David Reid was a 1996 Olympian, dubbed the American Dream. He was showcased on cable television. He beat a former world champion in front of a hometown audience. Still a young professional, he captured a world title in his 12th fight, then cruised to a couple of easy defenses. But in 2000, he took on a better boxer with twice as many fights, and was soundly defeated. Sound familiar?
And here's where St. Petersburg's Jeff Lacy hopes the comparison with Reid ends. While Reid was never the same after the beating by Felix Trinidad - he retired a year later - Lacy, 29, sets out on his comeback Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum in a fight he hopes leads him back to a world title.
Like Reid, Lacy was on top of the world when a series of unanswered lefts and rights from Joe Calzaghe came crashing down on him in March, taking away his IBF super-middleweight title in Manchester, England, and sending him back to America with a fortnight of doubts.
The defeat was so thorough, the comparisons with Reid, who many say was psychologically broken by Trinidad, were instant.
"In boxing, they act like you should win every fight, that's what the fans expect,'' said longtime Lacy friend and lightweight contender Nate Campbell. "If you lose, you're suddenly not a good fighter? That's frustrating.''
While there are few concerns about the physical prowess of Lacy - in an open workout Tuesday night, he looked as fit as ever - there have been questions about his mental state.
He had an acrimonious split from longtime promoter Gary Shaw, failed negotiations with Tampa's Antonio Tarver that frustrated him and was unsure he would fight again this year.
When camp officially opened in Las Vegas in October, Lacy left after two weeks because he was "bored to death" and had business matters to attend to, according to trainer Dan Birmingham.
He trained in Tampa with Joe Ponce, Birmingham's assistant trainer, who said Lacy just wanted to get back to basics and get additional one-on-one training.
Those closest to him say he is mad at the world and has changed into a darker, angrier fighter.
"Maybe that's good for Jeff,'' Birmingham said. "That's his way of dealing with it.''
Though unusual for a boxer to leave his trainer, "He was in very good hands here in Tampa,'' Birmingham said.
"The only thing I'm concerned with is when the bell rings, how will Jeff respond. Jeff's under a lot of pressure, but he always responds well to the pressure.''
Lacy (21-1, 17 knockouts) has refused interview requests the past few weeks, and declined to be photographed while training.
"Jeff is a quiet guy and he feels betrayed,'' adviser Jim Wilkes said. "He can't talk his way out of (what happened in March). How frustrating is it to have to wait all these months to show it?''
Reid's first fight after losing to Trinidad was a closer-than-it-should-have-been decision over Kirino Garcia. At Wednesday's final news conference for the fight, Lacy promised a more definitive statement in his return, a resounding answer to all the questions and an end to the comparison.
"I'm going to leave the ring the same way I left it here before my fight with Calzaghe,'' he said, alluding to his TKO of Robin Reid.
John C. Cotey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6261.
The Heat is On
When/where: Saturday; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa
Who: Winky Wright (50-3-1) vs. Ike Quartey (37-3-1), middleweights; Jeff Lacy (21-1) vs. Vitali Tsypko (17-1), super middleweights
TV: HBO, 9:45 p.m.
Tickets: Forum box office or through Ticketmaster