There's no escaping this (diamond) ring

Published March 3, 2006

MANCHESTER, England - Former USF guard Jennifer Sepielli was at Thursday's final news conference. Or as she is soon to be known, Mrs. Jeff Lacy.

Sepielli was proudly showing off her 7.2-carat diamond engagement ring to well-wishers, as she and the St. Petersburg champion recently became engaged.

Sepielli, who played at Hillsborough Community College before joining the Bulls program in 2002, said Lacy proposed a few weeks ago at the International Plaza in Tampa. Her best friend, Ashley Dohme, filmed the proposal, made in the shadows of the Haagen-Dazs stand.

The two have known each other for two years, meeting at Malios, but started dating only six months ago.

As a former athlete, Sepielli said it's easy to understand her future husband's mood as the fight approaches. While the British media have written about his less-than-smiley persona this week, she said it's completely understandable.

"He's just very focused right now," Sepielli said. "He's still a great guy, but right now he's in that zone. He's more edgy."

Sepielli said she and Lacy plan to marry at attorney Jim Wilkes' Tampa beach house after his next fight.

And yes, she can beat him at basketball.

GHOST WRITER: An announcement reportedly from Team Calzaghe and posted on a boxing Web site caused a minor stir.

The letter stated that a "large floral arrangement has been scheduled to be delivered to Lacy's room at Manchester General Hospital following the fight."

Joe Calzaghe and promoter Frank Warren angrily denied penning the announcement.

Joking about fighters going to hospitals is a sore spot for the locals since a brutal 1995 London fight between British super-middleweight champ Nigel Benn and American Gerald McClellan. Benn won, but not before nearly killing McClellan, who was left blind and unable to walk.

UNDERCARD: Lacy promoter Gary Shaw and Warren verbally sparred over the ring size, which will be 20 feet. Shaw said Warren wanted a 22- or 24-foot ring so his fighter could run.

Warren promised that Lacy would not have to look far for Calzaghe, who likes to trade punches with opponents. "I'm going to hold you to that," Shaw said, then looking at the British media, "you make sure you hold him to that."

FAMILIAR FACE: Chad Dawson, who trains out of the St. Pete Boxing Boxing with Dan Birmingham, likely will be the only face somewhat familiar to American fans on Saturday's undercard. He meets Jamie Hearn (10-5-1). Dawson is 21-0 and ranked No. 8 by the WBC and WBO as a super-middleweight.

WINKY UPDATE: Promoter Lou DiBella wanted Jermain Taylor's next fight to be a homecoming in Little Rock, Ark. It appears he's close to making that happen.

Taylor, the middleweight champion, will get what amounts to a hometown fight when he faces St. Petersburg's Winky Wright June 16 at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, roughly 130 miles from Little Rock.

DiBella was unavailable and Shaw declined comment.

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the deal is all but done. It reported that Brian Young of Memphis' Prize Fight Boxing said some of the floor seats at the FedEx Forum are reserved for "A-list" celebrities.

"It's been crazy," Young said. "It's going to be similar to Lewis-Tyson, and you're talking about a $15- to $20-million economic boom for the city of Memphis, and an untold amount of exposure. It's just going to be huge."

Prize Fight Boxing Prize has secured big fights for Memphis for the past five years, including Lennox Lewis - Mike Tyson at the Pyramid in 2002.