Fight fans who had no rooting interest going into the Jermain Taylor/Jeff Lacy scrap at the Vanderbilt Gym in Nashville, Tennessee on Saturday evening, and were simply hoping for some spirited back and forth action, were not optimistic that the fight would pay off when the two old pals broke up in a flurry of guffaws during a pre-fight staredown attempt earlier in the week.

But that worry went out the window from minute one, when Taylor started uncorking a zippy jab, forceful right cross and meaningful hooks, all aimed at the head of his friend Lacy, his roomie for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. This was in fact no sparring session, as can often be the case when two men with a personal relationship outside the ring face off with each other.

Taylor left the Olympics with a medal, as opposed to Lacy, and he left Tennessee with a conclusive win (119-109, 119-109, 118-110) and renewed prospects for more high profile fights in the near future.

The Arkansan Taylor (28-2-1) weighed 167 ½ pounds, while the Floridian Lacy (24-2) was 167 ½ pounds as well at the weigh in on Friday. The fight was shown on HBO.

Lacy came in hoping a reunion with trainer Roger Bloodworth, who helmed him for his first 15 pro bouts, would pay off. He looked better than he has in the last two years, but it was not in the same sphere as Taylor, not even close. Taylor connected on an eye popping 48% of his tosses (213-442); Lacy landed just 75 of 443, though one of his hits did cause a knockdown, which ref Laurence Cole missed and didn’t ackowledge.

Taylor looked fit and comfortable carrying the extra weight. His first fight at the super middleweight class, it seemed in the first round, he seemed to be in a good space. He shot the jab from the start in the second. One-one-two, his hand speed looked formidable. Lacy, who tore up his left shoulder badly in 2006, just nine months after absorbing an embarrassing lesson in pugilism at the hands of Joe Calzaghe, seemed to be 100% coming in to the scrap. His physique, which has looked more Gold’s Gym than Gleason’s Gym in recent years, wasn’t as beefy as we’ve seen it. His punches early on may have in fact gotten to their target a bit quicker as a result.

Lacy got wobbled towards the end of the third. He ate an uppercut and left hook, and that sent him back into the ropes, on al dente legs.

Taylor’s hand speed and aggression looked like it would result in an early stop, but then the worm turned. A right hand counter actually dropped Taylor in the fifth, but ref Laurence Cole said it was not caused by a punch. The former middleweight champ did look to be bothered by the knockdown, and a replay showed that the right hand landed behind the ear, and caused Taylor to hit the mat. Cole screwed up again. Not the first time, and I’m sure not the last.

Would Lacy leverage his strong fifth, or let Taylor dictate the pace in the sixth? The latter, it turned out.  Lacy simply didn’t have enough weapons to combat Taylor, who had his jab, right cross and left hook all working in the seventh. In round eight, Lacy banged Taylor with a right at the bell, but Taylor was busier, and took the round. Taylor hooked off the jab in the ninth, as he built up his lead. Lacy needed a KO, no doubt. In the tenth, Taylor held more, and we wondered if his stamina would be an issue. There was more holding in the 11th, but Taylor didn’t totally play it safe. He still clanged shots off Lacy’s head, and a right cross at the 40 second mark had walk-off KO written all over it. Lacy held tough, though. In the 12th round, Lacy landed a sharp right…he was still trying, even though he’d been getting worked over for 90% of the bout.  It wouldn’t happen for him.

Afterwards, Taylor said the copious rounds of sparring with Lacy as an amateur helped him to an extent. He said he was happy with the win, and stated that the victory will help him in the confidence department. “I’ll fight whoever, if they put Joe in next, then it’ll be Joe next,” he said. His promoter Lou Dibella said he’d like to match Taylor with Calzaghe. (I think a Hopkins rematch makes more $ense for Taylor.)

SPEEDBAG Is Hatton/Malignaggi getting lost in the Oscar/Manny shuffle?

—Perceptive viewers heard a tidbit from Manny Steward, who trained Taylor for fights with Wright, Ouma, Spinks and the first Pavlik bout. Manny said that Lacy had to take advantage of Taylor’s primary weakness, that being his tendency to get hit with right hands flying over his low slung left.

—Is there a reader out there willing to venture a declaration, that Rahman could upset Wladimir on Dec. 13?

—-That Oscar is nothing if not a message master. Did you catch him wearing that Ring magazine sweatshirt in the 24/7 promo snippet?

—Freddie Roach would maybe get a vote or two for BWAA Promoter of the Year, if the organization handed out that honor. Freddie is talking the trash from his side, in place of Pacquaio, and hooking the fans who need some smack talk to lure them into buying the pay per view.

—Deontay Wilder (KO over green Ethan Cox) and Kermit Cintron (UD over rugged Lovemore Ndou) both scored off TV wins.