It's been nearly five years since Jermain Taylor climbed between the ropes to fight a man who wasn't at the time or who had not been in the past a world champion. Since that Feb. 19, 2005, victory over Daniel Edouard, Taylor has faced a succession of world-class talent.
He's faced, in order, Bernard Hopkins twice, Winky Wright, Kassim Ouma, Cory Spinks, Kelly Pavlik twice, Jeff Lacy and Carl Froch.
Taylor was nearly on top of the game after his back-to-back wins over Hopkins in 2005 made him the undisputed middleweight champion. Since, though, he's gone 3-3-1 and two of his victories were over men who were middleweights for the night he fought them only.
He was knocked out in a middleweight title fight with Pavlik he seemed to be controlling, then lost 24 of the 36 scored rounds in a rematch. After dominating the quickly fading Lacy, Taylor was en route to a decision over Froch when he was knocked out in the final round of their World Boxing Council super middleweight title bout.
He's now lost three of his last four and most of his luster. He's almost an afterthought in Showtime's "Super Six" super middleweight tournament, which begins Saturday with two bouts.
Taylor will meet former middleweight champion Arthur Abraham and Froch will defend his belt against 2004 U.S. Olympian Andre Dirrell in Nottingham, England, in a doubleheader that begins on Showtime on Saturday at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific. The six fighters in the field – the other two are unbeaten 2004 Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward and World Boxing Association champion Mikkel Kessler – are 161-4-1, a stunning 97.3 winning percentage.
Of course, Taylor (28-3-1) accounts for three of the four losses and the draw. Without Taylor, the field is 133-1, an even better winning percentage of 99.3.
Taylor's promoter, Lou DiBella, made a passionate case for not only Taylor's inclusion in the field but also for his ability to win it.
"By any measure, Jermain has had a tremendous career," DiBella said. "I tend to think Jermain is really underappreciated. The level of fight that Jermain has fought since his first Hopkins fight, there's no champion or top fighter in boxing who can claim back-to-back-to-back-to-back big kind of fights. Literally everyone he's fought has had championship pedigree. He will not back down from anyone. Jermain has always had the attitude of 'Whoever you put in front of me, I'll fight them.' "
Taylor is defiant and even dismisses his knockout loss at the hands of Froch in April. "The only reason I lost to Carl Froch was because I got tired," Taylor said. "I wasn't prepared. The best fighter lost because he didn't train right.
Of course, for that, Taylor only has Taylor to blame. And in Abraham, he's fighting a tough, gritty veteran who not only is one of the most skilled men in the field but who also has a huge home court advantage in his favor.
It is notoriously difficult for a non-German-based fighter to win in Germany. Many American boxers have come home complaining of what they felt were dirty tricks by the Germans.
Taylor, though, is undaunted. He insists he's in a better frame of mind and ready to win Saturday and go through and capture the tournament title.
"I've fought the best of the best in boxing," Taylor said. "I've won some and lost some. I just want to win this tournament. There ain't nothing else to it. It's not about the money or anything but that I want to win. I plan to just leave it all in there. That's all I got. That's my state of mind right now. No excuses. Just go in there and fight."
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I just read your article concerning the Super Six tournament and agree with every observation you made as to the event's importance. If successful, this tournament has the potential to revolutionize the way the sport is run and really bring some badly needed mainstream media attention. Should other networks adopt the concept, it could crown recognizable champions and create compelling fights in every weight class. However, I'm a bit surprised at your pick to win the tournament. Andre Ward and is undoubtedly talented, but I find it hard to believe that his skills will suddenly translate to the elite level. I just don't see him escaping the iron fists and superior professional experience of Kessler and Abraham.
I think Andre is a star in the making and was on the verge of a breakthrough before the tournament was created. He best combines speed, power, boxing skills and athleticism, in my mind. Your two choices are very logical and I can't argue. I just think we're going to see something special now that Ward has been unleashed.
Hopefully, a successful Super Six tournament will lead to the format being applied to other weights to find the true champions in each class. I have one slight reservation of the format. Suppose Jermain Taylor "grows old overnight" or any other fighter decides that they don't have the heart or passion for it any more. They decide to retire after the first round of fights. What happens to the competition then?
Showtime says it has a backup plan in place. It won't replace a fighter for losing, because he'll be knocked out after three fights when the field is cut from six to four. But if a fighter chooses to retire or is injured long-term and can't continue in the event, Showtime will evaluate each situation as it arises.
I think your article and major points are great. In my humble opinion, though, you miss the predictions. Ward to win? Who has he fought? Kessler gave the great Joe Calzaghe a great fight, Abraham has beaten Miranda, and Froch has knocked out Taylor after being beaten up for most of the fight. Ward and Dirrell haven't fought anybody of note. Slick boxers can be great, but most are exposed when pressed and hit. Look for Kessler and Froch to come out on top.
Barry J. Friedman
Los Alamos, N.M.
Remember, Ward is an Olympic gold medalist and knows how to win. As a pro, he's been like the thoroughbred that has been held back by its jockey. But in this case, they've rounded the turn and are heading for home. And I think with the reins off, Ward is going to prove to be sensational. I admit that in a field like this, you can make a case for pretty much anyone. I'll stick with my original choice, though.
By far, the class of the field is Mikkel Kessler. He'll show Ward (and everyone else) what an elite middleweight is when they fight on Nov. 21.
Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany
It's hard to argue with Kessler's credentials, Chris. He's the odds on favorite entering the event.
I'm far less interested in a Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight than I am in seeing Mayweather against Shane Mosley. Pacquiao may be Mayweather's equal in hand speed, but what else will Manny bring to the table that Juan Manuel Marquez didn't have? He's still undersized. Mayweather's defense isn't going anywhere. Mayweather is still young and won't run out of gas. Mosley has a much better chance.
Your points are well-taken. If I were a betting man, though, and Pacquiao beats Miguel Cotto on Nov. 14, I'd bet a ton on Mayweather-Pacquiao being made. Any time you have two men with a legitimate claim to No. 1 pound-for-pound, you're going to have a huge event.
From reading your column on Juan Manuel Lopez, it sounds like you gave up on Miguel Cotto as one of the best who came out of Puerto Rico.
South El Monte, Calif.
I do believe he's right up there with the best who ever came from Puerto Rico. But I referenced fighters whose careers are finished. Cotto is still active and has much more to accomplish. I have huge respect for Cotto, his talent and his place in Puerto Rican boxing history.
I really like Kelly Pavlik and I love boxing to death. Being a boxing fan, I know that Paul Williams will punish Kelly. Kelly can punch, but he takes too many shots. Paul throws over 100 punches a round and he is a very good fighter. I do believe Williams will knock Kelly out. Kelly is too slow and flat-footed for a fighter like Williams.
I agree that Williams should win their Dec. 5 on HBO, but I doubt Williams will stop him. Pavlik is the power puncher. If Williams wins, it's almost certainly by decision.