by John Alutus: Come on, be truthful! Were you not more impressed with the improved, passionate, never-say-die Taylor than with the nice-and-steady, but not extraordinary Pavlik in their contested rematch last week? The fight confirmed Pavlik had still a while to go before he could be recognised as one of the best in the world. It also proved Taylor was very much the kind of fighter who comes back hungrier and better after defeat, his warrior’s pride intact. What a pleasant revelation!
It was a close fight and Taylor lost. Undoubtedly, however, he was the moral victor. Not only did he get back into the ring with Pavlik straight away, after the seventh round stoppage last September, but he took the best his nemesis had to offer until the final bell. In doing so, he also asked some pertinent questions of Pavlik’s defence and adaptability, many which remained unanswered.
This time around, Taylor did take the short straw from the judges. The way he reacted to their decision proved he could treat both triumph and disaster just the same. Another pleasant surprise!
So, whilst Pavlik failed to improve, Taylor fought himself bravely into the fold again. What next, for these two, now?
Well, for starters, forget Roy Jones Jr. or Felix Trinidad. Legends they may be, but their best days are long gone. At this stage in their respective careers, Pavlik and Taylor have proved too good to need to settle for such have-been greats. However, they have also shown they had a long way to go to become legends themselves, in their own right. Unlike Joe Calzaghe, for example, they are still very much climbing up the hill, so it is much too early for them to think of fighting faded all-time-greats. However, for them, unlike for the young Chad Dawson, for example, it is also too late to chase mere dragon shadows on the wall.
Thus, for Pavlik and for Taylor, it’s time to jump once more unto the breach, leaving thoughts of easy money, or resume-boosting trophy wins against faded legends to one side. Legacy-building fights is what they need to crave. To build a legacy you fight the current best, not the past greats.
One of the current best in the division where the real action is and where both aspire to fight at is Lucian Bute – the IBF Super Middleweight Champion. As the only other unifiable title holder, save Calzaghe, he is the most obvious first target for both Pavlik and Taylor, if they step up. The unbeaten 27-year old Romanian, a resident of Montreal, has proved himself a real long-term force at 168 lbs. In the last eight months, he beat a tough, relentless Sakio Bika who put in a career best performance and had just enough heart left to last twelve rounds. He also stopped dangerous, crafty, one-punch-KO artist Alejandro Berrio.
Fighting Lucian Bute for his Super Middleweight IBF belt would be a real test of fire for both Pavlik and Taylor. Even more, many good analysts agree Bute would be a bridge too far for both!
Take Pavlik for example. At 164 lbs he didn’t look as fast as at 160 lbs. His power doesn’t seem to carry that well either and he seems to do great damage mostly through volume-punching. Bute is fast. He has superior footwork and movement. He also has a very solid chin – he took some flush bombs on the chin from Berrio without flinching. So, how would Pavlik’s rather open defence fare with Bute’s jab and precise straight left? Could Pavlik take the punishment for twelve rounds? It isn’t obvious he could. His timing would certainly be upset and he wouldn’t be able to sit back on his punches as much as he is used to. My prediction: Bute TKO 9
As to Taylor, Bute’s fast southpaw style would cause him trouble, as Spinks, Ouma and Wright have shown. True, Taylor is faster and he does have a better jab, but he doesn’t have the power to hurt Bute either. He also tends to fade in the latter rounds. A big, strong super middleweight and good, disciplined tactician like Bute is bound to take advantage and try to stop him late, using his superior power, movement and footwork. My prediction: Bute KO 11, using a signature body-shot.
Would they fight him, though? Would he not be considered an unacceptable risk, given that he is quite unknown in the USA? It very much depends on the big American Networks. Pavlik and Taylor cannot fight forever at middle-weight, though and Bute is a rising star.
So, who will it be? Kelly Pavlik or Jermain Taylor? Who will take the Lucian Bute challenge first? I would say, if there was a highly-hyped American who had the courage to step up against Lucian Bute, that man would be Jermain Taylor. Back to you, HBO!