Lancaster’s boxing career began as an 81-pounder in junior high school. He joined the Navy in 1953 and won the San Diego Golden Gloves tournament and was voted outstanding boxer in the tourney. He won the 1954 World Wide U.S. Navy Boxing Championships as well. While the Naval Academy, Lancaster trained for the 1952 Olympic Boxing team but lost in the finals of the Olympic trials. As a professional, Lancaster won his first main event in Boston against undefeated welterweight Don Prestone. Lancaster also topped Bobby Kennedy, the undefeated protégé of the late Sugar Ray Robinson in his second main event in Boston.