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Is There Another Middleweight Title in Jermain Taylor's Future?

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On April 20th, former Linear Middleweight Champion Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor (29-1-1 with 18 KOs) will face undefeated middleweight Caleb Truax (18-0-1 with 10 KOs) on a Showtime televised card from Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi.

The card also features Erislandy Lara (15-1-1 with 10 KOs) vs. Ronald Hearns (26-2 with 20 KOs). This will be Taylor’s second comeback fight following a near 2 year layoff which was much needed given the fact that he had been knocked out in three of his previous five bouts. In his first comeback fight last December, Taylor looked decent while stopping journeyman Jessie Nicklow.

Four and a half years ago, Taylor was on top of the world. He had twice dethroned ring legend Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2 with 32 KOs) putting an end to his amazing streak of 20 consecutive middleweight title defenses. After winning a rematch with Hopkins, Taylor had entered the Ring magazine top 10 pound for pound rankings. He was being talked about as a potential Hall of Famer and had one of the sports best jabs, along with ample athleticism, very good power, and excellent hand speed.

On September 29th, 2007 he faced fellow undefeated fighter Kelly Pavlik and in one of the division’s most exciting donnybrooks, and was knocked out in the 7th round after dropping Pavlik early in the fight and almost finishing him before punching himself out. He lost the catch-weight rematch via unanimous decision and subsequently moved up to super middleweight and lost two out of the three fights, two of them by 12th round knockout. 

At that point Taylor intelligently took a long break from the sport to allow his body to rest and to ensure himself that he would not be suffering any further concussions for a while. After undergoing extensive medical testing and being given a clean bill of health, Taylor reunited with former trainer Pat Burns and embarked on a comeback aimed at regaining the middleweight title that he held for a little over 2 years and defended four times before losing it to Pavlik.

The big question is: How much does Taylor have left? Could he possibly regain the title or at least a title? The good news for Taylor is that at age 33 he is still relatively young and physically capable of doing it. Unlike Pavlik, he doesn’t appear to have any bad habits outside the ring, it’s his bad habits inside the ring that are cause for concern. Taylor never really learned to fight relaxed as a professional and also never really transitioned very well into the pro game.

He makes a lot of amateur mistakes like not bringing back his jab hand and/or holding it too low and inviting a big right hand from his opponent. He sometimes has issues with getting his punches off and will often end up posing while waiting for an opening. This almost cost him his title a while back against feather-fisted former welterweight and junior middleweight champion Cory Spinks. In addition to those issues that badly need correcting, he appears to lose focus both while fighting and in between rounds and often does things purely on instinct and is usually athletic enough to be successful when not facing elite opposition.

It’s amazing that Taylor got as far as he did considering the many mistakes he makes in addition to the mental lapses alluded to earlier. It’s a testament to his athleticism, size and underrated punching power. With fighters like Pavlik, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Feliz Sturm, Matthew Macklin, Dmitry Pirog, Sebastian Zbik, and of course linear champion Sergio Martinez, Taylor will have no shortage of quality opposition to face at 160 if and when he feels he is ready to do so.

It will be interesting to see if Taylor is able to win one of the four major belts and enjoy a successful comeback. It would behoove Jermain to correct as many of his mistakes as possible because while in the heat of battle, as proven in the past, he’s not the only fighter with “bad intentions."

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