middleweight divisions, let's not go overboard. When they were both farther past it than Mosley and Vargas, Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns put on an even better show in their second meeting. Their first encounter, of course, was one of the best fights – especially skill-wise – in history.
OUTHOUSE: The Nevada doctors. Why did it take so long to stop the fight after Vargas's left eye had completely disappeared? The corner should have jumped at the chance earlier, too, allowing Vargas the dignity of being ahead on the official scorecards (damn the judges, they got it wrong again – it was close, but Mosley was leading from the start) … Johnny Bos, my New York guru, called to say that the ringside docs too quickly put the oxygen mask over Zuri Lawrence, after the journeyman was felled by a perfect Calvin Brock left hook. Bos said Lawrence was bleeding from the mouth, his mouthpiece was still in, and could have choked on the mask. Bos said Emanuel Steward, on the HBO pay-per-view telecast (which apparently did wonderful numbers), kept knocking Brock because he was a tap dancer (buck and wing variety, not a comment on punching power). “Did he ever hear of a guy named Sugar Ray Robinson?” said the Bos Man. The original Sugar was indeed a fine tap dancer, though to make a living, he had to return to boxing … Sad to see Marc (Too Sharp) Johnson take his payday and then a knee. He was one of the best flyweights in history … Another Bos observation: “That was the best Vargas I've seen in four years.” Thus …
LOSER DOESN'T GO HOME: Mosley should get another big payday. He called out Floyd Mayweather Jr., the projected winner of the April 8 match with Zab Judah, but Mayweather seems to be more interested in Mosley's senior partner, Oscar De La Hoya. Maybe Bob Arum can put Antonio Margarito in with Mosley on that July 29 date he reserved here – I'll bet he won't get Mayweather in there, and frankly, I think Margarito-Mosley is a much more competitive fight than Mayweather-Margarito. In fact, I give Mosley a big shot … Vargas, once he looks human and only if his competitive juices haven't dried, can make another big payday. His Main Events matchmaker, Carl Moretti, says “I love him at 160.” He said a rematch with Winky Wright could be huge, especially since, in Moretti's humble opinion, Wright will beat Jermain Taylor on June 17, “or whenever you put a motivational fight in front of Winky.” Trouble is, Taylor has a rematch clause in his contract with Wright … No, I couldn't think of another time when wives got into it the way Jin Mosley and Marta Lopez (soon to be Vargas) did at the post-fight press conference at Mandalay Bay … Bernard Hopkins, bragging that he's thinking like a promoter as if he hasn't all along, immediately called for a spousal fight … Sounds better than his match with Antonio Tarver.
DIS AND THAT: Quick, name the only Ukrainian who falls more often than Wladimir Klitschko: Yes, Sasha Cohen … Am completely disappointed in my old hometown tabloids. I fully expected either, or both, the New York Post or Daily News to have a big picture with the lovely Sasha on the ice beneath the headline, “FLOPPY SECONDS” … Is there anything dumber than that commercial which begins with some guy whose nose is crinklier than a Mike Lupica column sitting on a stool and saying, “I'm thinking of a number between 450 and 850, do you know what it is?” Number of pounds lost by Cedric Kushner? … Thanks to VCR's and other gimmicks I don't understand, but which my daughter thankfully does, will be able to see a bunch of fights this weekend, the highlight of which is of course Lacy-Calzaghe. But should get in the gunk that HBO is using to act as the live bait for its taped delay of Mosley-Vargas, Miguel Cotto vs. Gianluca Branco … Wish the best of luck to Juan Manuel Marquez, who has to go into the Borneo jungle to challenge Chris John for a featherweight belt to replace the one that the IBFelons stole from him … That's all on Saturday. Tomorrow night, there are four televised shows. But there's also a new episode of “Monk” … I'll make time – “tick, tock, tick, tock” – for ShoBox title fight between unbeaten IBF flyweight holder Vic Darchinyan of Armenia and Australia and another of Freddie Roach's Filipinos, Diosdad Gabi. Darchinyan, asked if he was looking ahead, said matter-of-factly, “Like I say, every fight is a title fight.” Unfortunately, that holds true for too much of the game … Let me say I feel privileged to be among some of my favorite writers: Fast Eddie Schuyler, George Kimball, Ken Jones and at the same site where the great Pat Putnam worked at the end … All The Sweet Science is missing from my pantheon are A.J. Liebling, Barney Nagler, Bob Waters, Red Smith and, still alive, Dave Anderson and Vic Ziegel.