Having lost three out of your last four fights, two of them by stoppage, will make a man ponder his professional prizefighting future.
Do I still have it? Do I still want to do this? Should I hang up the gloves? Pesky questions, far removed from what sometimes lingers in my mind as I lay my head to pillow: What shall I have for breakfast?
And if you’ve salted away some earnings, enough to live on comfortably for the remainder of your life, the choice to continue on, at age 31, after having won titles in two divisions and holding two wins over legend Bernard Hopkins, the choice to soldier on or head for the hammock is that much harder.
After getting stopped by Carl Froch in April, Jermain Taylor (28-3, 17 KOs) engaged in some of those ‘Do I still want to do this whole boxing thing?’ back and forth battles in his brain. After some licking of wounds, and much contemplation, he decided he did indeed want to march on, and ply his trade as a pugilist. So on October 17 in Berlin, Taylor will take on another tough character, undefeated Arthur Abraham (30-0, 24 KOs), in the first round of the Showtime Super Six Tournament.
Loads of oddsmakers and keyboard tappers are slating Abraham, who is making the leap from 160 to 168 after being the IBF’s middleweight champ since 2005, to beat Taylor. This despite the fact that Abraham’s resume pales in comparison to that of the Arkansas-born fighter. Abraham’s signature wins are over Edison Miranda (the first one in 2006 he fought eight rounds with a broken jaw) and a pretty-close-to shot Raul Marquez in 2008. Contrast that with Taylor’s having fought Hopkins twice, then Ouma, Spinks, Pavlik twice, Lacy and finally Carl Froch, a string that Taylor does not get enough credit for. TSS-EM sees Taylor being a 60-40 favorite in the forthcoming bout with Abraham, even though he’ll be operating in Abraham’s home base.
The transplanted Armenian and his promoter Kalle Sauerland hopped on a conference call along with Taylor, his promoter and his trainer Ozell Nelson on Tuesday. TSS-EM was about to ask Taylor if all the pundits were off key installing Abraham as the favorite, and whether he was in proper shape coming in to his last few fights, when his phone up and died. C’est la Blackberry vie…If some of those other keyboard tappers hadn’t asked about four questions each, then maybe I would’ve had enough juice to make my query, but I digress..
Taylor admitted that the loss to Froch, a fight he was winning until he gassed out late and got stopped with just 14 seconds to go, sticks with him. “I think about it all the time,” he said.
The boxer, who debuted in 2004, said that he realized that if he’d been in better shape, and gotten his weight down earlier in training camp, then he would’ve beaten Froch. Trainer Nelson acknowledged that Taylor likes to chow, and digs Big Macs, but said that not one McDonald’s megaburger has recently touched Taylor’s lips, while he’s been training at George Foreman’s facility in Houston.
Much has been made, rightly so, about Taylor’s stamina. He said that being on weight so early should shelve that issue. “As long as I come into this fight in shape, I have no worries,” he said.
Dibella said that the loss to Froch might prove to be a blessing, as Taylor is now, today, on weight, and can therefore concentrate on refining his skills and technique, rather than worrying about cutting pounds. “I think Arthur Abraham is going to get his crown knocked from his head,” the promoter said. Abraham, meanwhile, not surprisingly, disagrees. His promoter, being a promoter, likens him to a Mike Tyson, pointing to his power in each hand. The fighter promised a win, and like Taylor, didn’t predict the manner of victory, by decision or stoppage. But he did say he’s relieved to be simply focusing on fighting, rather than battling the scale to make 160, in this camp.
Taylor said that winning is really his sole motivator at this point in his career, that he has money squirreled away, and that after he wins the tournament, he’ll sit down and decide what comes next. I’d argue that this fight with Abraham is an absolute must win. Two stoppage losses in your last four fights, and it doesn’t matter how you were doing in the bouts when the piano fell on your head, indicate a deterioration. That’s showing that your reflexes and defense might be faltering. Taylor needs needs needs a win against Abraham, and if he gets stopped, there will be clarion calls for him to exit the game.
And though there’s a piano’s worth of pressure on his back, and his professional life hangs in the balance, Taylor makes it sound elementary as he assesses the stakes of October 17: “If I get in shape, everything else will fall into place.” Hey, if he’s been hanging around Big George Foreman, and not falling prey to cheeseburgers, I may just make him a 65-35 favorite, because that shows his willpower is at peak form.