Jermain Taylor has no business fighting for the IBF middleweight championship on Wednesday at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Miss., but not for the reason that most think.
Taylor, 36, briefly stepped away from boxing after getting pummeled by Arthur Abraham in his opening bout of the Super Six super middleweight tournament on Oct. 17, 2009, in Germany. That fight was the second straight loss by knockout for Taylor, who'd been stopped by Carl Froch in the 12th round of a super middleweight title bout on April 25, 2009.
Many begged Taylor to retire out of concern for his health after the violent loss to Abraham. He appeared to be slurring his words and didn't seem like he could take a punch any more.
His promoter, Lou DiBella, urged him to walk away and said in 2009 he couldn't support Taylor if Taylor fought again.
Like many fighters, though, Taylor couldn't walk away. A little more than two years later, he came back to stop lightly regarded Jessie Nicklow on Dec. 30, 2011.
As much as those who saw Taylor at his peak and those who cared for him didn't want to see him back, he was within his rights to do what he did.
He had been fully cleared medically by doctors at both the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic. Neither set of physicians saw a reason why Taylor shouldn't be licensed to fight.
However, there are still two major reasons why Wednesday's fight with champion Sam Soliman, which will be broadcast on ESPN2, shouldn't be happening.
The first is simply that he doesn't deserve to be fighting for a title.
No argument can reasonably be made that Taylor in any way earned the title shot. He's getting it because of the connections of his powerful manager, Al Haymon, and because he has name recognition that may help sell tickets in Mississippi and bring viewers to the ESPN2 broadcast.
In Taylor's four comeback fights, he's beaten Nicklow, Caleb Truax, Raul Munoz and J.C. Candelo. None of the four were regarded as contenders, or even a test. Munoz entered his match with Taylor on Oct. 12, 2012, with a 22-15-1 record. Candelo was 32-12-4 when he fought Taylor on Dec. 14, 2013, at the Alamodome in San Antonio.
Taylor hasn't been 160 pounds or under since he was stopped by Kelly Pavlik on Sept. 29, 2007, in Atlantic City, N.J. It's preposterous that he's regarded in any way as a contender, let alone the top contender, at middleweight.
The sad part of this joke is that if he defeats the nearly 41-year-old, light-hitting Soliman, Taylor's promoter and his manager will have to protect him and not let him face other elite middleweights. What are the chances, do you suspect, of DiBella or Haymon agreeing to pit him against WBA/WBO champion Gennady Golovkin if he were to beat Soliman?
Big money says that DiBella would walk away rather than to allow Taylor to face Golovkin.
So it's clearly ridiculous from a boxing standpoint that Taylor is fighting for a belt. These kind of "championship" matches do little other than devalue the title and pad the résumés of those who win them.
But what's worse is that Taylor will be fighting while out of jail on bail after being arrested on Aug. 26 and charged with first-degree domestic battery and aggravated assault after allegedly shooting his cousin.
Taylor was released on a $25,000 bail and was permitted by the judge to leave Arkansas to travel to Mississippi for the fight.
He's presumed innocent until proven guilty and he has yet to have his day in court.
Even if he's eventually cleared of all the charges – a woman in Taylor's home in Maumelle, Ark., called 911 on Aug. 26 to report an intruder – it's outrageous that the IBF would allow him to fight for its title.
Yes, it's happened many times before that fighters competed for championships while charged with crimes, including some very serious ones. But it's a privilege to fight for a world title – even for a shot he no doubt hasn't earned – and the IBF shouldn't reward him.
The IBF should have removed its championship sanction the moment Taylor was charged with two felonies. If Taylor and Soliman still wanted to compete in a non-title bout, that's their choice.
But boxing needs to have some sense of a moral code. It has none now, and really never has. It's about making money first, last and always.
Imagine, though, the hysteria, if Taylor had been a former All-Pro NFL player – and not a former world champion boxer – who had allegedly shot a man and had been charged with two felonies. The NFL facility would be surrounded with satellite trucks for weeks if such were the case. It would be the lead story on SportsCenter on an hourly basis.
It's boxing, though, and the fight is happening with nary a peep of protest.
If the IBF had any decency, it would have pulled its sanction. Such a move would have increased the value of its belt. By allowing Taylor to fight for the title with the charges pending, though, it makes a virtually worthless belt even more meaningless.
Taylor ultimately may not be guilty. One outcome is that it may be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he was actually innocent and acted in self-defense.
The time to allow him to fight for a world title, though, is after that happens, not before.
As it is, a guy who doesn't qualify to fight for a title and is facing two serious criminal charges is going to be given the opportunity of a lifetime.
It's beyond disgusting. But it's also boxing.