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Lacy starts strong, fades late in win

Back from devastating defeat in March, he wins a points decision over Ukrainian Vitali Tsypko.

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published December 3, 2006


TAMPA -- He may never forget the worst night of his career, the most devastating loss he has ever suffered, and may never forgive those who wouldn't stop talking about it.

But last March didn't seem so far away Saturday night.

Jeff Lacy made his long-awaited return to the ring Saturday night, and one thing was clear: On the road all the way back there still are some bumps.

Looking better than he did in his last fight but still not as explosive as he did before it, Lacy started strong and battled to a majority decision over Vitali Tsypko in his comeback fight.

One judge scored it 95-95, while two others agreed on a 96-94 score.

Lacy (22-1, 17 KOs) is hoping the victory puts him back in the super middleweight title picture.

"Nothing was going to beat me tonight," Lacy said. "I showed I had the will to win under any circumstances. I want to get back to the championship. Win some more fights but get back to that championship."

The decision drew a smattering of boos.

"I thought I won the fight," Tsypko said. "Perhaps I didn't do my best because I only got this on short notice. I only found out two to three weeks ago.

"He was strong, but not that strong."

It wasn't the kind of comeback Lacy probably envisioned, especially after his victory here over Robin Reid last year that was received so favorably.

It was Lacy's first fight since Joe Calzaghe handled him in Manchester and delivered one of the most crushing and complete defeats of a standing champion in boxing history, and there seemed to be a hangover effect.

Lacy said he hurt his left shoulder in the second round and throwing punches with that arm was "loose and uncomfortable."

While Tsypko wasn't nearly the caliber of fighter Calzaghe was, he was a stiff test for St. Petersburg's former Olympian.

The taller fighter was able to rock Lacy with some short right hands, effectively landing his right jab and short right hooks. In the later rounds, he seemed to get stronger and wobbled Lacy on a few occasions, while the former IBF champion tired. Lacy looked far less powerful than in recent years, and his defense again had gaping holes.

He entered the ring in fatigues, blew a kiss to the fans anticipating he would blow out Tsypko, now 17-2.

In the first round, Lacy may have landed more punches than he did in all 12 rounds of his previous fight. He showed the left jab, pairing it with a straight right that was effective. He was patient, and not once left himself open to go for a quick kill, as he died in his previous fights.

Later Lacy resorted to his slugging style, which seemed to suit Tsypko just fine. The Ukrainian was able to counter Lacy's looping punches with short rights, and was able to make Lacy's left eye swell up.