On Saturday Night, Jermain Taylor ended the long reign of Bernard Hopkins. Immediately after the decision was announced, Jim Lamply announced that “You have a brand new star in boxing!” Taylor is definitely a media star thanks to the exposure going along with being promoted by the guy who used to run HBO Boxing. At the end of the night, the fight provided more confusion than answers. From the beginning of the fight it was evident that Taylor was not going to be able to use his jab and usual offense to control the fight. Hopkins fought very intelligently to take away Taylor’s jab and force Taylor to try to fight a different fight than he is used to. Taylor left himself open to counterpunches all night and did not cut off the ring to be effective with his natural athletic ability over Hopkins. Hopkins is not a very big puncher, yet he had Taylor hurt several times. And at the end of the night, Jermain didn’t look or act like he was the winner.
With that being said, allow us to take a look at the things Jermain did correctly in the fight. He did adapt his style to be aggressive. While he didn’t land many of his punches, he did fight the entire round early in the fight and built up an early lead on two of the scorecards. He also held every time he was hurt by Hopkins rather than trying to stand and trade. While that tactic hurt him in the later rounds, it also saved him from being knocked out in the later rounds.
Hopkins fought a usual Hopkins fight and most people watching knew exactly what they were seeing. While Lamply and Merchant were celebrating a new champion in the fifth round, Roy Jones calmly reminded them Hopkins didn’t plan on winning the first half of the fight. As the fight progressed and the Hopkins counterpunches came stronger and more often, they discouraged Taylor from throwing, the Hopkins fight plan starting coming into the open. Taylor was abused and punished in the final four rounds to the point that he was discourage to throw, he held more often than throwing punches. Taylor would shy away and turn his back to Hopkins when Hopkins had him hurt (often a sign of giving up).
Before the decision was read, Bernard Hopkins strolled around the ring expecting to hear the announcement of another successful title defense. He joked in his corner with Oscar De La Hoya, while the Taylor side of the ring looked on with much concern and dismay on their faces. When Michael Buffer mentioned a split decision, Taylor’s face was the face of a defeated man. In fact the Taylor corner looked as if they stole one when the decision was read. Hopkins’ face reflected the look of a man who had something taken from him.
In the end, Taylor was out landed, out punched and looked like a beaten fighter. For Hopkins he looked like he did everything right, just got started a little too late for two of the official judges. This Boxingtalk writer had the fight scored 115-113 for Hopkins. Was Taylor’s victory more of what the boxing establishment wanted? After all, since his pro debut, HBO has been promoting Taylor as the man who can defeat Bernard Hopkins as well as the heir apparent to the middleweight championship. Despite the win, one has to wonder if Taylor will be even more insecure of himself in a rematch due to the way he was dominated in the final half of the fight. Will Hopkins mimic Zab Judah and take what happened at the end of this fight and carry it into the rematch?
To this point Taylor has been spoon-fed his opponents. Now as the undisputed middleweight champion, he will have to fight real fighters. If he can get past Hopkins in the rematch, he has Sam Soliman, Winky Wright, Kingsley Ikeke and Felix Sturm as fighters all gunning for him. In order for Taylor to have the confidence to win these fights, he has to beat Bernard Hopkins in the rematch and leave no questions to be asked.
For now, Taylor is on top of the world, whether or not he’ll fill the mold of a new star in boxing still remains to be seen. He’s still young and will grow out of some of his technical flaws as well as gain the confidence he so badly needs. One step has been taken towards stardom, nonetheless, several still needs to be taken by Taylor.
As for Hopkins, he can expect his bank account to grow even more. The rematch will be worth even more than the first. Expect Hopkins to come after Taylor as if he did indeed steel something. With his legacy set before he hit the ring tonight, Hopkins will most likely fight the rematch and then retire as one of the greatest fighters of all time.
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