Pavlik vs Taylor II: Jermain Taylor Ready For Kelly Pavlik

By Matthew Hurley: As Jermain Taylor, 27-1-1 with 17 KOs makes his final preparations for his much anticipated rematch with Kelly Pavlik, 32-0 with 29 KOs the Arkansas fighter insists that his willingness to step back in the ring against a man who knocked him cold in the seventh round of their first go round has more to do with an opportunity lost than mending his perceived shattered ego..

Taylor has heard the comments from some fans and media scribes that by invoking the rematch clause in the initial contract for his September 2007 middleweight title defense against Pavlik that he may be cashing out because a second consecutive loss would seemingly end his career. For those who view him as damaged goods his engaging Pavlik a second time at 166 pounds with the middleweight titles not on the line, though valiant has the earmarks of a fighter looking to bank that one last big paycheck.

Taylor bristles at the notion.

ďA lot of people have said to me, why donít you take a tune-up (fight) and get your confidence back,Ē he said in a recent press release. ďI donít need a tune-up to get my confidence back, I never lost my confidence. I can beat Kelly Pavlik.Ē

Therein lies what many people have forgotten about this oft-criticized boxer. Where recent performances may have been lacking, his fighting spirit has never wavered. If those who continue to marginalize his accomplishments would stop for a moment and look at who he fought in succession Taylor can actually be viewed as heroic. After beating the long reigning middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins for the title he did not have to take an immediate rematch, particularly against a savvy veteran who gave him all he could handle. But he did. The two men again fought closely with Taylor handing Hopkins a second defeat. Even though many thought both fights could have gone either way the young Taylor proved to be a tough middleweight who could conceivably only get better as he matured.

Instead of taking on a lesser opponent in his next bout Taylor chose to meet a fighter no one wants to fight in southpaw Winky Wright. In another closely contested, heated battle Taylor escaped with a draw. The result of this fight was when the criticism of Jermain started to become more vocal. His willingness to lie on the ropes when he was more successful in the center of the ring pointed to a strange regression on his part. His unwillingness to listen to trainer Emanuel Steward indicated that there was perhaps a more serious problem in his camp. Steward is now gone, replaced by mentor Ozell Nelson. His two subsequent bouts, both against southpaws and lighter weight fighters in Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks (who makes everyone look bad) drove what remaining fans he had left away from him. After the Spinks bout, a dreadful affair, even his loyal fan base in his home state of Arkansas abandoned him.

So the prideful fighter did what a true champion does. He signed to fight the toughest, hardest hitting fighter in the division in the hope that a great performance would wipe away some of the tarnish that had accumulated on his fistic veneer. What resulted was a fight of the year candidate, with Taylor coming close to getting what he wanted when he battered Pavlik to the canvas in the second round. That window of opportunity closed on him when Pavlik recovered and Taylor, befitting a champion, absorbed a brutal beating in the seventh round before going out on his shield. The effort, though certainly disappointing for the former champion, not only brought his fans back into the fold but reminded his many critics of just how exciting a fighter Taylor can be. It also reminded Taylor that his warrior spirit still beats furiously in his heart and that given a second chance he may be able to open that window of opportunity once more and gain revenge on the fighter who took his title from him.

ďI choose to do this rematch because I want to beat the guy who beat me. I donít want to waste anytime with any tune-up fights. Thatís what the fans want to see.Ē

Taylor then mentions that second round, which has apparently haunted him since the middleweight belts were strapped around Pavlikís waist.

ďThis time when I get him in trouble I will finish him off. He wonít get back up. I have no excuses, I lost the fight and I give Kelly Pavlik all the credit. I took him for granted. I underestimated him and I learned something from the loss. Iím not taking anything away from him, but Iím coming to get back everything he took from me. Iím very focused for this fight, everything is on the line with me for this fight.Ē

Everything but the middleweight titles.

The February 16th rematch between Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor will be broadcast by HBO pay-per-view, beginning at 9:00 pm ET/6 pm PT. The fight will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Tickets are priced at $600, $400, $300, $200 and $100 and are on sale at the MGM Grand box office or by calling (800) 929-1111 and can also be purchased through Ticketmaster, (702) 474-4000. Tickets are limited to eight per person.

Article posted on 13.02.2008

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