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Jermain Taylor: Returns to the Boxing Ring Friday Night

By Geno McGahee

In 2005, Jermain Taylor, undefeated, headed into the biggest night of his life. Across the ring was the long-running middleweight champion, Bernard Hopkins, a man that had earned his reputation the hard way, clawing his way to the top. Hopkins had put together 20 straight title defenses, but Taylor was seen as the future of the sport. It was going to be an interesting night.

It wasn’t the moment that Taylor had wished for. The fight was ugly and it was difficult to tell who won the fight. The closeness of the bout made most lean toward Hopkins, believing that you have to take it from the champ, and Taylor certainly did not do that. A win is a win, however, and he was now the Undisputed Middleweight Champion.

In his first defense, he would take on Hopkins in a rematch, and the fight would resemble the first, with the critics split down the middle as to who had won the fight. Many felt that Taylor had been pushed by HBO so hard that it had affected the judges. They bought into the “torch being passed” so much that it pushed Taylor to a second straight win over Hopkins. Still the champion, but Taylor was not taken that seriously.

More doubt arose when he defended against Winky Wright, a fight that would end in a disputable draw. Taylor once again eked by and held onto the title, with his next two bouts creating even more public doubt.

The idea was simple: match Taylor against small guys and have him squash them. He will look like a monster and his stock will rise. Kassim Ouma was first, and Taylor didn’t do what he should have done. The fight went the distance and he looked mediocre.

Instead of fighting Edison Miranda, as the public had demanded, Taylor faced off against Cory Spinks, and barely got by with a split decision. That put the undefeated middleweight champion in the corner and he had to face a threat. He had to face somebody that the people would finally give him credit for beating, and he would have to beat them convincingly and in an exciting manner. Kelly Pavlik, undefeated and powerful, coming off an explosive KO over Miranda, was just the guy.

Taylor struck early and knocked Pavlik down, but his stamina issues arose again, and Pavlik stalked him and chopped him down, stopping him in 7 and taking the titles. They would meet again and Taylor would take it the full 12 rounds, but would come up short, losing the decision and now having back to back losses on his record.

A safe fight and an easy win over former “name” Jeff Lacy put him back on track. Lacy only had the one defeat, but it was obvious that his better days were far behind him. He was a spent force and Taylor made a smart business move by taking him on. He was back on the winning track, but it didn’t last long.

A move up to super middleweight and a bout with WBC champion, Carl Froch, was next. Froch was undefeated and untested. He was an unknown to the eyes of the American public and most thought that the tested and proven Taylor would win. A lot of notable fighters move up in weight and find the champion that is very beatable to get another title, but do it in a safe way. When Taylor dropped Froch in round 3, most expected the same.

Ahead on 2 of the 3 scorecards, Taylor entered the final round, with his stamina once again coming into play. Froch attacked and, amazingly, stopped Taylor in the final round, with only 14 seconds remaining.

The Showtime Super Six was announced shortly after with all of the top super middleweights colliding for the prize, and to the shock of some, Taylor was in the mix. He was pitted against former IBF middleweight champion, Arthur Abraham, in the very first round of the tournament. They were not strangers to each other. They both ruled the 160 pound class at relatively the same time. It may have been destined for them to meet.

The grit and defense of Abraham proved too much of a puzzle for Taylor to solve. Behind on points and exhausted, Taylor entered the final round, and a right hand would send him out cold. It was a scary situation and most thought that it was the last we’d see of “Bad Intentions.” It was that loss that drove him out of the tournament.

It’s been 2 years and now Taylor, 28-4-1, 17 KO’s, returns to face Jessie Nicklow, 22-2-3, 8 KO’s, in a 10 round bout. The career record of Nicklow is not impressive. He has not fought anyone of note and is being brought into this fight as “the opponent.” What does Taylor have left after 2 years out of the ring, and with his record in his last five fights: 1-4, 3 by KO? Although this should be a big win for Taylor, it’s difficult to say. He hasn’t looked good in any of his recent fights, including his win over Lacy. Nicklow seems like a safe choice, but the fact that Taylor has fallen so far makes this a fight to watch. We’ll see if Friday night marks a new beginning for “Bad Intentions” or another sad night of boxing for the former middleweight champ.

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