Boxing

Some people canít win; Jermain Taylorís middleweight career in retrospect

By Jason Peck - As a champion, Jermain Taylorís middleweight career was considered lackluster at best, marred by unconvincing victories and a failure to match up with Bernard Hopkinsí legacy. But the boxing world attacked him most relentlessly for his ultimate crime Ė not fighting career middleweights.

Now wait a minute here.Ö

Jermain Taylor His successor Kelly Pavlik will next fight Hopkins at a catch-weight of 170 pounds. Prior to that, Pavlikís most likely possibilities included junior middleweight contender Marco Antonio Rubio, welterweight champ Paul Williams, and junior middleweight champ Sergio Mora.

What if Taylor had granted these guys a title shot? I suspect he wouldnít have gotten Pavlikís welcome response.

Why should a welterweight get a title shot against Taylor without first proving himself at 160 pounds? What did Sergio Mora accomplish, aside from a reality TV show and a narrow decision over a middle-aged man? Marco Antonio Rubio name might draw a bead of recognition from some sports fans Ė until they realize they were thinking of Marco Barrera instead. And taking a catch-weight bout against a P4P opponent would be no better; Taylor would instead be accused of holding the titles in limbo. Odds are heíd even get stripped.

In short, Pavlik might soon be doing some of the things that earned Taylor such scorn. But Pavlik scored the knockouts and captured the working-class demographic. Heís the favorite child in the family, so a different standard applies. And that just doesnít sit well with me.

Pavlik fans will protest: Kellyís non-middleweight possibilities are different from Taylorís actual titles defenses. I agree wholeheartedly: Taylor was still taking much tougher opposition. This is not an opinion, by the way. Just compare the records:

During his short reign, Jermain Taylor defended against former undisputed junior middleweight champ Winky Wright, former junior middleweight champ Kassim Ouma, and former undisputed welterweight champ Cory Spinks.

I again stress that both Spinks and Wright had previously reigned as undisputed champs, having held belts from all three sanctioning bodies and the Ring Magazine title (pre-Golden Boy buy-out, no less!). In addition, Spinks had recently become a two-division champ with his victory at junior middleweight. Ouma had defended a world title as well, and had spent a considerable amount of time on the Ringís ratings.

Compare this to Paul Williams, who hasnít even made a successful title defense. Rubioís record may look impressive, but the opponents behind it arenít. Indeed, his few fights against real contenders are almost inevitably the ones he loses. Sergio Mora has little power, and narrowly defeated a man nearing middle age. And concerns over Hopkinsí well-being have been well-documented on this very website.

Taylor would be torn to pieces if he took any of these fights. Itís more of the same act that earned him such derision in the first place. With Pavlik, itís the kind of tough test a real champion would take. There might be some grumbling that thereís no Pavlik-Abraham super-bout, but overall heíll be excused.

Conversely, Iíd hate to see the reaction if had Taylor defended against Gary Lockett. It was a mandatory and it had to happen, but not even that excuse would get Taylor off the hook. If anything, heíd be chided for not growing a pair and vacating the titles.

This is nothing against either Pavlik or Taylor personally. Quite frankly, a fighterís say in whom he fights next is overrated. If anything, this ought to be against the matchmakers who put forward these fights. After all, wasnít it Lou DiBella who openly said that heíd match Taylor against nobodies?

But itís also against the sports fans, who continually hold two deserving fighters to such a double standard. I wasnít a big fan of Taylor when he was middleweight champ, but Iíve since realized that his career accomplishments deserve more respect. Otherwise, Pavlik should be getting less. And we canít have that, can we?

Article posted on 26.08.2008



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