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Calzaghe wins unanimous decision

As Lacy took a pounding in the final round, even going down once, adviser Jim Wilkes looked at trainer Dan Birmingham, with a desperate expression that begged him to throw in the towel

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published March 4, 2006


MANCHESTER, England - He finally got the fight he said he wanted.

Now will he finally get the respect he says he deserves?

That was Joe Calzaghe's question for the world Saturday night after he put the exclamation point on his career by dismantling St. Petersburg's Jeff Lacy before close to 17,000 fans at the Manchester Evening News Arena.

As Lacy took a pounding in the final round, even going down once, adviser Jim Wilkes looked at trainer Dan Birmingham, with a desperate expression that begged him to throw in the towel. But the towel never Barely.

Calzaghe won every round. Two judges scored it 119-107, while a third had it 119-105, the most lopsided victory in an unblemished 41-0 career. The Times had it 118-107.

"His speed threw me off a little bit," Lacy said. "I couldn't get in my rhythm. It was definitely a learning experience."

With the victory, Calzaghe, with the best performance of his career, remained boxing's longest reigning champion and put a halt to the Lacy Express.

In the lead-up to the fight, even the British media seemed more enamored of Lacy, whose brawling style and penchant for delivering knockouts as well as the backing of Showtime had him fast tracked for stardom.

But Calzaghe apparently tired of all the questions the past few years about his heart and class of competition, delivering as savage a beating on an opponent as he has ever turned in and shocking even the doubting British media.

"It was total focus and dedication and determination," Calzaghe said. "I said for years I should be ranked in top 10 pound-for-pound. I needed a fight like Jeff Lacy. The better my opponent, the better my performance."

It was brilliant Saturday, with a thorough beating reminiscent of Winky Wright's whitewash last year of the harder-hitting Felix Trinidad.

But even Trinidad didn't take the punishment Lacy did. Calzaghe had his way from the start, proving far faster and better equipped to handle pressure than anyone thought.

And those fragile hands of Calzaghe's?

Lethal.

Lacy went into the final round needing a knockout to win, having lost every round to that point. He could never get close enough to Calzaghe to get off his vaunted power shots, as the champion continually picked them off and countered with five-, six- and seven-punch combinations.

Lacy's early wildness as he looked for one punch to end it let Calzaghe build momentum and confidence.

Calzaghe answered every Lacy charge with a combination. Lacy kept coming forward, but never seemed able to find the range and an angle.

In the fourth round, Lacy was cut near his right eye, and in the fifth round he was staggered by a straight right and began bleeding from his nose.

Calzaghe taunted Lacy at various points, dropping his hands, raising his arms after each round, and staring the younger fighter down. By the seventh round, Lacy was breathing heavily and it was apparent it was not his night.

In fact, Lacy looked nothing like the fighter he had been growing into, regressing to his form from earlier in his career, with the defense and jab non-existent.

Calzaghe, 33, won his WBO belt in 1997, but never sought another until accepting Lacy's challenge. Injuries limited him as well, killing off some important bouts and limiting him to five fights the past three years.

But his reluctance to come to America or fight away from home damaged his reputation, and Lacy came to England hoping to obliterate it.

Instead, that reputation is now enhanced with the addition of Lacy's belt and even bigger fights on the horizon.