Don't tell me Taylor is more confident now

By Ronan Keenan


Don't tell me Taylor is more confident now

Please allow me to sound off.  Having read numerous articles by respected writers on Taylor-Hopkins II, I just couldn't hold my silence any longer. I cannot believe that so many observers think that Jermain Taylor will somehow be "much more confident" in this fight! Of course, he knows that he can go 12 rounds and be relatively competitive with one of the best boxers on the planet, but that doesn't mean much in this case.

The fact that he went the distance with Bernard Hopkins isn't much of a feat for a world-class fighter any more. Look at the guys who he went the full route with in the last two years: a severely shop-worn William Joppy, an always mediocre 34-year-old Robert Allen and a hesitant Howard Eastman. All that Taylor can take from this is that he is at least as good as these guys!

Taylor was competitive for the majority of the July bout, but nobody can deny that he took a pretty one-sided pasting in the last four rounds. He was hit and hurt more times in the final stanzas than he was in all of his previous fights put together. How anyone can say that he'll have gained so much confidence from this episode is beyond me!

Many preview articles claim that Taylor will be boosted by his performance in the first fight, thus he will show no fear and take the fight to Hopkins. Baloney!

I was ringside at the MGM Garden that night and Taylor looked every bit the loser when the final bell rang. He plodded back to his corner appearing demoralized, and only raised his hands when he corner instructed him to.

Even though judge Duane Forde gave him the final round (!!), it was crystal clear that Taylor was  reluctant to take the fight to Hopkins in those final minutes. I'm only an amateur boxer (of not much repute), but I know what it's like to be full of confidence one moment in a fight ,and then have your assurance shattered in the blink of an eyelid.

Earlier in the fight Taylor wasn't intimidated of Hopkins and he was willing to boss the then-champ around the ring. Yet, when Hopkins started to turn up the heat, the young buck realized that he was in the ring with something completely different than the 23 opponents he had previously overpowered.

In the final two rounds, Taylor basically threw nothing but "don't hit me" punches. He was not throwing in an attempt to hurt Hopkins. Instead he was tapping out arm punches or flinging wild, unconvincing desperation shots just so that Hopkins wouldn't hit him.

I've done the same myself. I'd suddenly figure that my opponent has more to offer than anything I've faced before. Consequently, I'd just stand there rigidly and occasionally throw my arms out to distract my opponent so that hopefully he'll forget to clock me.

Taylor will be entering the ring as the undisputed disputed champion on Saturday, but now he will know that he's facing a guy who can hurt him more than anyone ever has. He was afraid of getting hurt again against Hopkins in the closing stages- a time when theoretically he should have been going all-out in an effort to take the titles.

Moreover, it's not as if Taylor really believed he was winning the fight going into this final stanza. His body language during and after the final round was of a man who had his dream ruined. Beforehand, Taylor assumed that this would be the night when he ascended to the middleweight throne in style. On the contrary, Hopkins bullied him down the stretch and he evidently accepted that 'The Executioner' was his master.

Taylor never envisioned that he'd be hurt like that. When I started boxing, I remember hardly having to break sweat when getting the better of my opponents in sparring. Then, when I had my first contest, I came up against a guy who was bigger, more experienced and ultimately just a bit better than I was. He was nothing like the opponents I was used to boxing.

In the opening minutes I thought I could just coast through the fight, but he had other ideas. I will never forget how hard he hit me. I wasn't hurt that badly, but the shock of being hit so hard for the first time was immeasurable. After that I realized I was up against something that I had never encountered before and I quickly viewed my opponent with a newfound trepidation.

Something similar happened to Taylor last July. He had simply never been hit the way Hopkins whacked him. Now he will regard Hopkins with a whole new reverence. There'll be no chasing Hopkins around the ring, or launching wild right hands.

Deep down Taylor believes he was humiliated in the MGM Grand that night. The world had never seen him being dominated and powerless like he was in the championship rounds. Even though it didn't seem like an extreme beating, as far as Taylor is concerned, it was.

Therefore, the evidence is that the champ goes into the rematch wholly less confident than he was before round nine of the initial meeting. He will be much more nervous and pretty scared. Nevertheless, that should make him a better fighter. He will be sharper. He knows that he'll be punished badly for his mistakes. He won't want to experience that shock of being hurt again. He'll have an unadventurous game plan and boy will he stick to it.

Taylor has the talent to dominate the division for years. He has the ability to be a clear winner on Saturday. However, don't expect him to go after Hopkins. We won't see any bombs from Taylor, unless he somehow has Hopkins in dire straits late in the bout. After that we might see him let loose, but not before.

The youngster will treat the Philadelphian with a deference that the ex-champ deserves, and that is why Taylor will win. That's what boxing is  all about- learning respect.


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