Hey guys, I’m Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy and I’m the reigning IBF and IBO super middleweight champion of the world. I’ve defended my title four times since last year against some pretty rough customers, but I assure you, I’m just getting started.
I’ve got a spotless record so far—21-0 with 17 KO’s—and I intend to keep it that way. I’m on a mission to become an all-time great, a household name like “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, or Oscar de la Hoya. On March 4, 2006, I will be taking a big step in that direction. I’m crossing the pond to Manchester, England, to take on another great champion, Joe Calzaghe. I expect it to be my toughest test to date, but Joe has the WBO belt and I want that one around my waist, too. He has been a great champion, defended his title 17 times over the course of eight years. He’s 40-0 with 31 KO’s. But he’s never faced a Jeff Lacy. I guarantee you that.
We just had our first press conference in Midtown Manhattan last week, and Joe and I did the usually stare-down for the cameras. I noticed his face looked a little heavy. I liked looking into his eyes—Oh, not that way!—and taking in his aura. I pick up on weaknesses, I sense fear, I sense if he’s ready and serious. It’s like an X-ray into his soul.
Outside the ring, I’m just a laid-back 28-year-old from St. Petersburg, Fl. But when I get in the ring on fight night, playtime is over. Mr. Nice Guy disappears for 48 minutes or less—it’s usually less! I remember once, I didn’t even have to break a sweat to get rid of this one guy; when he saw me with my shirt off at the weigh-in, he caught the first bus out of town! (You could say I’m a little muscular.) But things are different now. Once you get those belts, everyone wants a piece of you, everyone wants to take what you’ve earned.
Boxing is a rough trade, but it has its privileges. I just bought my first home, which I’m very proud of, and live with my girlfriend. It’s a dangerous combination living with a beautiful Italian woman who can cook, and then making weight. You’ve got to pound the pavement more, run when the Florida sun is high in the sky. From now till March I will be shrinking myself down to the super middlewight limit, which is 168 pounds. I walk around at about 180-185. There’s no visible fat on me, so its mainly losing water.
I’ve always been a strong guy. I didn’t just get my nickname, “Left Hook,” because it rhymes with my last name. It’s because there’s no one around who throws that punch with as much force. When I was at the 2000 Olympics, where I got a bronze meddle, they tested my punching power with a machine that measures the impact of a punch by pounds per square inch. Apparently, I had the highest recorded score ever—for any weight. They said it was bone-breaking pressure, the equivalent of a high-speed car wreck. I can feel opponents cave under my power, even when I don’t catch them flush. It’s kind of scary.
But understand, I’m not about hurting people, just taking care of my business. I do this to feed my family, to make sure the people I love will always be financially secure. I fight for everybody that means something to me, that has looked out for my best interests. I grew up with very little, and I don’t ever want to return to that. Then again, if it wasn’t for those humble beginnings, I probably wouldn’t be wearing my belts, fighting on Showtime and writing this journal for FHM.
I’m looking forward to appearing here every week as I prepare for my next battle. I want to share how a world-class boxer prepares—mentally, spiritually and physically—for the fight of his life. I also hope that by the time March rolls around, you will see me as more than just a badass (though I am definitely that), but a smart, decent, cool person. I’ll see you soon.
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Since leaving New York in early December, where I did a press conference with Joe Calzaghe for our March 4 fight on Showtime and a photo shoot for FHM, I’ve been doing a whole lotta nothing. Just relaxing and enjoying the downtime. No running, no training, no sweating. The only thing I’ve been using my muscles for is carrying Christmas shopping bags from the mall to my car. I’ve got a big family, a bunch of brothers and sisters, and it’s a great feeling buying whatever we want for the holidays. (Word to the wise: If a professional fighter—or anyone that does a contact sport—tells you he’d do it for nothing, he’s lying. No one loves his job more than me, but I do it for the green.)
I’m never this idle. Being the most active world champion there is—I defended my belts (IBF, IBO) four times in under a year—means taking barely any time off. I might rest a week or two after a fight, and then it’s straight back to work. Because I like at least a two-month training camp, I’m basically in training mode year-round. After a year like I had, I’ve earned the right to chill.
It’s not just about letting your body heal from all the punishment of training and sparring—the fights haven’t been as rough as the preparation lately. It’s about getting your mind in a calm zone. Boxing is mainly mental—I’d say 90%. But you can’t have boxing on the brain 24/7. You need a release from it. Sometimes you need to let work stay in the workplace, in my case that’s the St. Pete Boxing Club.
All the great champions know how to harness their mental energy. That’s what they have in common—male or female, short or tall, fat or skinny. By that I don’t just mean being focused at the time of competition … I’m talking about a whole way of life, a philosophy on how you live. If you can’t learn to deal with the stress and pressures that will come your way, you won’t succeed. This is true for anybody, not just professional fighters.
Someone asked me recently if I meditate. They were probably thinking legs crossed in some funky yoga position. You can be meditating while sitting on your couch watching cartoons. That’s me. I meditate all the time, but I don’t need some yoga instructor telling me how to do it. It’s all about being in an environment that makes me comfortable, that lets me be the laidback guy that I am. Just hanging around my new house, spending time alone, relaxing with my girlfriend, watching a comedy. Simple things. It puts me in the state of mind I need, so I can wake up the next day feeling refreshed. And just being in St. Pete, FL, is good for me. It’s where I was born and raised, where my family and friends are. The whole relaxed style down here is Jeff Lacy.
In 2003 I moved to L.A. to try living and training out there. I was working with Freddie Roach at his Wild Card Gym. Freddie’s a great guy and one of the best trainers around, but L.A. wasn’t for me. I always felt like I was being rushed, or was running behind. The whole vibe of the city put me on edge. I left after three months. The weather was always sunny, the gym was loaded with world champions, but that didn’t mean nothing to me. Like I said before, this is a mental game. The physical aspect is only a small part of it. Everything in your life needs to be in its proper place—at least as much as possible.
I went back home, reconnected with my trainer from my amateur days, Dan Birmingham. And the rest is history. Less than a year later, I was holding the IBF belt above my head after stopping Syd Vanderpool in the 8th round. Next, I’ll add the WBO to my collection when I go to Manchester and take that one from Joe.
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Entry 3: DRAWING INSPIRATION
Evander Holyfield was The Man. Growing up, he was my favorite fighter, the guy that inspired me. My friend’s were all big Tyson fans, so, the way I saw it, that bandwagon was full.
People are probably surprised to hear this because I remind them of Tyson. I’m bringing intensity and excitement to the game that we haven’t seen since he was in his prime, in the late ‘80s to early ‘90s. When Iron Mike did his ring walk, wearing black shoes, no socks, no robe—just a white towel with a hole poked through for his neck—and Public Enemy blasting. . . . Man, it was electric. He had a Take No Prisoners attitude. He was gonna bring it. Heads were gonna roll. And if you blink, you’d miss it.
And that’s my game, that’s my style. The fans paid their hard-earned money to see a fight, and a fight they will see. They know it.
So why Holyfield over Tyson? Because no one had more determination than him. No one had more desire. He was “The Real Deal” Holyfield. The ultimate warrior. He turned pro at light heavyweight (177 pounds), always gave up size when he moved up to heavyweight. But along with that determination, he was smart, he was always in top shape. And he was humble, respectful, dignified. He let his fists do the talking. He let his actions be heard.
When I went to the Olympics in 2000, I met Holyfield. It was an honor, and he was real cool. I haven’t seen him since then, but his influence was great. He was a true role model.
So, as much as people see me as Tyson-like, with the big muscles and the crazy power, Holyfield is the fighter I looked up to. Cause it’s what inside you that matters. And no one had more character in the ring. That’s how I feel about myself. I have so much pride I refuse to lose. “Quit” is not in my vocabulary. You have to kill me to beat me. These aren’t just words. It’s the code of The Warrior. You package that spirit with the discipline to be the best, and great people helping you get there, and you got something deadly on your hands. You got, well, me.
There’s some other fighters out there I ‘d pay to see, but not many. The first guy that comes to mind is Manny Pacquiao. He’s a little guy, a featherweight (126 pounds) from the Philippines. He trains in L.A. with Freddie Roach and fights in the States. But in his country he’s like Elvis or the Pope. I hear when he fights here, everything stops there—they broadcast it live on TV for them He’s an incredibly exciting fighter. Lightning-fast hands, serious pop, a southpaw. He’s sort of a basic straight-ahead fighter. He uses his jab and brings the straight left hand right behind it. Even though it’s predictable, it’s hard to stop. And, like Holyfield, there’s no quit in him.
Pacquiao was in one of the best fights of 2005 against Eric Morales, a Mexican legend himself. Morales is the naturally bigger man and showed he’s a smart fighter, too. It was a great fight that went the distance, but Morales beat him no question. They’re going to do it again in January (1/21/06). I’m expecting the rematch to be just as live, something to get the fans primed for Lacy-Calzaghe on March 4 (Showtime).
Boxing writers and commentators have been talking about our showdown way before it was in negotiation. Ever since I won the title in October 2004 I’ve been calling out Joe Calzaghe. He’s been pretending not to hear. But he finally came to the table and I give him credit for that.
This is the most important and highly anticipated super middleweight fight since Roy Jones and James Toney got it on in 1994. People are saying this could be another Hagler-Hearns, a fight that went beyond the hype. Three rounds of all out warfare, maybe the three greatest rounds of all time. That’d be nice. Just don’t ask me who’s gonna play the role of Hagler. That’s a stupid question.
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Entry 4: WHY BOXING?
I gave basketball a try when I was a kid. I went out for the local team that the parks department sponsored. This was about the same time I was also learning to box. It didn’t take long to realize which sport was for me, and which one wasn’t.
It’s not that I wouldn’t have become a good player. And to this day I like watching basketball, or football, all kinds of sports. But playing on a team ain’t my thing. It’s like this: you’re ready for the ball, ready to score and be in the spotlight, and then they don’t pass it to you. Someone else gets it and takes the shot. Say he misses, and you lose. Those other players controlled your destiny. That basic aspect of being on a team drove me crazy.
I’m all about winning. I can’t win on a losing team. Especially when everybody isn’t on the same page.
I took to boxing immediately. I enjoyed the tough atmosphere of a hot stinking gym! I found out that I loved squaring off in the ring. ‘Cause inside that squared circle there’s no place to hide. (Not like basketball where if you don’t want the ball with two seconds left on the clock, you can find a way to disappear.) The things I love about boxing are the same things that would drive most people away. Boxers are different.
In boxing, a man is exposed 100%. One man is putting up his skills against another, his strength against another, his conditioning against another. It’s one heart versus another. Who’s got the bigger one? Who skipped roadwork this week and decided to sleep in? Who stayed out late and messed around? All these things come out in the wash.
In a crowded boxing gym, other guys are working around you, and you’re feeding off their energy. You’re all doing the same things together. Shadowboxing, hitting the bags, skipping rope, situps, pushups. Everybody’s looking in the mirror, trying to make their movements perfect. Everybody’s looking to throw straight punches, be on balance, keep their hands up and elbows tucked in. The whole gym works like this for three minutes until a bell sounds, and then you break for a minute. When the bell goes off again, then you get right back to it. You do this over and over until you’re done for the day. It’s kind of like being in church, where the group is focused on one thing; they stand and sit and pray at the same time; the organ music and choir starts and stops. You’re all going through the rituals together, but you’re also inside your own head.
But here’s where the comparisons to boxing stop, whether it’s being in church or playing on a team. All this gym work prepares you for sparring, which is as close as you can get to a real fight. Basically, two individuals laying it all on the line.
When we spar, we wear 16-ounce gloves. They’re big and puffy compared to the 10-ounce ones we fight in. (Welterweights and below wear 8-ouncers.) My trainer laces them up, and puts grease (Vaseline) on them so the punches slide off easier. He does the same with my headgear. Headgear is something you always wear—amateurs today never take it off, even in the Olympics. That’s one of the big transitions going from amateur to pro, smaller gloves and no headgear. Whether it’s light sparring or a world championship fight, you always wear your cup. I don’t think I need to explain why. But these cups also protect other sensitive areas around your hips and below your belly button. You put more grease on your face—nose, cheeks, forehead, eyelids and eyebrows. The last piece of equipment is your fitted mouthguard. A cheap one costs a few bucks; it’s molded by putting it in boiling water and biting down on it when it’s cooled off enough. A serious pro with the money will go to a dentist and have a few made up. He’ll make a mold of your bite, and these ones make a difference in terms of absorbing the shock of a punch.
Yeah, they’ve got all these things to help soften the blows. But it all comes back to you. Alone in the ring, facing that man in the other corner.
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Entry 5: ON THE REAL
People ask me all the time how I’d do against a heavyweight. How would this 168-pound wrecking ball do against a bruiser with 50 to 70 pounds on me? We love David and Goliath stories. Like when 5’7’’ Spud Webb won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Or the way little Barry Sanders used to zip under and around defensive lineman bigger than redwoods.
When Roy Jones, Jr. beat John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title three years ago, he gave up about 33 pounds. (And you might remember Roy wore his sweats on the scales. Who knows, maybe he had a few rolls of pennies in his pockets, too?) Chris Byrd, the IBF heavyweight champ, usually gives up that much to his opponents. When he beat a top-rated giant named Jameel McCline, it looked like a point guard fighting a center. Now we got James Toney, a guy who won the middleweight title when I was in 9th grade, taking on the best of the big boys.
All three of them can do these things because opponents can’t match their skills. Boxing is not a bodybuilding contest. It’s a craft, an art, what they call “The Sweet Science.” It’s also physics: when a man gets to a certain size—about the size I am now—he can knockout King Kong if he catches him right.
A good big man beats a good little man, is what they say. I think that’s true. So I must not have faced any good big men, because I whupped some serious ass when I moved around with heavyweights.
The guys I sparred with were no one you would’ve heard of, just local guys around my area. I wouldn’t call them world-beaters, but they knew their way around the ring—Golden Glovers and so-so pros. Nobody at the gym, nobody that knows boxing, was surprised that I more than held my own.
The main thing is having more experience than the other guy. If he don’t know nothing, you can get in there and turn him into a pile of ground beef. Ring smarts will take you far. And the learning never stops; that’s what’s great about the sport. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen some sorry-looking, over-the-hill guy bust up a young buck with muscles coming out of his forehead. See for yourself. Go to your local boxing gym, and if you stay long enough, you’ll see what I’m talking about.
But you won’t catch me calling out heavyweights anytime soon. I’d say never. I wouldn’t think about going up that high. Part of my pride as a professional is never letting my weight get out of control—being a well-oiled machine. Some guys move up several weight classes not because they’re looking for new challenges but because they’re lazy as hell. When the time comes, we’ll see about going up to the next division, light heavyweight (175). But, like I’ve been telling you, we still got cleaning up to do here.
Another thing people ask me, “Who’s given you the toughest sparring?” I probably get the best sparring in the world here in St. Pete. My stablemates are pound-for-pound guys like Winky Wright—a boxer avoided like a disease. If you’re a fight fan, you know what he did to Felix Trinidad last year. And they’re a bunch of young, hungry guys on their way up that also help get me ready.
But my answer to that question isn’t a name. All my sparring is tough. ‘Cause I’m not the type of fighter that shines until I’m in a fight. I’m just going through the motions and don’t look my best. To me, it’s just practice. I need to go full-throttle to show you what I can do.
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Entry 6: BOXING LESSONS
As a pro fighter, you obviously like to watch the fights because you’re a fan. But it’s also homework. You study it with a different eye than your average person. ‘Cause any fighter worth his salt is a student of the game. Even when it’s two guys you’ll never face because they’re several weight classes away from you, you can learn from their mistakes, and the things they do well, too.
Showtime Championship Boxing did their first show of the year back in early January. The card was at Madison Square Garden—but not in the big room. The main event was Zab Judah, the undisputed welterweight (147) champion of the world, facing an opponent from Argentina I never even heard of (Carlos Baldomir). All I knew was the guy had about nine losses and wasn’t a big puncher. I’m not putting him down; these are just facts. But he was good enough to become Zab’s mandatory opponent: the number one contender. The sanctioning bodies (WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO) that award the belts make the champions fight top contenders within a certain timeframe, or they’ll strip you of your title. Anyway, this guy was seen as a “stay-busy” fight. Zab, a good puncher, was supposed to blow through him in one to three rounds.
Once Zab sliced through him, he had an April date that’d be of the biggest, most anticipated fights imaginable. “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather and Zab Judah were going to rumble. The speed and athletic ability these guys have is sick. On top of this, Floyd has crazy boxing skills. Basically flawless. He and my good buddy Winky Wright are considered two of the best in the skills department. They’ve both achieved a lot, and that’s why fans and boxing writers and insiders say they’re “pound-for-pound”—that’s the best in the game if everyone weighed the same. Some say Floyd’s #1, others say it’s Winky. Let’s call it a dead heat. (I’ll be there soon enough, folks.)
So, where do you think I’m going with all this?
Yeah, you guessed it. Zab blew it. Big time! All three judges had him losing the fight, which went the 12-round distance. This unknown journeyman—Baldomir—was the new champ. And Mayweather-Judah was off, right? Nah, boxing being what it is, Zab still gets to fight Mayweather. Doesn’t sound fair, does it? But we’re in the entertainment business. It’s a fight people still want to see and the promoters think they can sell it—and that’s the bottom line.
But I still haven’t gotten to my point, which is: why did Zab lose? How did he let this happen? And what can I, Left Hook Lacy, learn from this man’s errors?
At first I was thinking Zab overlooked this guy. But he loved those belts and wanted to look good in front of his people back home—he’s from Brooklyn. Many said he wasn’t in shape. I disagree.
After the fight he complained he was doing too much running around promoting the fight, and he blamed his promoter Don King for this. I don’t question that he was very busy promoting, and as a result was tired and unfocused. I can speak from experience on this because two fights ago I faced Englishman Robin Reid in my hometown at the St. Pete Times Forum. It was my first hometown fight as a pro. It was demanding because appearances are expected. All of a sudden you got cousins you’ve never heard of asking for ringside tickets! All this stuff comes at you that’s got nothing to do with actual boxing. But it was also a dream come true and a privilege—who doesn’t want to be the homecoming king? And I wore the crown with style, blowing the barn doors off a very good fighter.
Where Zab was absolutely wrong was blaming Don King and making excuses. Your excuses are your own. He didn’t get the job done. Case closed. This isn’t directed at Zab but a lesson I understand: if you don’t want to work with the media, meet the fans that pay hard-earned cash to see you, and of course be 100% prepared when you step inside that ring, then maybe you aren’t meant to be a special champion.
In a nutshell: with greatness comes responsibility.
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Entry 7: MY PEOPLE
Something I mentioned earlier but would like to say more about now, are the quality people I surround myself with. And how much that’s helped my success as a boxer and overall well-being as a man.
First of all, I don’t have an entourage—never have, never will. Now more than ever people are coming at me, trying to get in the loop. But I’ve always been a person that wanted peace and quiet. I don’t run with a lot of people. You won’t see me with more than my trainers, my girlfriend, and maybe one or two friends. And the rest is just business…business people that surround me. You won’t ever get a chance to see five, 10, 15 friends hanging around me. I don’t need that, because I’m the only one getting inside. Inside that squared circle with the four ropes surrounding it. I’d even say, the bigger the posse, the smaller the man. Folks that go that route are just trying to build themselves up.
I’m a true fighter. I don’t need that type of hype around me all the time. It only brings trouble.You got your entourage, they’re trying to keep people away from you. They’re taking things to the extreme, thinking that’s their job. Listen, you ever see me out, walk up and introduce yourself. You’ll see I’m just a down-home humble guy. I don’t act like I’m better than anyone else. Well, except when it comes to boxing. But seriously, that’s how I was raised. That’s the St. Pete in me. Another thing, boxing brings you confidence. Because of that confidence, and the fact we work off most of that anger others keep locked up inside, I think fighters are some of the nicest people you’ll ever run across.
A key player in my life that’s molded me into the fighter you will see on March 4th (Showtime) is my head trainer Dan Birmingham. Dan was with me for a large part of my amateur career, and then we joined back up before I won my first major professional title. What I like about Dan as a trainer and a person is he’s very consistent. He’s the type of trainer that’s gonna bring the best out of you. Dan lets you know, without saying it, Look, I’m not gonna bullshit you and you better not bullshit me. Knowing this when you’re messing around with him, it brings the Champion Heart out of you. All great coaches share this in common: the no bullshit factor. And Dan’s The Man when it comes to no bullshit! He ain’t gonna sugarcoat it. He’s gonna be straight to the point, no matter who you are. And along with me, he trains pound-4-pound king Winky Wright—they’ve been together since Winky’s first amateur fight through 15 years as a pro and counting.
My promoter Gary Shaw is hands down the best in business today. Like I said about Dan, Gary doesn’t pull stunts. He’s not the type of person that’s gonna tell you one thing and think something else. Sometimes he gets almost too involved in some things like my training…that’s just the love he shows you. He wants to protect his fighter in every way that he can. You don’t find many guys that are really looking out for you that way—especially a promoter. This is one reason why Gary’s been able to sign stars like Manny Pacquiao and Diego Corrales, and work with guys like Winky and Shane Mosley.
Jim Wilkes is another member of my team. He covers my legal work and advises me on various matters. But Jim is so much more than that. He’s like a father figure to me. He’s been extremely successful in business, but has stayed down to earth. Like Dan and Gary, this man is straight up with you. I couldn’t lie to this guy. I couldn’t imagine not being on his side. He’s someone I can confess to. He’s just a nice guy. He’s also been a close friend and advisor to Winky for many years.
Someone I haven’t mentioned here but is also very important to me, in and out of the ring, is my girlfriend Jen. I’m gonna get to her in my next blog and also talk about a new member of my team that’s had a major impact on me, my strength and conditioning coach Daryl Hudson. It’s about time for me to give you an update on our preparations for my big fight.
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Entry 8: BEHIND EVERY GREAT MAN
In my last blog I named some of the key people that support me. I would be wrong, and might even take a licking, if I didn’t mention my girlfriend, Jennifer. We met about a year ago at a club, but didn’t have a chance to have a conversation. It was more meet and greet. Sometime later, I spotted her around town and re-introduced myself. She didn’t remember who I was, and had forgotten I was a boxer doing big things. That showed a lot of promise, knowing that if we vibed it had nothing to do with fame and future earnings. We were into each other for all the right reasons. And I never tried to pick her up because of what I do.
Man, what can I say about her? She’s my rock. I like being in a stable relationship and I believe it’s even made me better at my job. I’m calmer than I’ve ever been before. (If you haven’t picked this up by now, I’ll say it again: when I’m not fighting, I like peace.) Before, I used to worry about having that person by my side. Hey, this is something all people require—it don’t make you a wuss to admit it.
Jennifer moved in with me and it’s been a great thing. She’s Italian and, as you’d expect, a champ in the kitchen. I’m lucky that I can eat whatever I want. Otherwise I’d be in serious trouble with her around.
I try to be careful, not be a total pig and blow up between fights. I always fuel my body on good stuff and stay away from the crap. But I’m truly blessed in this way. Making weight is no problem. For many boxers, making weight is worse than taking a bad beating. Food and their slow metabolisms are a cross to bear. You see these guys at the weigh-in with skeleton faces and barely enough strength to walk. I feel great the day before a fight, and that’s a huge weight off my back. I think about it every time I drown my pancakes in syrup…and then feel my abs and find nothing to pinch.
Someone asked me recently about the deal with sex and boxing. How does a boxer handle that situation when he lives with his woman? I guess fighters and trainers have different theories on this. Some say you shouldn’t have sex for two months before a fight—it takes your legs. But I read somewhere that Muhammad Ali liked to have sex before a match because it relaxed him. Who can argue with his results, assuming that’s true?
I’m not trying to write a tell-all here, but let me put it this way. When I’m in training camp, she’s in training camp. When it comes down to not having sex, she’s cool with it. She respects my goals and understands the sacrifices it takes to meet them. You have no idea how much this girl…I mean, she looks out for my best interests. Just like she was Gary Shaw or Shelly Finkel (my promoter and co-manager), who, of course, are in the game to make money. Jennifer is in it for me—and that’s it.
Now that you know I got things locked down on the home front, there’s someone else that’s got me unlocking my body’s potential. These days, most top pro athletes have a strength and conditioning coach. Last year, I began working with the premier guy in boxing, Daryl Hudson. In my next blog, I’ll clue you in why Joe Calzaghe will have serious problems when I get my hands on him.
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Entry 9: SEEKING PERFECTION
I began working with my strength and conditioning coach, Daryl Hudson, before facing Robin Reid last August. Our second fight together was against Scott “The Sandman” Pemberton three months later. And, of course, he’s a crucial part of my team as we prepare for my biggest fight yet.
My stablemate Winky Wright had worked with “D-Hud” earlier in the year before his mega-fight with Felix Trinidad. Winky was the leanest and meanest that night, so on point, he literally dominated every second of every round. Trinidad is a great fighter, a hall of famer, but he looked like a giant Pez Dispenser that night. Winky made it look easy. Our trainer Dan Birmingham was so impressed, and liked collaborating with Daryl so much, it only made sense for me to start working with him.
I felt very confident in my physical abilities before working with him. Now I feel reborn. But, man, the first week of training with him has you so sore, you can barely get though any of the workouts—not just his, but when I go to the gym later to do boxing-specific work with Dan. Now, by the time you read this, I’m way over the hump. The soreness is gone and its all downhill as far as the pain goes.
What hurts so much is getting back into stretching my muscles. The stretching is a killer. I kid you not. Daryl stretches me in positions I could never get into by myself. I look like a pretzel. And you can’t get tense and wanna fight the pain, which is a natural reaction. But you’ve got to do the opposite; relax and breathe into the stretch.
It’s actually good preparation for fighting. Because there comes a point in a hard fight where things become mind over matter. Your arms feel heavy and you’re tempted to drop your hands. You want to open your mouth to take in more oxygen (a recipe for getting your jaw broken). You can start feeling sorry for yourself if you let yourself—not to mention, you might be getting hit all over. If you do any of these things, it’s over. A boxer’s gotta be a poker player. You can’t show the opponent what’s going on inside you. Just like with the stretching, the way you can help yourself is by relaxing and breathing into the pain—you go inside it instead of wrestling with it.
Daryl was a former track and field man and, along with the stretching, is a guru of plyometrics. These exercises, which are all fast explosive movements, develop power and give your muscles elastic strength. With the flexibility I now have combined with the plyometrics, I feel so many changes in my body. My balance, my hand-eye coordination, my reflexes, everything is much sharper. When I throw punches at the gym—whether it’s on the hand pads, the heavy bag, or in sparring—there’s a force that wasn’t there before I started doing these things. (This is nuts when you realize as an amateur I already had the highest recorded punching power—for any weight—according to a machine that measured the impact by pounds per square inch.)
This extra power I ‘m generating is the result of getting more of my body into my punches. If you’re stiff and unable to get leverage into your shots, you’ll throw what we call “arm punches”—which lack power. A perfect power shot begins in your toes, and the energy travels all the way up your body and through your fists. Think of it as a chain reaction. It’s the same concept of a golf swing or connecting with a baseball. Watch Tiger Woods and Barry Bonds and you’ll see the similarity not just between them, but, say, a young Mike Tyson.
Daryl Hudson’s punishing drills are helping me find perfection in the ring. I pity the fool who learns what that means.
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Entry 10: SHOWTIME!
This will be my last blog before my big fight. Next time you hear from me I’ll have taken care of business. All I can picture right now is breaking Joe Calzaghe apart. I see myself holding his WBO belt over my head and adding it to my growing collection.
20,000 Calzaghe fans will boo me when I walk into the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester, England. The same folks will be chanting “Left Hook Lacy” when I leave. They should be proud of a truly great champion—nine years and 17 defenses as the champ, his credentials can’t be denied. But they’ll have to learn to love a new king.
They say he throws a lot of punches, that he’s got fast hands, that he’s got power—31 knockouts in 41 fights. His whole career he’s been a banger. I just don’t see him coming at me and trading punches. I hope he does: he won’t stand up to what I’ve got. But he’s not a boxer, either. And he’s never been a runner. If I got him doing those things, he’ll be out of his element, uncomfortable, unsure. That 32-year-old dog ain’t learning new tricks.
I’ve been living the boxer’s life for a long, long time. But I’ve never felt this way before. Never went about my work with this level of focus and intensity, never wanted anything so bad. Sometimes my people got to pull the reins on me. Halfway through our preparation, my weight dipped to 174. I was running too much, working it too hard. I had to chill, pack on 4 pounds. Every ounce accounted for, nothing left to chance.
This is my destiny. Everything in my life led me to this moment. March 4th will be career-defining. I feel blessed about how things are coming together—my team, my understanding of my body, my skill level, my desire, my focus…and the cameras and the money and the fans. How many of us get to live out a dream?
My trainer Dan Birmingham and Winky Wright spent years fighting in Europe, in people’s backyards. He knows just how it’s done. We’ll leave five days before the fight. We plan on staying on our time, but adjusting our training schedule to the 2 a.m. fight time. (It’s happening at 2 a.m. in Manchester to accommodate the Showtime broadcast in the U.S, which is 9 p.m. eastern standard.) We’ll bring our own food; my conditioning coach Daryl Hudson will cook—he’s good.
All of these details matter. But at the end of the day, it’ll be Jeff and Joe alone in that ring. There ain’t nothin’ his fans can do to change that. No amount of booing is gonna help.
No, it’ll help me. I like being the underdog. The way I see it, it puts the pressure on him.
A while back, I explained why Evander Holyfield was my favorite fighter growing up. People used a lot of words to describe his greatness. They called him a “warrior.” They said he had “heart, “desire,” “will.” They talked about his body and conditioning.
I’ll use one word for Holyfield. And it’s the same word I’d use for myself—if I could only use one. It’s not a colorful word, not impressive-sounding. But trust me when I tell you how important this ingredient is. Ready?
Consistency. It might be my favorite word. He was consistent—that’s the thing that gets lost in the discussion. He seemed to get stronger as the fight wore on, but he was just staying the same while the other guy faded. That’s me. I keep the heat on ‘em, I never stop. It’s a way of life developing consistent strength and stamina. Most men fall apart under that pressure. Holyfield understands this. So do I.
Soon, Joe Calzaghe will too.
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Postscript: On March 4, 2006, in Cardiff, Wales, Jeff Lacy lost a shocking, one-sided, 12-round decision to Joe Calzaghe. At the time of this writing (12/13/2007), Lacy still hasn’t recovered his old form, but his career is far from over. Calzaghe, on the other hand, has fought three more times and remains undefeated. Many consider him the greatest super middleweight in UK history.