Pavlik vs Taylor: Can Jermain Taylor Silence His Critics?

By Madra Uladh: When Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor climb into the ring for their much-anticipated February 16th rematch, it will be Taylor who has arguably more at stake. He has had his middleweight titles lifted by way of brutal knockout at the hands of Pavlik last September. The rematch will be held at the catch-weight of 166 lbs, hence no titles will be on the line. But even without the belts being at stake, Taylor can ill afford to lose to Pavlik a second time, especially at the more comfortable weight he requested. Another loss would severely hurt his standing, not to mention his earning power..

When these two first met last September, Taylor knocked Pavlik down in the second round and seriously stunned the undefeated challenger. He seemed to be on his way to an early victory, but he was unable to capitalize on the stubborn Pavlik, allowing him to recover and eventually turn the tables on Jermain, only with more decisive results.

The fight was exciting and competitive, right up until the stoppage. I had it scored four rounds to two in favor of Taylor, as had two of the judges. The remaining judge called it five to one, also for Taylor. Given the displeasure expressed by many Pavlik fans at these scorecards, I believe many saw the fight unfold according to their expectations and their preference of fighter.

When Taylor defeated Bernard Hopkins by split decision in July, 2005 to win the middleweight title, many diehard Hopkins fans were upset because it had been a close fight and they felt Taylor had failed to do enough to take away the title from the sentimental favorite. Others felt Bernard perhaps took Taylor too lightly and just wasnít busy enough to get the decision. At any rate, Bernard got an immediate rematch the following December. The second result was a unanimous decision for Taylor. Those unhappy the first time around continued to gripe about the outcomes, some even seeing the hand of HBO at work in some kind of conspiracy. The truth is, both fights were very close and either one could have gone either way by one point. Two draws would also have been within the realm of reason.

Since then, Taylor has had more than his fair share of detractors. When Winky Wright fought him to a draw, the same calls of robbery were heard. When he failed to stop Kassim Ouma (still winning by a good margin) and win a split decision over Cory Spinks, the name-calling intensified.

Rising middleweight star Edison Miranda was heralded by many as the Ďpeoplesí Championí, reflecting the antipathy that many felt towards Taylor. But when Miranda faced Pavlik last May for the right to a title shot, he was looking past the very formidable Pavlik and paid the price for that oversight, getting knocked out in the seventh round, and remaining sidelined since then.

This set the scene for last Septemberís Taylor-Pavlik bout. Those who felt Taylor was undeserving of his status could hardly wait for his demise. And given Pavlikís unexpected victory over Miranda, many sensed the birth of a new star. As already mentioned, Pavlik delivered, but not before giving his fans and (and the Taylor detractors), some moments of serious concern.

Kelly must be regarded as the favorite in this one. He has tasted Jermainís power and come back to win. He has already knocked Jermain out in very decisive fashion. This gives him a significant mental edge.

Taylor has exercised the immediate rematch clause in his contract and parted ways with well-known trainer Manny Stewart, ending a partnership that many said wasnít working. He has been training hard for this fight, a must-win for him if his career is to continue at the top level of the sport. He has superior boxing fundamentals and has faced much better opposition than Pavlik. If he can overcome the psychological disadvantages, and if heís hungry enough, he is certainly capable of winning a unanimous decision. If he hurts Kelly again, and remains more unruffled and focused than last time, he is capable of scoring a knockout.

Whatever the outcome, Saturdayís bout should prove exciting.

Article posted on 15.02.2008

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