Jermain Taylor: World Class, Sure, All-Time Great, Not Quite

Jermain TaylorBy Coach Tim Walker Ė There is little doubt that Jermain Taylor is one of the best boxers in the world. Fact is you canít beat Bernard Hopkins twice and not be considered at least amongst the worldís best. Besides his boxing skill he is well spoken, fairly charismatic and seems to be a decent hard working family oriented guy. He is a decorated amateur having won both the US Amateur Championship and the National Golden Gloves in consecutive years.

Couple that with his 2000 Olympic Bronze medal sin and add a professional career that has earned him multiple versions of the middleweight championship and youíve got to acknowledge that he is a solid fighter. Outside the boxing ring his charitable involvement is evident in the time he devotes and the checks he writes. But for all his achievements in and outside the ring he is still vastly neither appreciated nor esteemed.

Though successful in many areas he routinely falls short on the litmus test that virtually every other time tested all-time great boxer passes. What then is his monumental slip-up? Itís simple; he failed to make us really care about his success or failure as a fighter. Sure most boxing fans know his name but how often do we speak of him with overwhelming affection or an embellished appreciation for his boxing prowess? Not as often as we should.

A good portion of the disdain that some fans have for Taylor can be found buried in his boxing resume. It is the norm for fighters to have opponents served up to them at the beginning of their careers so we are not surprised to read a list of sub-level fighters in his first ten bouts. As required, we impartially endured his ascent through the badlands of boxing. But Taylor is a former Olympic medalist. This very credential denotes that his skill level is higher than many fighters and it makes us expect and require more of him.

If we give him, being an Olympian, the first ten bouts to get into the swing of the pros then surely he would challenge himself in his next ten. Right? Not quite. His next ten bouts were spent facing naturally smaller, not yet ready or obviously less talented boxers. This stretch of fights seems to have displaced him in fanís minds. We wanted more. We asked for more. We got very little.

Fans donít ask for much except competitive bouts and an occasional stir of greatness. Absolute greatness is what we never got from Taylor. In his last eight fights he is 5-2-1. This isnít bad but it isnít all-time great world class especially when you consider that two of his last eight fights were against Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks. Two excellent fighters in their own right but both of whom also began their pro careers at 147 and 140 pounds respectively. Isnít talented but naturally smaller his MO? Remove those two bouts from his last eight and he is 3-2-1 against world class opposition. That is certainly not what we expect of him.

To make it plain, Taylor has not done as much as we would like. Sure he is scheduled to face Carl Froch but we donít speak of Taylor in terms of greatness. His legacy, if any, is attached to other fighters and as a result is dependent upon his competitionís success or failure. He is the guy that beat Bernard Hopkins twice, and the guy who lost to slightly known, at the time, Kelly Pavlik twice, and the guy who beat a not quite ready for the big-time Daniel Edouard, and the guy who fought to a draw with ultra-talented but downward sloping Winky Wright. Not quite a legacy indeed.

Maybe he is a victim of his success, or a product of clever marketing, or a reluctant opportunist. Regardless of what he may be he has not proven to be what many of us hoped he would become. Letís hope that battles similar to his scheduled bout with Froch are more representative of his future and not just another cross-reference in his career. It is regrettable that such a talented fighter seems fulfilled as a footnote to other boxerís careers.

Article posted on 04.04.2009

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