By Geoffrey Ciani: Boxing fans were treated to a great fight when middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik beat former champion Jermain Taylor in their rematch last weekend. Pavlik proved his first win was no fluke by winning the fight unanimously over twelve rounds of action. The deciding factor in the fight came down to consistency—throughout the contest, Pavlik was able to stick with his game plan and do the things he needed to do to win, while Taylor was unable to remain on the path to success..
In the first round, Taylor proved he was the superior athlete by dominating with his jab, but he was unable to do this consistently throughout the fight. I am reminded of the comment he made in HBO’s Countdown in the lead up to their first contest when Taylor stated: “I still have a great jab, I just don’t use it anymore.” That largely sums up the entire saga between these two great warriors. Taylor had all the physical tools to win, but sometimes, physical tools alone are not enough, especially if one fails to put forth a consistent effort.
It is rather fitting that, one week later, two exciting young middleweights will be fighting on the under card of the heavyweight unification bout between Wladimir Klitschko and Sultan Ibragimov. John Duddy and Joe Greene are both looking for strong performances to help make the case that each is ready for the next step. For Greene, that means a step up in competition to prove whether or not he will become a legitimate contender, and for Duddy, that means a possible title fight against the aforementioned Kelly Pavlik.
In his most recent contest, Duddy took a big step up in competition when he won a points decision over former contender Howard Eastman. This was a big win for Duddy, and one that certainly propels him into title consideration, especially when one considers he is a highly marketable commodity. Not only does Duddy possess an extremely loyal, sizeable fan base, but he also personifies what many fans love about the sport. He never takes a step back, is always looking to land a huge punch, and his lack of defensive prowess means he gets hit an awful lot, which makes for some very entertaining scraps.
“Mean” Joe Greene is the lesser known middleweight, but despite his young age, he is arguably the greater talent. I have been afforded several opportunities to watch Greene fight, and at first, he may not be the type of fighter who immediately catches your attention. However, the more you watch him, the better he seems, and for good reason. While Greene might not be extraordinary at any one facet of the fight game, he is consistently good at everything he does. He throws a sensational variety of punches, possesses outstanding ring generalship, and is as good defensively as he is at throwing leather. He also appears to be a very intelligent fighter who understands what he needs to do to win and his adaptability inside the ring makes him a very tricky foe.
I look forward to seeing how both of these middleweights perform this weekend, where I will be lucky enough to be seated at ringside for the historical heavyweight unification bout between two former Soviet fighters. A win for Greene should propel him to the next step in his quest towards contention. I think Greene might just be ready for the big time, and how he performs tomorrow night might determine how quickly he ascends through the ranks. A win for Duddy might well land him the coveted prize of a title shot against Pavlik. This should be a great night for boxing and a fairly important one for the future of the middleweight landscape.
So which of these two middleweights has a brighter future? If I had to venture a guess, I would say Greene, even though Duddy has more big fight experience and better name recognition. Duddy has an uncanny ability to get tagged flush with big shots, and I think this makes him the more limited commodity. To make a comparison with last week’s fight, where Pavlik was the more consistent fighter and Taylor the more athletic, I think Greene embodies the best of both worlds—he is more consistent and he is more athletic. Fans are probably more apt to recognize the name “John Duddy” than they are “Joe Greene”, but in time, I believe that will change, and that time might be sooner than many anticipate.
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