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Jeff Lacy Explains The Comeback

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I apologize to Jeff Lacy as we are to begin a chat on the phone, to discuss his comeback to the ring after a three year absence.

“Jeff, I’m sorry,” I tell the 36-year-old hitter who last gloved up on Dec. 11, 2010, losing (UD12) to 23-19 Dhafir Smith. “If you hear some noise in the background, it’s the TV, I have my girls here watching a program. It’s not me watching a cartoon.”

The Florida resident chuckles, deeply. “I got my two little boys here, me too,” he says.

In fact, over the course of the conversation, in which I tried to discern why the 25-4 hitter nicknamed “Left Hook,” who held a 168 pound crown in 2004-2005, was returning to the squared circle, both of us had to fend off queries and requests from the little ones. But we persevered…

Lacy (seen in photo by Hogan Photos, in 2008) told me he took the time off for a few reasons. First and foremost, he says, he has been concentrating on being a present father to the 3 year old and the 2 year old boys. So, that’s been a full-time job? “One hundred percent,” he tells me. “Stay at home. I’m a proud father.”

So, is he coming back to battle Martin Verdin (20-16-2) at the Belle of Baton Rouge in Louisiana on Saturday, Nov. 30 because he is now re-charged? “I would say focused on one thing, not re-charged,”’ he says. “My focus is now one hundred percent.”

A bum shoulder had hampered him severely, he says, and contributed mightily to his level of effectiveness in later years. Lacy dropped decisions to Jermain Taylor in 2008, Roy Jones in 2009 and then the journeyman Smith in 2010, and it was clear that he wasn’t near-enough to his peak self, when he had fans and media salivating over his frame and his potential to be a player in the title mix.

The left shoulder started really being a detractor back in 2006, when he tore the rotator cuff during a fight with Vitali Tsypko, and had to have surgery. That capped off a pretty darned horrid year, which was “topped” by a unanimous decision loss to Joe Calzaghe in England on March 4. Calzaghe was 40-0, but the naysayers said he had feasted on home cooking, and many felt Lacy would be the man to show the world that the Welshman was just another overrated Euro. Lacy entered at 21-0. He had that sculpted physique which promised so much, seduced rooters who felt jilted when the effort didn’t match the packaging..and he left the ring a changed man, one who had to endure pointed putdowns by media and fans alike, who mocked his showing against Calzaghe, to the extent that you wondered if they’d all put money on him and had their wallets hurt by the result. It was often pretty nasty, wasn’t it? “It wasn’t cool,” Lacy allows.

The 2000 US Olympian Lacy tried and sometimes succeeded in shrugging off the critiques, and scored wins over Tsypko, Peter Manfredo in 2007 and Epifanio Mendoza in July 2008. Then came the start of the slide, against Taylor. That slide morphed into far more dark territory in January 2011, when Lacy’s older brother Hydra Lacy Jr., age 39, engaged in a shootout with law enforcement in St. Petersburg, Fla., where Jeff still resides.

Two police officers were killed in the bullet-storm, and Hydra Lacy also perished.

Jeff Lacy doesn’t pretend that incident is fully in the past, dealt with and ancient history. He pauses when I go there, and works to formulate how that experience affected him, and still does. “You have to know me….you have issues with family, it   bothers you.  Of  course…I’m a very mental person. I wish I could go back do and say some things different but we can’t. That whole ordeal, I see both sides, the families of those officers. I’m a father now, I have a different connection to kids.”

The slain policemen, Jeffrey Yaslowitz and Sgt. Thomas Baitinger, were family men. Yaslowitz was married, with three children. Baitinger was married, no kids. “I come home to see my kids, I miss my kids when I’m not with them,” Lacy continues. “The situation happened, I’m not placing blame on no one, we all hurt. But kids are so pure in this life.”

I don’t press, I don’t wish to poke into wounds that are still present, likely fading some with the passage of time, but certain to always leave scarring on everyone involved. But the minutes spent re-visiting that horrific time period reminds me that while fighters often exhibit super-heroic feats in the ring, shrug off cuts and broken bones in combat, they are prone to being stung by emotional strikes as much as the next guy. So, when guys like me rag on a Lacy, label him a bust, dismiss his career as a disappointment, it’s really only fair if we try to present the whole picture.

So, what is the plan, near-term and long? Is Lacy looking to do two or three fights, then target a name at 168? Maybe looking at Andre Ward down the line?

“I’m not looking at any title,” he says. “My vision is to get the cobwebs off me. And what’s left? To be honest, I feel I’m a late starter. I’m gonna shock the world. In this “vacation” I discovered the skill of boxing. I was using just my talent, but I didn’t know how to use it.”

Lacy doesn’t want to get too deep into specifics, he says he wants to show the people in the ring, walk the walk rather than talk. “It’s all about show it that night,” he says. “This next chapter is all about judge me for what you see, not what you think.”

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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Michael Dutchover Remains Undefeated in Ontario, Calif.

Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

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Michael Dutchover

ONTARIO-Calif.-Transplanted Texan Michael Dutchover needed a little time to figure out Costa Rican Bergman Aguilar but when he did it was over quickly on Friday.

Lightweight prospect Dutchover (11-0, 8 KOs) knocked out southpaw Aguilera (14-4-1, 4 KOs) in the fifth round with a barrage of body blows that left the Costa Rican limp at the Doubletree Hotel.

For two rounds Aguilar used an awkward counter-punching style that had Dutchover a little tentative. But once he figured out that combination punching was the key, he opened up with barrages and floored Aguilar with body shots at the end of round four.

That signaled doom for Aguilar.

The fifth round saw Dutchover target the body with impunity as Aguilar tried holding, running and covering up with no success. Referee Wayne Hedgepeth signaled the fight over at 2:31 of the fifth round giving Dutchover the win by knockout.

In a bantamweight clash Santa Ana’s Mario Hernandez (7-0-1, 3 KOs) and Mexico City’s Ivan Gonzalez (4-1-2, 1 KO) fought to a majority draw after six back and forth rounds.

Hernandez targeted the body against the taller Gonzalez who relied on long range counters. Both found success but neither could prove superiority after six turbulent rounds.

After six rounds one judge saw it 58-56 for Gonzalez but the two other judges saw it 57-57 for a majority draw.

Other bouts

South Central L.A.’s Ruben Torres (7-0, 6 KOs) extended his undefeated streak with a knockout over Mexico’s Eder “El Koreano” Amaro (6-6, 2 KOs) in a lightweight fight. But it wasn’t easy.

Amaro switched from southpaw to orthodox and was matching Torres for two rounds until the taller local fighter began blasting away to the body and head with precision. Many in the crowd cheered “Koreano” in unison but it couldn’t help once Torres zeroed in.

At the end of the fourth round Amaro could not continue and the fight was stopped giving a knockout for Torres.

Richard Brewart Jr. (2-0) mowed through Edward Aceves (0-5) flooring him with body shots in the first round then overwhelming him in the second. After seven unanswered blows referee Eddie Hernandez stopped the fight at 1:32 of round two giving Rancho Cucamonga’s Brewart the win by knockout in the super welterweight bout.

Southpaw David Ortiz (1-0) won his pro debut by unanimous decision after four rounds in a welterweight match against San Diego’s Mario Angeles (2-11-2). Ortiz lives in Bloomington, Calif. and is trained by Henry Ramirez. No knockdowns were scored.

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Charr-Oquendo Scuttled When Charr Tests Positive; the Odious WBA Saves Face

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Manuel Charr

Manuel Charr and Fres Oquendo were scheduled to fight in Cologne, Germany, later this month (Sept. 29). Charr would be defending his WBA world heavyweight title, the “regular” version of it, not the “super” version which rests in the hands of Anthony Joshua.

The bout was quickly cancelled when it was revealed that Charr had tested positive for two banned anabolic steroids. The test was performed by VADA, the anti-doping agency identified with Las Vegas neurologist Dr. Margaret Goodman.

The 33-year-old Charr, born in Lebanon but a resident of Germany since the age of three, won the belt in his last start with a unanimous decision over 281-pound Russian behemoth Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany. The title was vacant. Charr won the right to fight for it with a 10-round decision over Albanian slug Sefer Seferi. The victory over Ustinov elevated his record to 31-4. He has been stopped three times, by Vitali Klitschko, Alexander Povetkin, and Mairis Briedis.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, as the old saying goes, Fres Oquendo wouldn’t have any luck at all. For various reasons, his fights keep falling out. Before long he’ll be drawing social security. Well, not exactly, but he turned 45 in April and hasn’t fought in more than four years.

Oquendo has competed for this belt before. In his last ring appearance in July of 2014, he lost a majority decision to Russia’s Ruslan Chagaev in Grozny, Russia. As a concession for taking the fight on short notice, Team Oquendo negotiated a rematch clause in the contract, but a shoulder injury prevented Fres from activating it. When the injury healed, he had to go to court to compel Chagaev to fulfill his obligation. But then the Russian retired, muddling the water.

The WBA was legally bound to find Oquendo a title fight and in desperation turned to ancient Shannon Briggs. But the Oquendo-Briggs fight, scheduled for June 3 of last year in Hollywood, Florida, fell out when Briggs’ urine specimen showed an abnormally high level of testosterone.

Fres Oquendo was dogged by bad luck even before these recent developments. His professional record, 37-8, is somewhat misleading as six of his eight defeats were razor-thin including his 2003 setback to Chris Byrd and his 2006 setback to Evander Holyfield. However, Oquendo, something of a cutie, was never a crowd-pleaser and in none of his narrow defeats was there a public clamor for a rematch.

The cancellation of Charr-Oquendo cuts the World Boxing Association out of a sanctioning fee, but one would think that the WBA honchos are actually rather pleased by this turn of events. The fight, more precisely the WBA’s world title imprimatur, would have brought more unwanted publicity to the Panama-based organization.

ESPN’s Dan Rafael, who has the largest platform of any boxing writer, has been a persistent critic of the organization which once recognized 41 “champions” in 17 weight classes. In 2009, Rafael wrote, “(The WBA) has become such an absolute farce that even somebody like me, who follows boxing closely, sometimes has a hard time keeping track of all the nonsensical so-called world title belts the WBA has been doling out at an alarming rate. It almost reminds me of the ladies at Costco who hand out various samples on a busy Saturday afternoon.”

Rafael took note when WBA president Gilberto Mendoza promised to cull the herd by eliminating “regular” titles, and then became more caustic when Mendoza didn’t follow through. Recently, in one short, punchy diatribe, Rafael blistered the WBA as wretched, vile, and rancid.

Regardless of your opinion, it’s hard not to feel sorry for Fres Oquendo who keeps getting stranded at the altar. No, he’s not fun to watch and a man of his age shouldn’t be taking any more punches, but he has always been an honest workman and by all accounts he’s a very decent man. Born in Puerto Rico but raised in Chicago, Oquendo pitched right in when the island nation of his birth was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. He was personally responsible for relocating Puerto Rican boxing legend Wilfred Benitez and Benitez’s sister, his caregiver, to Chicago where their lives wouldn’t be as hard.

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