Monday, February 11, 2008

Jermain Taylor Has 96 Ounces of Hope

Jermain "Bad Intentions" Taylor, former middleweight champion of the world, is telling anybody with ears that the main reason he lost the title to Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik back in September was because he just couldn’t make the division limit of 160-pounds anymore.

Taylor was handed his first loss and was knocked senseless by Pavlik in less than seven rounds when he was pinned in a corner and slowly slumped to floor under a vicious hailstorm of punches. Referee Steve Smoger didn't even bother to count when he jumped in to save Taylor and pull the rabid dog that was Pavlik off of him.

Taylor's undoing was one of the most complete and convincing defeats suffered by a young, undefeated champion in recent memory.

But Jermain Taylor claims that everything will be OK now, at least as far as he's concerned. Taylor figures the additional six pounds, or 96 ounces that he will be allowed to carry into the Las Vegas ring with him on Saturday night at the MGM Grand is going to make all the difference in the world. This time, Taylor believes he'll be standing over Pavlik – instead of the other way around.

The crystal ball that Jermain Taylor is gazing into reveals to him that if he weighs 166 pounds - instead of 160 - then all of his problems with Kelly Pavlik will simply vanish and he can move on with his life.

Most fighters who get knocked out in the manner that Taylor did will usually schedule a tune-up fight (or two) before jumping right back into the lion's den with the same cat that scratched them up. But Taylor claims the reason he decided to claw his way into an immediate rematch is, "to get back what I lost" and to show the world that the first fight was simply an aberration.

Jermain Taylor is saved by the referee as Pavlik celebrates his win at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey back in September 2007.

But even if he wins, Taylor will not win back his middleweight belts as this fight is a non-title affair being contested at 166 pounds. It's the magical weight number that Taylor and his brain trust had inserted into the rematch clause and written into the contract for their first fight which was negotiated in the event that Taylor lost.

Jermain claims that "for a long time" it's been nearly impossible for him to fit his growing body into a 160-pound suit and he thinks that a size larger, at 166, will be a better fit for him and give him some much needed elbow room.

Taylor says that after he had Pavlik on the deck and very nearly out in the second round of their first fight that he suddenly "got tired" and "didn't have the confidence" in his physical conditioning that he needed to finish Pavlik off. Sweating down to 160, he thinks, drained him.

As a result of the loss, Taylor jettisoned hall of fame trainer Emanuel Steward because "we didn't click" and instead has long-time friend, father figure and amateur trainer Ozell Nelson holding up the pads with a towel draped over his shoulder at their "secluded" training camp in Las Vegas.

Taylor hasn't had much fun over the past few years when it has been his turn to step on the scales.

Meanwhile, in Youngstown, Ohio it's business as usual for the middleweight champion of the world, Kelly Pavlik and the only trainer he has had since he first laced up a pair of gloves as a skinny nine-year old, Jack Loew.

Loew, a great observer of styles and challengers, as well as the capabilities of his man, has thoughts on the changes that Taylor has made.

"The rap on Taylor was he brought all his bad habits from his amateur days - he gets amateurish in the fights," says the burr headed Loew who is the owner-operator of an asphalt sealing business. "Ozell Nelson is the one that taught him all that. So I just want to thank Jermain for bringing the guy back that taught him all the bad habits."

But what about the extra six pounds, the firing of Steward and the moving of his training to Las Vegas where he can focus and get away from the distractions of his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas? Those are the questions that many fire at Loew.

"Jermain can do whatever he wants," answers the confident and glowing trainer who is relishing his role as the strategist behind the world's best middleweight. "He can run Mount Charleston every day out there. We’re coming to fight, we’re prepared and there’s nothing he could change that’s going to do anything to us. It just goes back to the amateur part of Jermain Taylor coming out. He was swinging like an amateur, looked like a novice fighter swinging at Kelly and he blew it. So that said, that’s what it was."

Pavlik and Loew have trained, as they always do, at the Southside Boxing Club in Youngstown, Ohio. Pavlik says he's well prepared to meet Taylor again.

Taylor and his supporters are making a big deal of the fact that he won't have to struggle to make 160 pounds this time around and that he'll be stronger because of it. While that may be true, Pavlik, who is taller with a longer wingspan than Taylor, also has a rough time looking down at the scales to see 160 and he's very happy to have six pounds to play with as well. Pavlik says, "This time I can eat," and he figures he'll be stronger and faster with the extra weight, too.

So how does Kelly see this fight playing out?

"It all depends on his style and how I stick to my game plan," says the reserved Pavlik who has never been one to boast or make outlandish predictions.

"I don’t know how he’s going to react from that knockout. It was a stoppage. It was a pretty wicked knockout and neurologically I don’t know how’s he going to respond. I don’t know mentally if he’s going to be hesitant, if he’s going to come out firing. But, as you know, we prepare for anything. We prepare for everything that Jermain’s coming with. We’ll be prepared for him to come out banging. We prepare for him to come out boxing. So it’s just all on the 16th we’ll find out. One thing we do know, that obviously he took this fight that quick, so he really wants to redeem himself. So, we can’t take nothing lightly."

No, Kelly Pavlik can't take anything lightly at all, because Jermain Taylor is going to weigh 96 more ounces this time.

February 2008

1 comment:

nmn said...

great article! my boyfriend and i will be there on saturday cheering on the ghost. this is going to be another great fight!