Taylor's Chance For Redemption

By Matthew Aguilar


Taylor's Chance For Redemption

When Jermain Taylor’s rocket right hand smashed into Kelly Pavlik’s face in the second round of their battle for the recognized middleweight championship last Sept. 30 in Atlantic City , it appeared as though “Bad Intentions” would finally receive the accolades that had eluded him over a more than two-year reign.
You see, going into the Pavlik fight, Taylor wasn’t seen as a hot champion – even though he had beaten living legend Bernard Hopkins twice. Rather, he was seen as an ever-growing disappointment.

He had struggled with Winky Wright. He had struggled with Kassim Ouma. And he had struggled with - and almost lost to – the much smaller Cory Spinks.  Not exactly a hall-of-fame championship log. And the criticism and doubt predictably followed.

But, now, the pride of Arkansas had his top contender – an undefeated phenom and one of boxing’s hardest punchers – out on his feet. Eventually, he had Pavlik on the canvas, and it appeared as though an emphatic, early knockout victory was imminent. And wouldn’t that have changed boxing’s perception of the previously underachieving Taylor ? Rather than being viewed as a perpetually subpar performer, he’d have been considered a champion who came up huge in his biggest fight.

The pound-for-pound talk would have been ear-splitting.
Unfortunately for Taylor , things didn’t pan out that way. Youngstown , Ohio ’s Pavlik ultimately survived the blitzkrieg. Some say it was due to the same amateurish habits that prevented Taylor from looking less-than-prime-time against Wright, Ouma and Spinks, as he fired punches in bunches, often without the proper openings.

Consequently, at the end of the second round, Pavlik was still standing, and Taylor was exhausted from his assault.
“Bad Intentions’” fate was sealed. Five rounds later, Pavlik finished Taylor with his own blistering attack. It was as conclusive as it was concussive, and the good-looking Little Rock man who had so much promise when he upset Hopkins in the summer of 2005, was now an ex-champion, wondering where it all went wrong.

Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas , Taylor gets another crack at Pavlik – another chance to redeem himself and finally achieve his vast potential. But it appears as though the bad decision-making that dogged his title reign is also dogging his quest for redemption.

Upon Taylor’s bizarre request, the Pavlik rematch will be contested at a catchweight of 166 pounds. That’s right: there’s no official title on the line. More importantly, however, is that Pavlik is the bigger man, therefore will enjoy more benefits of being the bigger man with the additional six-pound cushion.  “The Ghost” is only an inch-and-a-half taller than Taylor at 6-foot-2 ½, but he is leaner and has the broader shoulders that are better equipped to carry extra weight. He is also the harder puncher, and with more weight comes more power.

Why Taylor would not only agree to this catch weight – but actually request it – is beyond imagination. Further, Taylor ’s business of employing a head trainer has become a merry-go-round soap opera that would make Oscar De La Hoya embarrassed. First, it was Ozell Nelson. Then Pat Burns. Then Emanuel Steward. Now it’s back to Nelson – which begs the question: If he was so good, why was he ever booted in the first place? Burns, meanwhile, is the guy who guided Taylor to the middleweight title and the two Hopkins ’ victories. He has become the forgotten man.

But, regardless, Taylor now risks becoming another De La Hoya – a talented fighter who couldn’t decide whether he wanted to be a boxer, a puncher, or a boxer-puncher, as a result of his trainer carousel. Consequently, his development was stunted, and he never quite lived up to the potential that seemed all-but-guaranteed early in his career.

Yes, De La Hoya is a very good fighter. Had he stuck with one trainer, he probably would have been great. Taylor , 27-1-1 (17 knockouts), though, won’t have the time to be caught between styles Saturday night in Vegas. In the undefeated Pavlik, 32-0 (29 KOs), Taylor will face perhaps the deadliest puncher in the sport. And Taylor will have little time to hedge on a strategy. He’ll either have to make Pavlik respect him, or get blown out of the ring.
Considering the events of the past two-and-a-half years – and the strange decisions that Taylor has made during that time – the latter seems likely.


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