Pulling no punches

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – It's becoming a familiar refrain from Jermain Taylor.

Minutes after his ho-hum win at the FedEx Forum Saturday over Cory Spinks, he blamed the lackluster nature of the bout on Spinks' failure to engage him. It's the same thing he did after recent fights against Winky Wright and Bernard Hopkins.

He'll look good the next time, Taylor said, when the opponent isn't afraid of him.

"You can't win a championship by running," Taylor said dismissively of Spinks after capturing an oddly scored split-decision win over the light-punching son of the former heavyweight champion, Leon Spinks.

Gale Van Hoy scored the bout 117-111, or nine rounds to three, for Taylor. Dick Flaherty somehow saw it by the same score, except for Spinks. And Michael Pernick had it 115-113 for Taylor. Yahoo! Sports favored Taylor, 116-112.

Taylor joked about not being marked up for a change – "I can finally see out of both my eyes," he said after the bout – but that's where his problems lie. He does enough to win, but hardly to please.

Kelly Pavlik came to win and to please, and he did both exceptionally well.

Pavlik claimed an electrifying win over Edison Miranda in the opener of the HBO-televised card. He was clearly a better boxer than Miranda and could have played it safe, Taylor-style, and jabbed and moved his way to a decision win.

But Pavlik set out not only to win but to impress, leaving his promoter, Bob Arum, all but giddy after the carnage was stopped in the seventh round.

Pavlik earned the right to be Taylor's next challenger and Arum said he won't let anything get in the way of that bout occurring.

Pavlik defeated Jose Luis Zertuche on Jan. 27 in what was billed as a WBC eliminator. But after that bout, the WBC ruled Pavlik needed to defeat Miranda and promised the winner would be next up for a title shot.

"I have no reason right now to doubt the credibility of the World Boxing Council," Arum said as he prepared to do just that. "But if they screw around here and they don't immediately order a title fight based on Kelly winning two eliminators, we're not only going to the courts, we're going to the Congress of the United States."

Even the members of Congress know a good fight when they see it and Pavlik provided such a good fight he left you wanting more.

It was going to be hard for Taylor to match that, but he failed miserably in his attempt. "He did exactly what he came to do: hit, duck low and run," said Taylor, placing the blame on Spinks for the dull outing and not on his own shortcomings.

But Taylor didn't come to do what he said he was going to do. He moved forward stiffly and rarely heeded trainer Emanuel Steward's exhortations to punch in combination. He never found a way to pin his smaller opponent along the ropes, where he could have imposed his will upon Spinks.

He was a dead fastball hitter flailing helplessly at soft curves and sinkers. He not only failed to make adjustments during the fight, but he also hasn't really made any since his rematch victory over Bernard Hopkins in 2005.

"He's a great athlete and a very good boxer-puncher as opposed to a guy you'd just say is a great fighter," said Carl Moretti, a vice president in DiBella Entertainment, Taylor's promoter. "He's a terrific athlete and that athletic ability is what gets him over in fights."

Promoter Lou DiBella said he'd already spoken briefly with Arum about terms for a fight with Pavlik, and Arum seemed content that the fight will occur. DiBella dismissed any other challengers other than Pavlik or super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe as being in the mix, but it appears all but certain that Pavlik is on deck.

"I sure hope so," Pavlik said. "I hope that I did what I needed to do to get that fight."

To make a Taylor-Calzaghe fight work financially, the bout would have to be held in the United Kingdom, where a crowd of 50,000 or more could be reasonably expected for what would be a match between unbeaten champions.

Taylor clearly isn't enough of a draw in the States. The FedEx Forum, only a short drive from Taylor's Arkansas home, was only about half-full Saturday and DiBella admitted that he needs to take Taylor on the road.

He's likely to fight next in either Las Vegas or New York's Madison Square Garden.

Based on how Taylor has looked, if he were to go to the U.K. to meet Calzaghe, it's hard to envision him being any more successful than either Jeff Lacy or Peter Manfredo Jr., two Americans who got routed after taking on the underrated champion on his home turf.

Taylor is physically gifted enough to hang with Calzaghe and if that fight occurred, it would probably be a taut, ugly affair similar to his fights with Hopkins and Wright. But Taylor isn't skilled enough yet as a fighter to win that bout. He needs to take a look at what he's doing in his training camp because he's clearly stagnating.

As long as he keeps blaming others for his problems, though, things won't change.

The problem isn't with Bernard Hopkins or Winky Wright or Cory Spinks.

It's with Jermain Taylor. He needs to harness that vast athletic talent and quit pointing fingers in other directions.

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