Taylor Keeps Title Via Draw : Wright Or Wrong?

19.06.06 - By Don Dougan There’s an old saying – “You can’t please everyone." This holds true in boxing as much or more than any other sport. Take Jermain Taylor, for example. With the exception of Oscar De La Hoya, boxing hasn’t had a superstar that’s transcended the sport since Ray Leonard caught America’s attention as an Olympian in 1976. Leonard took boxing to another level after turning professional, most notably in his fights with Roberto Duran in 1980, Thomas Hearns in 1981 and Marvin Hagler in 1987.. While Leonard had many detractors and critics, no one could argue his popularity and few could argue his talent and tremendous will to win. Yet, there are fans that contend he lost (or was losing) fights in which he officially won. De Lay Hoya also has his share of critics, but even they must give him credit for his accomplishments in and now out of the ring.

What’s sad is that boxing fans are so critical, that unless a boxer fights like Arturo Gatti, all that’s discussed is wins or losses. Too often, a fighter’s performance or accomplishments are overlooked or not discussed.

In his brief career, Jermain Taylor has already experienced this.

In two fights with Bernard Hopkins, “Taylor Haters” refuse to give the young Razorback, who hails from Little Rock, Arkansas, credit for fighting well against one of the greatest middleweights in history. Hopkins’ domination of Antonio Tarver last week proved he was far from a shot fighter. Additionally, Hopkins has been known as one of the top two most difficult fighters to “look good” against. Who is the other? Winky Wright.

Can you name anyone who has “looked good” against Winky Wright or Bernard Hopkins in the last seven years or so, much less fought them well enough to come close to winning? Not since Roy Jones’ win over Hopkins in 1993 has anyone really come close to beating Hopkins. Not since Fernarndo Vargas’ (highly disputed) win over Wright in 1999 has anyone come close to beating Wright. Both Hopkins and Wright are known for making fighters look bad, amateurish and completely taking them out of their game plan.

While Taylor didn’t dominate in either fight with Hopkins or in last night’s fight with Wright, he certainly gave a very good account of himself and definitely did enough in each fight to put himself in a position to win. Sure, he faded in the first fight with Hopkins. He should have dominated more in the second fight, possibly even going after the knockout. Sure, a lot of his punches against Wright were blocked – that’s Winky’s game. However, unlike so many others, Taylor didn’t get so discouraged that he stopped throwing punches or got completely away from his game.

Whether you feel Taylor won or lost either of his last three fights, the fact remains he fought two excellent, professional, skilled and veteran fighters who have made a living out of not just dominating their opponents, but making them look foolish in the ring. While Taylor still has many areas in which he must improve, such as balance, keeping his left up and fighting inside, he did more than hold his own against two of the most difficult fighters to look good against today.

As far as last night’s fight, I scored it a draw when I watched it live. However, after watching it a second time, I scored it 115-113 for Taylor. Round 10 was a microcosm of the entire fight. Both fighters threw their share of flurries and combinations. There is no question that Taylor’s punches were harder and did more damage. While Wright displayed his tremendous defensive skills and blocked or picked off a large amount of punches, there were still plenty that got through and landed. While Taylor was off balance several times, he also sat down on his punches well and found a way to penetrate Wright’s excellent turtle-like defense. He landed several left hooks and some outstanding body shots. Wright landed his jab cleanly often throughout the fight. He too, landed some straight lefts and combinations. However, his punches didn’t have the snap or effect that Taylor’s did.

Both fighters were marked up after the fight. Wright started swelling and showing the effects of Taylor’s punches as early as the fourth round. It was in the eighth that Taylor’s left eye started to swell – and an unintentional head butt in the same round accelerated the process. By the 11th round, Taylor was noticeably turning his head to see Wright as his left eye was nearly completely shut.

Much was made of Wright not fighting in the final round. Although he won the round on one of the three judges scorecards, if he would have pulled it out on the other two judges cards, he would have won a majority decision. Taylor didn’t fight the last round with the intensity necessary and that the fans would have liked to see either. It was a puzzling and disappointing ending to an entertaining fight.

Wright stated after the fight that he did not want a rematch with Taylor. I suspect after the frustration and anger subsides, Winky will definitely be interested in a second fight with Taylor. While it was a tough fight for him (he shook his head “no” and smiled many times throughout the fight, which means you were just hit by most fighters’ accounts), contrary to what most fans believe, fighters don’t “fear” other fighters.

One gets the impression from Taylor that while he is a prideful man and wants to win, getting better and performing at his best is his main concern. There’s something a bit different about him – more than the obvious “yes sir” and “no sir” politeness. More than the country music and jacked up pickup trucks. While most fighters are only concerned with winning and money, Taylor strikes you as one of the rare fighters who know there’s more to it than that. Thomas Hearns was just as concerned as the fans getting a great show as he was with winning. While I’m not ready to anoint Taylor to that status, he definitely seems to be more concerned with whether or not he gave the best performance he could than winning. Taylor definitely hasn’t learned the art of playing the judges and crowd and showing his confidence by raising his hands, smiling or jumping on the ropes to give the impression he knows he won the fight. While that doesn’t seem to be in his personality, it appears it’s due more to him criticizing his own performance and feeling he could perform better than to whether or not he felt he won or lost.

He appears to understand the game, know the fighters themselves can only perform at their best and the rest is in the judges hands (if there’s no knockout). He has a respect for the sport and is extremely humble for a professional athlete – especially a fighter.

Will he ever achieve the lofty status of a Ray Leonard or Oscar De La Hoya? It’s doubtful. However, boxing is constantly getting ridiculed for much of what goes on behind the scenes and those involved, not to mention the fighters themselves. While the public isn’t often exposed to the good guys in the sport, here’s hoping they’ll get to know Jermain Taylor better.

Wright or wrong, win or lose, he’s good for the sport.

Article posted on 19.06.2006

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