Today Meldrick Taylor celebrates his 53rd birthday. The former Olympic gold medal winner and two-time world champion had an amazing career, his brilliance in the ring wowing fans in the 1980s and ’90s. Possessing super-fast hands, Taylor of Philly seemed headed for greatness. Today, however, Taylor is known for one fight above all others – a fight he lost.
Mention Meldrick’s name today and it’s nigh on impossible not to think about his epic (surely the only adequate word to describe the fight) battle with Julio Cesar Chavez. It was brutal, it was punishing, it was controversial – it was unforgettable. Chavez, behind on points, somehow, in a scene that, if it had been put forward in a movie script, would have been laughed off for being far too unrealistic, came back to stop Taylor with just two-seconds left in the fight.
Much has been written over the years about whether or not referee Richard Steele made the right call in that 12th and final round. Yet today, sadly, Taylor is unable to hide the effects his tough career had on him. Badly slurred speech might not be the worst of Meldrick’s health problems. But despite the fact that too many wars caught up with him, Taylor, in the opinion of some, should have been allowed to carry on for those final two seconds, that if he had been allowed to continue, victory would have been his.
Instead, Taylor is forever known as the potentially great fighter who was “two seconds from glory.”
The fight from March 17th of 1990 was a damaging affair indeed.Taylor had a bad cut inside his mouth that led to his swallowing a significant amount of blood, he was also badly swollen around the face and eyes ( the result of a broken eye socket) and Taylor was suffering from badly bruised kidneys and dehydration. All this despite the fact that he was winning the fight. On points. Taylor was way ahead going into the final round yet, incredibly, both of his chief corner men – Lou Duva and George Benton – gave him instructions to fight hard and make sure he won the last session of the fight. Had Taylor danced and stayed away, victory would surely have been his. But he did as he was told and this gave Chavez a chance. A chance the Mexican legend took, in so doing elevating his own legend to the stratosphere.
Taylor, as we all saw, bravely beat the count at about five but then insufficiently convinced Steele of his capability of continuing. Taylor seemed to look away to his right (it was later revealed how he had been distracted by his trainer Lou Duva who had ascended the ring apron at this time) and the third man waved the fight off. Chavez had won, somehow, with a mere two seconds remaining. Should the fight have been permitted to go on then? This is a question fight fans are still asking themselves today, almost 30 years on from the fight. One of the greatest, most astonishing and most controversial of all-time.
Happy birthday, Champ.