On this night, when he bludgeoned a befuddled Jeff Lacy, it wouldn't be sufficient to call super middleweight Joe Calzaghe “The Prince of Wales.” On this night in Manchester, England, Calzaghe was “The King of the Boxing Universe.”
Calzaghe, 33, the Welsh champion who had made 17 straight title defenses, was a slight underdog to the heavily hyped American, Lacy. But from the first round to the final bell, Calzaghe schooled Lacy with a brand of technical mastery that elevated the 33-year-old to the top tier of boxing's best pound-for-pound practitioners.
Lacy, 28, who hadn't been knocked down in his pro career, went down in the twelfth round and did well to finish the fight. His vaunted left hook never found a home on Calzaghe's questionable chin, as the veteran pugilist landed anything and everything he threw. Peppery jabs, left hooks, left uppercuts, right uppercuts, all of them landed, and post-fight, Lacy's face looked the part. The Floridian, who now has to go back to square one and work on widening his skills, came out tentatively, and never warmed up.
Credit for that has to go to Calzaghe, who put bunches of punches together all the way through. The Welshman, now 41-0, tried to close the show with an exclamation point, going for broke in the last round. A left uppercut coupled with a slight shove sent Lacy to the canvas.
Most 'experts' and pundits liked Lacy coming into the bout, as they focused on his dangerous left hook, athleticism and focus. Lacy entered the ring with the more beautiful body, his bulging biceps promising a beat-down. But at the last bell, Lacy was the beaten fighter, at the hands of a boxer with a less-than-wondrous physique, but with vastly superior skills.
All three judges gave every round to Calzaghe. Adelaide Byrd and Roy Francis scored the lopsided contest 119-107, while Nelson Vazquez saw it 119-105.
It would have been completely appropriate for Calzaghe to crow post-fight, and unleash a brash “I told you so.” But the humble pugilist didn't take the opportunity to lash back at all those who thought the American was coming to his territory to demolish him. “I said for years I should be in the top ten pound-for-pound,” Calzaghe said to Showtime interviewer Jim Gray. And now, Gray asked, where should you sit on that list? “In the top ten,” he said. “I'm not too greedy.”
Lacy (21-1), whose face told the tale of the evening, was classy in defeat. “He fought a good fight,” Lacy told Gray as his promoter Gary Shaw looked on somberly. “I can't take that away. He didn't knock me out though.”
It looked like Lacy (167 pounds) might go down in the seventh, when Calzaghe cornered him and cuffed him with three left hooks.
Repeatedly, Calzaghe threw four, five, six and seven punch flurries, giving Lacy little opportunity to unleash his powerful tosses. And while Lacy looked flat, rarely bothering to jab his way in, throwing looping punches with little snap on them, the story on this March 4 was Calzaghe's brilliance.
In the first round at MEN Arena, Calzaghe (168 pounds) came out jabbing. He went high when the opening was there, and low when he needed to. His confidence was sky-high from the get-go, and never wavered. One Lacy right hand found the mark in the first, but Calzaghe was completely unimpressed. Calzaghe bloodied Lacy's nose in the second, and already, Lacy appeared confused. The Welshman's hand speed was much better than advertised. Calzaghe beamed a smile with 30 seconds to go in the second and stared down the left-hooker at the round's close.
Calzaghe's hands were active, and his feet were as well. In the third, he ripped off moderately powerful shots and then stepped back a half step, away from Lacy's counters. After the round, Lacy's trainer Dan Birmingham tried his best to offer his fighter some clues to deal with Calzaghe. “You're trying to bomb everything,” he said. “C'mon!”
In the fourth, Calzaghe's effectiveness became all the more apparent, as Lacy's right eye puffed up.
After flurrying, Calzaghe sometimes clinched, insuring a stray Lacy bomb wouldn't hit their mark. But his head movement was stellar all the way through, as well, so he had all areas of defense covered.
To close the fifth, Calzaghe had his hands at his side and the message was clear: 'I am in complete and total control and I don't think you can do a damn thing to bother me.'
By the sixth, it was now obvious that Lacy wasn't simply starting slow. His punches had little zip.
Lacy had the better body but Calzaghe was the stronger boxer in close. He moved Lacy around at will.
Calzaghe's stamina was topnotch. In the eighth round, his work rate was equal to the first round. By now, the lopsidedness of the match was unequivocally clear. There was no chance that Lacy would land a Hail Mary bomb, it seemed. Even he appeared to acknowledge this, when he asked Birmingham after the ninth round, “What round is it?'
Lacy landed one of those heavily hyped hooks in the eleventh round, but it had no effect at all. In this round, Calzaghe had a point deducted for throwing a punch behind his back. It would be the only way on this night when Lacy could even hope for an even round.
Gray, the severe interrogator, asked Lacy afterwards if he thought Calzaghe put on a clinic. “I wouldn't say a clinic,” Lacy said. “I was off my game tonight. I didn't follow my game plan. I can't say a bad thing about him.” The classy Lacy gave the victor his proper due: “He fought a perfect fight.”
On this night, Joe Calzaghe fought with the aplomb of a duly confident veteran who knows that he's seen it all inside the ring. Not since Roy Jones schooled James Toney in 1994 has a fighter so completely schooled an opponent in a heavily hyped, pick 'em bout.