Lacy bent on protecting what is his |

Lacy bent on protecting what is his

Steve Yingling

Provided by Tom Casino/Showtime Boxers, left to right, Jeff Lacy, Silence Mabuza, Rafael Marquez and Scott Pemberton pose after Thursday's prefight press conference in Reno. The four men make up two title bouts scheduled for Saturday at Caesars Tahoe.

Nearly a year ago Jeff Lacy fought in his first title bout, scoring a technical knockout win over Syd Vanderpool to become the International Boxing Federation’s new 168-pound champion.

The 2000 Olympian worked extremely hard to get that opportunity and wasn’t about to let it slip away.

Knowing how special a championship shot is, the hard-hitting Lacy worked harder than ever when he offered veteran Scott Pemberton a chance at his title earlier this fall. The 38-year-old Pemberton, the IBF’s No. 5-rated 168-pounder, will be making his first championship appearance Saturday at Caesars Tahoe.

“I’m looking at him coming in and giving me a great challenge,” Lacy said. “I looked at it like when I was training for my first world championship. I went into the fight feeling I already had the title and I just had to keep it – like I’m doing now.”

To ensure his readiness, Lacy didn’t hesitate to set up at high altitude camp well before the fight. He has been training with light middleweight champion Winky Wright for the past month at Caesars Tahoe.

In his two prior title defenses, Lacy won a close decision over Omar Sheika on Dec. 4, 2004 and then scored a seventh-round TKO over Rubin Williams on March 5 in Las Vegas.

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Winky has had big influence on Lacy

Winky Wright won’t fight on Saturday’s action-packed card, but the undisputed light middleweight title holder won’t be far from Lacy’s corner.

“I’ve been training around Winky since I’ve been an amateur fighter. I learned a lot of my skills from him,” said Lacy, who had a fabulous 209-12 record as an amateur. “Having him here is a big inspiration, too, for his support.”

Wright has been preparing for his upcoming bout against Australian Sam Soliman on Dec. 10 at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. There is speculation that a victory will propel him into a bout with either Bernard Hopkins or Jermain Taylor.

Purses announced

The Showtime-televised card will mean more viewers than normal for a Lake Tahoe fight, and consequently, create a bigger payday for the fighters.

According to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Lacy will receive $200,000, Pemberton $150,000, Rafael Marquez $112,500 and Silence Mabuza $37,500.

“Contender” star Joey Gilbert of Reno and foe James North will earn $3,000 apiece.

Marquez ready for drop in elevation

If you are a believer in high-altitude training, then Marquez must be your man.

The IBF bantamweight champion got ready for his latest title defense by training at Nevado, Mexico, which is 15,000 feet above sea level. The altitude at Stateline is 6,200 feet.

“He has been training hard for three months,” said Jaime Quintana, Marquez’s co-manager.

A bad case of the flu interrupted Marquez’s training and forced him to post-pone his title fight with Mabuza on Sept. 30 in Reno.