When Jermain Taylor first signed to fight Bernard Hopkins back in July of 2005, not many people would have envisioned that Taylor would be 2-0 against the ‘Executioner’ by year’s end. Taylor just barely squeaked by the former undisputed middleweight champ in their first encounter, and as a result, many believed that Hopkins would get off to a faster start in the rematch and ultimately win all of his belts back. It was not to be, as Taylor fought an even more controlled fight the second time around, and Hopkins’ fast start never materialized. In the December rematch, Taylor defended his belts by an even more comfortable but still close unanimous decision.
In spite of the fact that Hopkins was rated as one of the top two pound-for-pound fighters in the world and Taylor himself is an undefeated middlweight star who won both fights against the all-time great, Taylor has actually seemed to lose some of the hype that surrounded him since those two fights. One would think that beating the fighter at or near the top of the charts twice in a span of six months would be enough to raise a few eyebrows, but lo and behold, Taylor finds himself a solid underdog in his first title defense, against the smaller Winky Wright on June17, 2006. Besides beating Hopkins twice and then agreeing to fight the much-avoided Wright immediately, Taylor is a pretty good fighter to be an underdog against Wright.
Wright, who has ample amounts of boxing slickness that more than makes up for his substantial lack of punching power is coming into his bout with Taylor as the boxer recognized for being dodged by more boxers than anybody not named Antonio Margarito. Wright’s last four fights (all decisions of course), saw him twice beat a smaller, faded version of Shane Mosley, Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad in a whitewash, and then punching windmill Sam Soliman.
Interestingly, a large part of the reason why the defending champ, Taylor, finds himself an underdog after twice beating the man in the division last year is that most critics were not impressed with the manner in which he bested Hopkins. Those critics point out that he had a chance to take out a fading 40 year old fighter, but instead fought cautiously despite the rematch’s billing as ‘No Respect’.
Whereas Wright fights a much smaller man in Shane Mosley, a fairly one dimensional and far less passionate puncher in Trinidad, and then a workman in Soliman, and he’s being hailed as the guy who Taylor does not even so much as stand a chance against.
I don’t see Winky Wright beating Jermain Taylor, and in fact, I think Taylor is being grossly underappreciated for what he just accomplished.
Would Wright fare any better against Hopkins, or look any prettier than Tyalor did? And likewise, I don’t see how Taylor wouldn’t have looked just as great against Mosley, a much smaller man, or Trinidad, a fighter who in addition to being almost one dimensional, was clearly lacking the internal fire he once held, as was evidenced by his abrupt decision to retire once again.
Since Wright doesn’t knock anybody out, he must consistently rely on winning a minimum of seven rounds every fight in order to take home a ‘W’, which means he doesn’t have the luxury that a fighter such as Taylor has, who can still end fights before the final bell tolls.
Taylor is much bigger, and much stronger than Mosley, Trinidad, or Soliman. In fact, Taylor is much bigger and stronger than Wright. It also should be noted that Taylor isn’t a one dimensional robotic fighter who is incapable of figuring out how to get through a jab (Trinidad) or close the gap (also Trinidad), and unlike Mosley, Taylor carries more than enough pop in his punches to get Wright’s attention (you won’t see Wright dropping his gloves and giving any free shots to Taylor this June as he did with Mosley).
In addition, there are three other elements it seems the public is ignoring in their pre-fight remarks about Taylor-Wright: Taylor is the faster fighter (in addition to being the younger man), Taylor has not figured out how to lose yet, and Taylor is as hungry a fighter in the sport as there is, and trains the way you would expect such a fighter to train.
It seems as though people think Taylor will simply be deterred by Wright’s jab, and decide to follow him around a boxing ring like a fish on a hook for twelve rounds, or that Taylor will become frustrated by Wright’s ‘peek-a-boo’ guard. After waltzing twelve rounds with Hopkins, people should know, especially those who actually saw the fights, that it’s doubtful Wright, even with his world class skills, will be able to frustrate Taylor to the point of indifference towards the bout’s outcome, not if Hopkins and his 24 rounds of feinting couldn’t drive Taylor basurk.
Taylor doesn’t fight like Mosley, or Trinidad, and in addition, he’s got the added comfort of knowing that Wright doesn’t possess the power to hurt him, the way he found out Hopkins still did. Wright is the Chris Byrd of the middleweight division, which has got to be an emboldening thought to an offensively minded fighter like Taylor, who knows he doesn’t have to walk the same tight rope Wright must in order to win a decision.
There is no doubt that Wright is one of the best fighters in the world, and certainly the best challenger out there for the new middleweight champ, and he may indeed prove why he’s been ignored for so long if and when he beats Taylor in June. But to dismiss Taylor’s chances in this bout, as much of the public seems to be doing, is simply foolish.
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