Jermain Taylor, scheduled to meet Andre Ward for his WBA super-middleweight title on April 17th in the second stage of round-robin fights of Showtime TV´s Super Six World Boxing Classic, has announced his withdrawal from the fight and the tournament.
31 year old Taylor (28-4-1, 17 ko´s) the former undisputed world middleweight champion, announced his decision today (Tuesday). In a statement to the press, Taylor said;
“I’m going to take some time off from the sport of boxing and take myself out of the Showtime Sports World Boxing Classic tournament. It’s important that I give my body and mind some much-needed rest, because I have been boxing for nearly 20 years. I plan on keeping myself in shape and making a return to the sport sometime in the future.”
Taylor went on;
“This was not an easy decision for me, having discussed it with my family, trainer (Ozell Nelson), friends and my adviser, Al Haymon, because I’m a very competitive person. But I know this is the smart road for me to take,” Taylor said. “I want to thank Showtime Sports for everything and I wish the best for my five counterparts who will continue on in the Super Six tournament. Most of all, I want to thank the many fans for their continued support.”
It is a brave move by a brave fighter. Taylor is turning his back on at least two more fights in the Super Six series that would have netted him well over a million dollars, but genuine fight fans the world over will now breathe a collective sigh of relief. Handsome, intelligent and extremely likable, Taylor had lost four of his last five fights, three by devastating knockout, and yet he was due to go into the ring with the tournament´s new favorite Andre Ward. There was a genuine fear amongst fight fans that the bout could end in tragedy.
After winning his first 27 fights against just one draw, a streak that saw him end the 10 year, 20 defense reign of the legendary Bernard Hopkins, Taylor lost his world middleweight title to Kelly Pavlik by knockout in seven rounds in 2007. Although he had floored Pavlik in the second and come within a whisker of stopping him, Pavlik had dominated the fight from thereafter. When the knockout finally came, courtesy of several right hand howitzers from Pavlik, it was brutal. In retrospect, it now looks as if Taylor was never quite the same fighter after that crushing setback.
Taylor did better in a rematch with Pavlik five months later, but still lost a unanimous decision. In November 2008 he scored a points decision over the faded former WBC super-middleweight champion Jeff Lacey. The win earned him a shot at Britain’s newly crowned WBC super-middleweight champion Carl Froch. The fight took place in April 2009 in Connecticut, and Taylor was the slight favorite.
As in his fight with Pavlik, Taylor started the fight brightly, flooring Froch in the third. Going into the final stretch, Taylor was a mile ahead on points, but was clearly tiring. By the twelfth round, he only had to stay on his feet to win the title. It wasn’t to be. Froch was relentless, and wouldn’t be denied. He finally caught up with Taylor with less than a minute to go, first knocking him down and then bludgeoning him to defeat with just 17 seconds left on the clock.
When Showtime selected its six super-middleweights for the World Boxing Classic, they chose to include Taylor, rather than pursue IBF champion Lucien Bute. Taylor claimed to be well prepared and focused for his opening bout against the German based Armenian Arthur Abraham, the former undefeated IBF middleweight champion.
If Taylor had looked like a winner for most of the fight with Froch, he looked like a loser for most of the fight with Abraham. The Armenian was just too strong, too confident, too good a boxer and too heavy a puncher. Going into the final round, Abraham was comfortably ahead on all three cards, and hardly in the same desperate pursuit of Taylor that Froch had been. But late in the final minute of the last round, he caught Jermain with a straight right to the point of the chin that poleaxed him.
Taylor´s head bounced of the canvas and he was out cold. Jermain spent several days in a Berlin hospital with severe concussion and short term memory loss.
When he announced in December 2009 that he was going to continue in the Super Six competition, Taylor, once one of the brightest stars in boxing, now seemed a liability to himself and the sport. Taylor’s own promoter, Lou Dibella who had been by his side throughout his career as a pro, felt he had no choice but to distance himself from what in effect was madness. He severed his promotional ties with the fighter. Dibella´s brave, heartfelt move was undoubtedly the catalyst that finally resulted in Taylor´s statement today.
A relieved DiBella said today;”I know it must have been a difficult decision for Jermain and I’m very happy for him and his family that he decided to give himself a much-needed break,”
Taylor’s replacement seems likely to be the winner of a fight between Australian based Cameroonian Sakio Bika (28-3-2, 19 KOs), winner of the 2007 “Contender” tournament, and Oklahoma´s Allan Green (29-1, 20 KOs). DiBella promotes Green and Haymon manages Bika. Both fighters are ranked in the top ten at super-middleweight by both the WBC and the IBF.
The Super Six World Boxing Classic continues on March 7th when second favorite Arthur Abraham (31-0, 25 ko´s) takes on Andre Dirrell (18-1, 13 ko´s) in California, followed in April with a mouthwatering clash between WBC champion Carl Froch and former two-time WBA champion Mikkel Kessler in Denmark.
Super Six odds; Abraham 8/15 – Dirrell 6/4, Froch 10/11- Kessler 4/5 bet365