It hasn’t been the best of holiday seasons for the sport of boxing. The Mayweather-Pacquiao debacle has derailed the entire sport just when things seemed to be looking up. Pacquiao had put together another stellar year, Mayweather had come back and looked fantastic, there was the typical slew of tremendous fights involving exciting fighters who continued to ply their trade in the often overlooked lower weight classes, and a number of promoters and managers had come together and actually found enough common ground to put together a unique event in the Super Six Super Middleweight Classic. It had been an outstanding year. For the first time in a long time, boxing actually seemed to be successfully getting out of its own way. Boxing was still on the fringe in the world of sports, but at least it wasn’t embarrassing itself. It just couldn’t last, Mayweather and Pacquiao saw to that.
Yet, in the wake of the breakdown of THE mega fight, another story has popped up. Jermain Taylor is withdrawing from the Super Six. Taylor suffered a vicious knockout loss at the hands of Arthur Abraham in the first phase of the round robin tournament. The loss was his fourth in his last five fights with three of those coming by knockout. Perhaps even more disturbing than the knockout was the way Taylor looked in the fight. Taylor seemed unsteady throughout looking very much like a fighter whose best days were well behind him. Obviously, credit must be given to Abraham who fought extremely well and who was clearly leading in the fight even before landing the devastating right hand that brought things abruptly to an end. Furthermore, it seems safe to say that the punch landed by Abraham would have stopped Taylor then, a month before, or five years before. However, Taylor seemed to have lost a measure of his fluidity and this fight was the first time that the loss was so clearly on display.
In the wake of that loss, many fans openly wished that Taylor would withdraw fearing for his health if he continued to box. Predictably, Taylor was defiantly courageous saying that he wanted to continue and that he felt he could still be a factor in the event. A fighter is forced to endure and overcome so much to make it at all in boxing, let alone make it to elite status as Taylor has. The willingness to sacrifice and the ability to overcome doubt and fear become traits unto themselves. Perhaps that is why so many great fighters find it so difficult to walk away. If one allows themselves to walk away when things get tough they will never make it. Losing one’s skills to the point of no longer being able to compete probably feels like just one more time when the going has gotten rough. What to do? Quit? In the mind of a great fighter, that is simply never an option. The mindset is so thoroughly ingrained as to become almost involuntary.
That is why many fans braced for the worst. They prepared themselves for the possibility that Taylor would persevere and continue on against fearsome competition. The whole thing had the potential to be downright ugly; ultimately leading to the kind of sad night that makes even fans wonder if boxing is truly something worthwhile. And then it happened, Taylor announced that he was withdrawing from the event. If the last month was a circus that is all too common in boxing, then the last week was a feel good moment that is not nearly common enough. Taylor is not out of the woods yet; as he left the door open for an eventual return to the sport. However, for the moment, a rare thing transpired. A fine fighter stepped away rather than suffer ignominious and unnecessary defeat. Taylor didn’t quit, he just knew when to walk away.
Initially, it looked as if the winner of a February 5th clash between Allan Green and Sakio Bika would be slated to replace Taylor in the Super Six. Either man would have been an able replacement for Taylor. However, the Bika-Green tilt was recently canceled and Green was given the spot in the Super Six. The reality is, coming off three losses in four fights; Taylor was a long shot to be a difference maker in the tournament going in. Thus, the fact that Green will similarly be a dark horse at best is of little importance. It is what Green brings to the table that makes him a viable replacement. Green brings enough in the way of talent to keep his opponents interested. And, he brings enough in the way of questions to keep fans interested. Sadly, it is this second area where Bika likely fell short. Despite his recent win on The Contender and three successive knockouts as a follow up, many must have felt that Bika simply could not compete at the highest levels in the Super Middleweight Division. After all, Bika had already fought Calzaghe and Bute losing both fights. Admittedly, Bika went the distance both times and did not seem overwhelmed. Nonetheless, Bika has already taken his shot and fell short while Green has yet to test his talents at the top. Has Bika raised his game to a new level in the later stages of his career? Unfortunately for him, that question is not as compelling as just how good is Allan Green?