tampabay.com

Lacy says Pemberton has earned title shot

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published November 4, 2005


Jeff Lacy knows the disappointment of going to a big fight that promises nonstop action, only to find himself checking his watch midway through and wondering where the nearest concession stand is.

He'd prefer his fans never experience the same thing.

So while the St. Petersburg fighter could have found an easy opponent unable to punch his way through a cloud of smoke, or someone willing to be chased by the hulking Lacy for 12 rounds, he decided to make sure those in attendance Saturday at Caesars Lake Tahoe don't care what time it is.

In Scott Pemberton, Lacy has found an opponent much like him, a stand-and-fight slugger with a mean punch that has earned him the nickname Sandman.

"One of the things I'm doing is bringing a breath of fresh air to boxing," Lacy said this week from Lake Tahoe, where the card will be televised at 9 p.m. by Showtime.

"You don't have any Mike Tysons out there right now. Who's out there trying to knock people out? I'm not ducking anybody. Nobody wants to see me fight someone who doesn't want to fight. I try to fight guys the fans want to see me fight."

Pemberton (29-3) isn't considered much of a challenge to take Lacy's IBF super-middleweight belt as a big underdog, but he certainly has a puncher's chance.

Of his 29 victories, 24 have been by knockout. He has knocked out Omar Sheika, who lasted 12 rounds with Lacy. Other victims of Lacy - Tony Pope, Richard Grant and James Crawford - have been knocked out by Pemberton too, none lasting beyond the fourth round.

Along the way, Pemberton, 38, never has gotten a title shot until agreeing to take on Lacy. He beat Sheika twice, and had to watch him get a crack at Lacy before he did.

Pemberton's inability to land a marquee fight and his exciting style has endeared him to boxing fans. And Lacy (20-0, 16 KOs) improves his rapidly growing stature among fight fans by giving his former sparring partner his first big shot.

"Scott's paid his dues," Lacy, 28, said. "He's been in boxing and waited a long time for his shot at a world title. To give it to him makes me very happy."

Pemberton hasn't fought in more than a year, but has been in the gym preparing for a fight against Danny Green that fell through. The former Army Ranger has knocked out nine of the past 11 fighters he has beaten.

Lacy thought he'd be fighting WBO champ Joe Calzaghe before an injury scuttled that bout. Promoter Gary Shaw and Lacy were disappointed, but determined to put together another exciting fight, tabbing the No. 5-ranked Pemberton.

"The thing about Jeff Lacy is he seems committed to fighting good fighters, the best in his division, and that's a plus and speaks well for him," Showtime analyst Al Bernstein said. "And Pemberton is a very good fighter. He's got power, and one of the things is Jeff likes to make action fights, and that makes him a little vulnerable in some people's eyes. He'll take some punches but has an incredible chin. It's what makes him one of the most appealing and interesting champions out there."

With some huge potential fights on the horizon next year, Lacy's fourth fight of 2005 poses some real dangers.

But trainer Dan Birmingham said Lacy has trained as hard for this fight as he would have for Calzaghe. They arrived in Reno a month ago to prepare for the higher altitude, and Birmingham said his fighter is in top shape.

Coming off his victory over Robin Reid in Tampa, Lacy has established himself as one of boxing's hottest rising stars. His seek-and-destroy style has been a hit with fans.

"I definitely like fighting guys that one, raise my eyebrow, and two, that bring out the best in me," Lacy said. "Scott, by being a puncher, will do just that. It's going to be a great fight. I can't see it being anything but.

"The main thing for me is, I'm a fight fan, a big fight fan. After this fight, I want to go home and sit back and watch it on my TV, and I want it to be exciting."