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Lacy's desire exceeds glamor for pro debut

"I want to shine,'' St. Petersburg boxer says.

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2001


His professional career begins in a little more than 24 hours. Right now, that is about the only sure bet in Jeff Lacy's life.

photo
[Times photo: Michael Rondou]
"I want to shine in that fight," Lacy says. "So many people expect so much out of me, and I want to show them that it's all there."
The glamor? The fame? The big cash paydays? He hopes those are down the road. For the moment, Lacy is in an economy hotel in East Rutherford, N.J. The ground is covered in snow, and his dreams are bathed in neon lights.

"I just want everything to work, you know?" Lacy said. "I want to shine in that fight. So many people expect so much out of me, and I want to show them that it's all there. It seems like time is going backwards for me because I'm so ready for it to be here."

The St. Petersburg boxer, four months removed from the Olympics, makes his pro debut Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Conn. The scheduled four-round bout against Kevin Butts is to be televised at 10 p.m. on Showtime as part of the undercard of a bill featuring IBF junior welterweight champion Zab Judah versus Reggie Green.

Lacy, 23, understands he is a long way from the big time. By his own admission, he feels as if he is starting over after an impressive amateur career (209-12), which ended in the third round of the Olympics.

For the past six weeks or so, he has been working with new trainer Roger Bloodworth at a remote training facility in Big Bear, Calif.

Considered the hardest pound-for-pound puncher on the U.S. Olympic team, Lacy said he is ready to become more of a boxer.

"Everyone knows me as a puncher, but Roger Bloodworth's got me on my toes now, using lateral movement and working my jab," Lacy said. "Everyone always said I would be a better pro than an amateur because I could punch, but now I'm getting the boxing skills, too. I can mix it up with my jab, and I'll be even better."

Lacy had the opportunity to turn professional after failing to make the '96 Olympic team but decided the time was not right.

Four years later, he fell short of an Olympic medal in Sydney but figures he is far better for the experience.

While in Australia, he met with WBA heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and asked his advice about management. Holyfield recommended promoter Shelly Finkel, and Lacy signed with him soon afterward.

Having the Olympics on his resume has made Lacy more of a commodity, which explains his pro debut finding its way to a national cable telecast.

"It's been a blessing for me the way things have worked out," Lacy said. "Now it's up to me to do the rest."

Lacy said he has little knowledge of his opponent, other than he has a 4-1 record. Butts is a last-minute replacement for Lacy's original opponent, Mike Englert, who withdrew a couple of weeks ago.

Lacy's plan as a pro is simple -- fight well and fight often.

He said his greatest needs are stamina and experience. So Saturday's four-round fight will be followed by a bout March 2 in Houston, followed by fights in April, May and June. He is fighting at 164 pounds for his debut but plans to drop to 160 later in the year.

"I asked them to keep me busy because I want to stay in the public's eye and I don't want to fall out of shape," Lacy said. "The only question they have about me now is whether I can go 12 rounds, so I need to keep working to get to that level."

Lacy plans to do most of his training at the site near Big Bear. It is hardly the center of the boxing universe. Other than working out, Lacy said there is little to do around Big Bear. He has befriended a horse and jokingly said he stops by to talk to him every day.

"It's not glamorous right now, but that's okay. That other stuff will come down the road. Right now, I just want to be happy in the ring," Lacy said. "This is a business now. This is my job, and I'm going to do it right. My training is going good, so I don't need to be sleeping on the job."

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