'Call Em Out Fridays': Jermain Taylor - Relevant, or an Arrested Development?

Abraham vs TaylorBy Vivek Wallace - In a little over a week from now, the sport of boxing will get another glimpse at a man who many feel has failed to live up to the hype once associated with his name. Not too long ago he was viewed as today's man of tomorrow, blending not only a patented bright smile and a deep south set of mannerisms, but also a strong set of talent designed specifically to halt all competitors, hence the name "Bad Intentions". In the beginning, to an extent, we all marveled the direction he appeared to be destined to reach. Gritty determination, fluidity of the jab, good accuracy, and adequate power in both hands were all present signs of a champion in the making, and for the first half of his well chronicled career we saw them all well on display. Despite the initial prognosis, recent times in the career of the young Jermain Taylor have shown us that things don't always go as planned, and as good as he is, he appears to have been no exception from this rather painful truth. Twenty-three straight victories over the likes of both cupcakes and conquerors never left room for questions until he met the reigning middleweight king, Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins was a man that left many with questions, yet none with answers. His uncanny ability to use an old-school set of defensive skills, paralleled with one of the sharpest minds in the game presented Taylor with major issues to confront just like everyone else in his past. But, despite the ebb and flow and rather hotly contested showdowns, in the end, it was Taylor who walked away from the ring with his arm raised, and his "W" column elevated..

The questions surrounding Taylor - born in the two-fight series against Hopkins - would only be the start, as many began to openly wonder exactly how great the rising star actually was. Similar to what Manny Pacquiao is now faced with himself, critics began to openly view Taylor as a man who could take a good punch and easily overcome a few other extremely great ring attributes from a growing list of 'oldies-but-goodies', but the looming question of "how he would fare against a fighter who was both solid and still in his prime" was more prominent than ever. Immediately following the Hopkins series, Taylor took on perhaps another one of the best fundamental defensive fighters of his era in Ronald 'Winky' Wright. Those questions mounting in the background would only intensify as Taylor failed yet again to seize the moment in a convincing manner, fighting to a draw with a man who was also well versed, but quite aged in comparison, as well. Lackluster consecutive appearances in two subsequent fights against men more youthful, but considerably smaller, (Spinks and Ouma), was to many the true breaking point, as it was in some ways official that Taylor was a fighter whose hype was nowhere near a parallel to his actual ability. Whether that was indeed true or not could be debated at the time, but his first true test against a young, still-in-prime fighter would remove all doubt, as the young Taylor fell and fell hard.....literally....after being KO'd at the hands of Kelly Pavlik. Since suffering that loss, Taylor has gone 1-2, and that initial gut feeling that he would be a perennial world class contender has never been the same.

With 32 fights under his belt and a set of critics who need more proof than politics, suddenly, Taylor has found himself with his back against the wall. Like anything else in life, he probably isn't as good as we once felt, but to the contrast, he surely isn't as bad either. His last lost at the hands of Carl Froch showed us exactly how delicate the Jermain Taylor conundrum really is. Leading on nearly all score cards, Taylor found himself out of energy and technically, at the doorstep of being out of a career, losing in another stunning KO. What was lost in the last minute heroics of his opponent was the fact that Taylor had actually fought one of his best fundamental fights to date. To put it in lighter terms, an extra bowl of Wheaties or a few more sips of that red-bull in the locker room on fight night and chances are, this conversation quickly goes from Taylor having his back against the wall, to Taylor being one more big win away from reclaiming his initial position in the sport. So, no question, regardless of what the critics say, Taylor is still closer to contention than any of them would ever go on record to suggest. A victory over Arthur Abraham would certainly go a long way to repair that image, and to be truthful, it isn't the longshot many think it'll be. Kelly Pavlik packs arguably one of the biggest punches we've seen in the middleweight division in recent years, yet he has failed to truly hurt one opponent in two shots above that limit, as evidenced in his fights with both Taylor and Hopkins, where both times he walked away feeling that something in his performance was missing. That being said, Abraham now has to prove that he can do what Pavlik couldn't. Which is demonstrate the ability to carry his power to the super-middleweight level. He showed glimpses against Miranda, but Taylor is no Miranda, and boxes far better. We know that Abraham's stamina will be there, but facing a Jermain Taylor who knows his days could be numbered, and exchanging home-field advantage for a disadvantage by way of a few natural pounds could prove to be a tougher mountain to climb than his somewhat untested boots are equipped to handle. Entering this fight, there are many questions, like always.....But when it's over, I think it's safe to say the biggest one of them all will be answered. That question......Is Jermain Taylor still relevant, or simply an arrested development?

Tune in next week to find out.

(Vivek Wallace can be reached at, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEK747), Facebook and Myspace)

Article posted on 10.10.2009

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