I am a firm believer that in sports, in almost every case, talent wins out in the end. All sports are overflowing with great underdog stories, and players or teams that achieved more than they were supposed to.
In 2006, Jeff Lacy was supposed to be the man to beat Joe Calzaghe. Quite clearly, he wasn't that man. It was talent that won out, even though that is also an underdog story.
Tonight, on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Jermain Taylor was the heavy favorite. His talent delivered. With a clinical performance and some amazing efficiency, the former middleweight champion got back into the win column with a dominant decision win over ex-super middleweight titleholder Lacy, taking the fight on scores of 118-110 and 119-109 (twice).
The final punch stats tell the story very well. Taylor landed 213 of 442 punches, for an amazing 48% connect rate. Compare that to Lacy's 75/443 (18%), and you can see why it was such an easy fight to score.
Lacy, for all his faults, is a very tough guy. Taylor rattled him repeatedly early in the fight, and looked like he might even score a KO. But Lacy did what most hurt fighters try to do -- he clinched, he hugged, he fell on Taylor, he did whatever he could do to get to that one minute rest period between rounds. It kept him upright for 36 minutes. And outside of a nice fifth round where he did appear to hurt Taylor and there was a mildly controversial non-knockdown of Jermain involved, staying upright was all he did.
Taylor established his superiority quickly, pumping his jab into Lacy's face the whole night, landing clean power shots, and thwarting almost all attempts made by the robotic, slow-handed, flat-footed Lacy. In short, Jermain Taylor whooped Jeff Lacy, and whooped him good. Had Lacy been favored to beat Taylor as he was with Calzaghe, I think the reaction to this performance would be similar. Taylor owned the ring.
Taylor said after the fight that he'd be willing to fight Calzaghe or anyone else that's put in front of him. The HBO team suggested during the fight that a bout with Mikkel Kessler would be a good one, and I certainly agree. There are lots of good fights for Jermain at 168, which is a quickly developing division with lots of quality fighters. What he does next will at least surely wait until the December 6 fight to crown a new WBC super middleweight belt holder between Carl Froch and Jean Pascal, the title to which Taylor is now mandatory challenger.
As far as "Left Hook" Lacy goes, he said before the fight that he knew he had to win this one or that fighting at this level again would be tough to do. He's very right. He's clearly not the fighter he was hyped to be. And since that shoulder surgery, even his nickname doesn't work. Lacy has some thinking to do, let's put it that way.
Frankly, there's no reason Jermain Taylor can't fight his way to the top of the 168-pound division, and back up into the pound-for-pound top 10 that he inhabited for a couple of years. He's got a shot against anyone from 168 to 175, I think. Tonight was a good first step back on the road.