Taylor-Pavlik: Yes This Is A Rematch

By George Kimball


Taylor-Pavlik: Yes This Is A Rematch

NEW YORK --- Their fight was still two months away, but there are a couple of conclusions one could infer from the fact that the middleweight champion of the world and the No. 1 contender each weighed 177 pounds when they walked into the Tavern on the Green in Central Park Tuesday afternoon.

The most obvious is that as middleweights go, these are two big men, and in what he vows will be his farewell to the 160-pound division, Jermain Taylor will for once be picking on somebody his own size.

The other is that given the modest lunchtime fare of cold cuts, melon, and berries, the likelihood is that Taylor and Kelly Pavlik also walked out of the Tavern on the Green weighing no more than 177 pounds apiece.

Ken Condon of Caesars Atlantic City, whose hostelry is bankrolling Taylor-Pavlik, pronounced it “a very, very hot fight,” and offered as evidence that in the three weeks since the bout was confirmed ticket-buyers have snapped up every available seat on the floor of Boardwalk Hall despite the absence of advertising, or, indeed, a formal announcement.

This is known in the business as a “soft sell,” although the soft price of the $400 top ticket might have something to do with it as well.

HBO, having shelled out pay-per-view numbers for a fight that will be shown on World Championship Boxing, has committed to hyping Taylor-Pavlik as if it were a PPV show, including what Ross Greenburg described as a “24/7-style countdown” that will commence on September 22 and run every night for a week before the fight.

It is, in any case, a clash of two undefeated fighters, one of whom owns two belts and the other what promoter Lou DiBella described as a contemporary boxing rarity – a number one contender who actually earned that distinction in the ring.

Pavlik promoter Bob Arum lauded the combatants as “the two best middleweights in the world,” but Taylor trainer Emanuel Steward corrected him.

“When you think about it,” noted Steward, “these two guys are really the only two middleweights out there.”

In the absence of an Edison Miranda to wind him up, Taylor was his usual affable self in New York, and seemed grateful for the fact that he will be facing neither a southpaw (as his last three opponents have been) nor a runner (his last two).

Acknowledging that he had hardly looked a world-beater in his aesthetically displeasing performances against Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks, Taylor joked that his Arkansas-based co-trainer Ozell Nelson had been left to bear the brunt of the wrath of the folks back in Little Rock, where Ozell, said Taylor, “walks around and folks throw eggs at him.”

Pavlik, on the other hand, “comes to fight,” said Taylor, a circumstance which he promised would bring out the best in JT in his middleweight swan song.

“I whipped him once, and I’ll whip him again,” vowed Taylor.

While promoters haven’t exactly latched onto it as a selling point, the fact is that Taylor-Pavlik is a rematch of sorts. The two met as amateurs, in 156-pound class of the 2000 Olympic Trials in Tampa.

“He makes it sound like it was an easy fight, but it was definitely no blowout,” recalled Pavlik of that encounter. “He won, but nobody got knocked down or anything.

“I was 17 years old and he was 22. I’d had 50 amateur fights and he’d had over 200, and that made a big difference. He had the edge in maturity, strength, and experience – and he understood the amateur system and was able to use it to his advantage.”

“Taylor won, but the scoring was something like 10-7,” said Jack Lowe, who trained Pavlik then and trains him now. “But Jermain was almost 23, and Kelly had just turned 17.”

Not to muck up a good story by overburdening it with facts, but the score was actually11-5, Taylor had celebrated his 22nd birthday just six months earlier, and Pavlik was only two months shy of his 18th, but Lowe’s conclusion remains apt: “It was man against boy.”

“But the difference now,” added Lowe, “is that he’s not a little boy any more.”

Taylor went on to defeat Sergio Mora and win the Trials. Pavlik moved on to the “challenger’s bracket,” where he lost to Anthony Hanshaw, Taylor’s eventual opponent in the Box-off at Foxwoods.

Taylor went to the Sydney Games, where he lost in the semifinal to Yermakhan Ibraimov of Kazakhstan. Taylor hasn’t lost a fight since, but then since his losses to Taylor and Hanshaw, Pavlik hasn’t been beaten either.

Having boasted earlier of manhandling Pavlik as an amateur, Taylor chuckled and confessed “To be honest with you, I don’t remember none of it. I don’t even remember fighting him. That was so long ago I don’t remember the fight, and I’m pretty sure he don’t remember the fight either.”

Taylor says he does. Both men agree that the 2000 bout is utterly meaningless as a yardstick for what will happen in Atlantic City September 29th.

The gulf between amateur boxing and the professional sport has never been wider than it is today, and both Taylor and Pavlik have developed styles that would be thoroughly unsuited to Olympic scoring.

“Against Ouma and Spinks, Jermain had do try to win a decision,” Steward said Tuesday, “but I don’t think this fight will go six rounds.”

“No,” said Taylor, “he’s proved himself to be a great fighter – and he comes to fight. The difference is this time he’s coming back to try to win a championship instead of going to the Olympics.”


Send questions and comments to: gkimball@Boxingtalk.com