By Jake Donovan
Thirteen years after turning pro under the Main Events promotional banner, Jeff “Left Hook” Lacy returns home, even if only for a night.
The former super middleweight champ returns to the ring on June 21, facing unbeaten light heavyweight prospect Sullivan Barrera. The bout takes place at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. In the main event – which airs live on NBC Sports Network - Anatoliy Dudchenko faces Nadjib Mohammedi in a light heavyweight title eliminator, with the winner to become the mandatory challenger to Bernard Hopkins.
"I always enjoy when one of our past fighters comes back, even if it's just for one fight,” commented promoter Kathy Duva, who signed Lacy along with several other members of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Boxing team. “Our split with Jeff was acrimonious but it's great that we can work together again now.
“The boxing business has always been one where you fight like dogs one day and turn around to work together the next. It's one of the things I love about it. Because of that, Sullivan is getting a big opportunity to make a name for himself and I can't wait to see how the fight plays out."
Lacy made his pro debut in 2001, lasting with Main Events until the company imploded and branched into three separate entities. The internal split led to Lacy signing with Gary Shaw Productions, citing his loyalty to Shaw as the reason he signed with Main Events following his Olympic run.
In less than four years, Lacy (26-4, 18KO) was the first of the Class of 2000 to win a major title, knocking out Syd Vanderpool to capture a 168 lb. belt in Oct. ’04. His reign was thrilling but came to a crashing halt when he was manhandled by Joe Calzaghe in March ’06, fighting overseas in the United Kingdom.
His career never fully recovered, hovering around the Top 10 for the next few years but coming up short whenever he stepped up. Losses to Jermain Taylor (Nov. ’08) and Roy Jones Jr. (Aug. ’09) accentuated his struggles to return to the championship level before stepping away from the game in 2010.
The motivation to retire was in part to the emotional stress endured following the tragic death of his brother, Hydra Lacy Jr. who was shot and killed during a violent standoff with police in Jan. ’11.
Like most boxers, Lacy struggled to shake the urge to stay retired, making his comeback last November. A tune-up win in Louisiana barely registered on the radar, but his return on June 21 serves as a legitimate news generator.
“I'm really looking forward to working with Main Events again and this match-up with Barrera really excites me,” Lacy insists. “I am happy to return back to the ring after so many of the fights that I've had that were scheduled only to fall apart.”
For his part, Barrera (11-0, 6KO) is met with his biggest challenge and most notable opponent to date. The 32-year old Cuban, now living in Miami, has been hampered by inactivity, but is coming off of a six-round points win over Larry Pryor this April.
“I am excited and happy that I was finally able to get an opponent for June 21,” Barrera said of his placement on the card. I want to continue to move my career forward and I am ready to fight."
Anxious to advance beyond the prospect level, Barrera is ready for the newfound challenge.
“My game plan hasn't changed. I have seen Lacy fight before and, even though he was inactive for a while, he is still a fighter and when he gets in the ring he is going to try to win. We have a game plan put together and I am ready to fight.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox