'Call 'Em Out Fridays': The Future Of Jermain Taylor - A Return To Bad Intentions Or An Arrested Development?

boxing04.07.08 - By Vivek Wallace: In this weeks 'Call Em Out Fridays' segment we 'Call Out' a figure who once appeared destined from ultimate supremacy. A highly recognized talent in his early days landed him on the U.S. Olympic team in the year 2000 where he was awarded a bronze medal. From that point on, very few could ever dispute his greatness, or atleast that would be the case until he ran into a previously invisible bump in the road somewhere in Youngstown, Ohio. After so many years of greatness, the stellar reputation established had all of a sudden produced some not so positive thoughts about his future and his ability to correct his past. Today, like every other 'Call Em Out Fridays' segment, we analize the perspective of those who support Taylor - (The Fan Perspective), the perspective of those who don't - (The Critic Perspective), and after a brief look at my personal perspective, we let the readers chime in with theirs..

Jermain Taylor - (The Supportive Perspective): At one point, most would've been hardpressed to find a more highly touted boxing prospect than the young, speech impediment baring kid from the not always so positive grounds of Little Rock, Arkansas, better known as Jermain Taylor. A beast in the ring, the perfect gentleman outside of it, those in the sport would quickly take note of his presence, and those away from it would also soon take notice. His talent has always been a tier one level, and his heart in the ring would also leave no question. After an amateur career that saw him defeat the likes of Peter Manfredo Jr. and Anthony Hanshaw, he carried his talent to the professional ranks where he not only took on, but also defeated the likes William Joppy, Cory Spinks, and the rugged, yet somewhat undersized Kassim Ouma. Of all the great accomplishments he triumphed, none were individually greater than his two victories over a legendary fighter whose Championship tenure extended to one of the longest ever in the middleweight ranks, Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins. In his two fights with Hopkins, the very core of Taylor's heart was tested, but for every strong trying moment he encountered, he would respond with a valiant effort of his own, able to do enough in the minds of the scoring judges on both nights to seal both victories. Better than average speed, a better than average chin, and a heart that refused to back down all made Taylor a very formidable force in the ring. After amassing a 25-0 record, he would face the sports toughest puzzle to conquer, Ronald 'Winky' Wright. The fight ended in a draw, which made Wright the first 'mountain' that had proved too grand for Taylor to scale. It was at this point in which the questions started, and it would ultimately be a representative of Youngstown, Ohio who would go on in the minds of some to answer them.....

Jermain Taylor - (The Critics Perspective): When Jermain Taylor faced Kelly Pavlik, few had any true knowledge of exactly who Pavlik really was. A Jr. Golden Gloves victory on the welterweight level back in 1998, and a KO7 victory over Edison Miranda on the professional level was noteworthy to some, but barely a print in the sands among mainstream boxing fans. Flying low under the radar, Jermain Taylor, as well as those in attendance and viewing from home had no idea that his reign in fame was about to come to an abrupt end. The result of two fights against Pavlik was two losses, and an onslaught of questions as the once grand landscape of Taylors career suddenly became a very miserable terrain. Those who used to say he was unstoppable, suddenly left him open and subjected to questions about his perceptually flawed fundamental skills, his inability to overcome brute strength, and his ineffectiveness when countering a fighter who was in their prime that possessed a heart that was as strong and determined as his. Adding to these questions about his performance in the ring was his actions outside of it, where he fired famed trainer Emanuel Steward after previously failing to follow corner instructions during a couple fights. Those who had never previously hopped on the 'Taylor Train' used this sudden fall from graces to prove their point that Taylor was a 'media child' who was never quite as good as the media portrayed, but had a good story and was a wholesome image, and subsequently received the benefit of the doubt as a result. Other major criticisms were that this 'love' of the media helped him receive decisions in certain fights, particularly the first Hopkins fight and the loss-nullifying draw in the Winky Wright fight. Many on the critical side of Taylors fence felt that Wright was not strong enough offensively and that Hopkins was too old and energy limited to handle Taylors youth, but always felt that a prime stallion would easily dethrone the man known as "Bad Intentions", and in the end, they were proven to a certain degree to be right. Not only did Taylor lose, but he lost the first fight decisively (KO7) to a man whose talent visually is not even close, which gave skeptics even more room to talk. A face to face, straight ahead, pummeling type fighter, Kelly Pavlik shed new light on those now open concerns, and to this day, many wonder does Taylor have what it takes to respond and carry on.....

Jermain Taylor - (An Objective Perspective): Like anything else in life, there are three sides to every story. The Pro's, the Con's, and the Truth. The truth in this matter I personally think entails a little of both perspectives. While Jermain Taylor was definitely supported in a high fashion by most of us media, he often used his talent and natural athleticism in the ring to give credence to that support. As far as the fundamental argument goes, one can easily argue that his pure talent does not rival that of a young Roy Jones Jr., or a Floyd Mayweather Jr., which is clearly true, but to say that he isn't talented I think is a bit far-fetched. Certain fundamental flaws like less than average lateral movement and an ability to keep his off hand up as a guard at critical points don't help, but even with those flaws, he was able to conquer the first 25 men he encountered in the ring which can never be taken lightly. The old adage states that styles make fights, and clearly, Pavlik's style makes for a very difficult fight against a guy with the flaws that Taylor has. Does that mean that Taylor won't get the nod against other formidable foes?, I think that's clearly unfair to say. He doesn't possess KO power at his current middleweight level, but that's why we have a points system with judges in the sport that has worked on the 13 nights (out of 27 total) that his power wasn't sufficient enough to end the fights sooner. Bottomline, Taylor may never be that purely skilled fighter with an uncanny defense and lightning quick speed, but his current attributes are more than a great deal of the middleweight division can handle which tells me that physically he will be able to make the adjustments. It's the mental game that one has to question now. Can he overcome two consecutive humbling losses? Can he stand in the face of adversity, feel an opponents power, and not unravel like a childs Christmas gift in the early a.m.? Can he regain the confidence that he once had? Everyone of the great ones of yesterday in the sport all encompassed that "No-Questions-For-The-Presence-No-Regrets-From-The-Past" swagger. Aside from Rocky Marciano, none of them retired undefeated which means all of them had to conquer this same obstacle. If Taylor can fall in line with them in accomplishing this feat, he too will go back to delivering 'bad intentions'. If he can't, he'll be that proverbial 'arrested development', symbolizing a potentially great fighter that could have been but never was. At some point in the future time will tell, but for now, only God and Jermain Taylor know the answers. Stay tuned.

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Article posted on 05.07.2008

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