It’s a middleweight buffet with Jermain Taylor defending his world championship and a couple of contenders angling for position on the top of the mountain. But answer me this: who will be the next Marvin Hagler?

Taylor (26-0-1, 17 KOs) defends his world championship against junior middleweight Cory Spinks (36-3, 11 KOs) on Saturday at the FedEx Forum in Memphis. Even more interesting, perhaps,  is the collision between Kelly Pavlik and Edison Miranda. Both fights will be televised on HBO.

Yes, Bernard Hopkins has the current middleweight record of 20 title defenses, but he’s still fighting so we’re going to talk about legendary 160-pounder Hagler.

“Marvin was a very tough man inside the ring,” said Ray Leonard to this reporter a year ago. “He was so strong.”

Strength only begins to tell the story about Hagler, the bald-headed southpaw stylist who mowed through the middleweight division from 1973 to 1987. Like most great fighters he found it difficult in the beginning to entice world title opportunities from the champions. Instead, he battled in middleweight wars in Philadelphia.

It took him six years to finally grab a title bid when another tough guy named Vito Antuofermo held the title and willingly accepted the challenge. That first fight ended in a draw.

Today, Taylor didn’t find his road to success as difficult. After competing on the U.S. Olympic team in 2000, the likeable Arkansas middleweight burned a path to the world title and was given a shot against Hopkins in July 2005. Though not everybody agreed that he won the fight, two of three judges did.

After that, it’s been all down hill for the aggressive Taylor.

Another close win over Hopkins on December 2005, a draw against Winky Wright in 2006 and an under whelming win against the much smaller Kassim Ouma has scrubbed some of the luster from Taylor’s trophy case. Now he’s fighting another smaller guy in Spinks.

Fight fans are not amused, but Taylor feels he has no choice.

“I tried to fight Winky Wright again but he didn’t want to step up,” said Taylor. “I’m through with him.”

Another fight was proposed to fight Sergio Mora from The Contender reality television show. But after changing the sites from Oakland to Las Vegas than Memphis, the Mora representatives felt they were getting set up for a can’t win situation. They pulled out.

Now here comes Spinks. He’s a good boxer with no knockout power and his best tactic is to hit and hold if not hit and run. Against Roman Karmizan he was able to pull out a win using excessive holding because he was in his hometown. Not this time Spinks.

Fighting Spinks is very un-Hagler like for the middleweight champion of the world. Even proposing something of that nature to the Marvelous-one would have been an insult to his fistic nature.

So what’s the solution?

Fight fans realize the better fight on the loaded Memphis fight card could be Pavlik facing Colombia’s Miranda. It could be another Hagler versus Tommy Hearns-like conflagration.

Miranda talks tough, looks tough and hits people with enough power to generate fanfare despite a somewhat lackluster main event.

Pavlik, 25, brings something of a different element. He can flat out fight. Forget that he’s white, forget that his nickname is “The Ghost”, the Youngstown middleweight strafed two hard as rock opponents in Fulgencio Zuniga and Jose Luis Zertuche.

Both these guys take no prisoners.

“I’m definitely going to go in there and make a statement,” says Pavlik (30-0, 27 KOs), who has turned heads in the boxing world with his ability to box when needed or blow them out if possible. “I think it’s very important I go in there and take care of business.”

Miranda, who doesn’t speak English, doesn’t let the language barrier keep him from tossing verbal insult bombs toward Pavlik’s direction.

“Even my grandfather can knock out Kelly Pavlik,” said Miranda (28-1, 24 KOs) during a telephone conference call. “He doesn’t even know what he’s doing. He shouldn’t even be on this line.”

What Pavlik has shown is an ability to box scientifically when necessary or pull out the roughhouse tactics book of brawling if needed. He’s a well-rounded prizefighter who has paid his dues by fighting gradually to the top.

“We think Kelly is the best fighter,” said Bob Arum, president of Top Rank who promotes Pavlik. “This was obviously a logical fight for Kelly.”

Logical or not, Miranda has brutalized several opponents including WBO middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham whose jaw he broke in their meeting eight months ago in Germany. He didn’t win that day but he won over many fans with his furious assaults both physically and verbally.

“He doesn’t have the heart to fight me,” Miranda, 26, says of Pavlik. “It doesn’t matter.”

The winner of their fight has been promised a match with Taylor who is expected to win easily in his title defense.

Will this fight start a middleweight renaissance in boxing’s blue-collar weight division similar to Hagler’s reign?

“In the old days Marvin Hagler wouldn’t allow an Edison Miranda and Kelly Pavlik to fight each other,” said Arum. “Because that wouldn’t allow him to fight both guys.”

That was Hagler’s hammer to anvil philosophy. He wanted to hog the best fights for himself.

Instead Taylor is fighting Spinks who shouldn’t even be fighting at junior middleweight let alone middleweight.

Hagler probably looks at the whole middleweight situation in disgust.

On Saturday, the muddled middleweight division will become a lot clearer at the end of the day. Pavlik or Miranda will emerge as the heir to the throne.

“It’s great. It’s what every fighter wants, it’s a dream,” Pavlik says.

Miranda seems to see Pavlik as a stepping-stone to Taylor.

“I’m going to knock him out dead,” Miranda says. “Is he sleeping well?”

Being a middleweight champion carries a lot of responsibility. It’s the one division where its champion has the ability to beat even a heavyweight. From Bob Fitzsimmons to James Toney, middleweights possess the clout to beat anyone. The good ones don’t shy away.

EDITOR UPDATE: Spinks made weight at 159.8 after weighing in at 161.4. It took him about an hour. Miranda, too, came in over, but cut for an hour and then made 160.

Lou Dibella, on the line from Memphis,  told TSS that Cory tried to bulk up for the fight, resulting in his overage.

“The fight will go some rounds, Taylor will use his jab, push him, move him around, stop him late. Any time someone can box as well as Spinks, there is a degree of danger. But because he doesn't have the big punch, it's not as exciting danger.”


WOOLEVER SAYS: If Taylor can't stop Spinks within the first scheduled half of the fight he's completely lost what momentum he gained from the Hopkins dates, but some of that could arise from old friendship. The call here is that Taylor should be able to flatten Spinks but could hold back. Taylor by underwhelming TKO.

Nobody will hold back anything between Pavlik and Miranda. Pavlik will not go easily, but he could go quick in what should be a whapathon while it lasts.

KEENAN SAYS: Taylor will probably be taken the distance by Spinks. He'll dominate the fight, but doesn't seem to have the finesse to catch the slippery Spinks and score the KO. Pavlik has too many tools for the raw Miranda and should win a decision in a grueling contest.

Though Jermaine Taylor hasn’t shown he can adjust, consistently firing combinations over the head of slippery opponents, by round ten Spinks should slow enough for one of Jermain’s long rights to freeze him.  The rest is mopping-up till the ref stops it; the inevitable end to a listless pairing.

Miranda-Pavlik’s just the opposite.  If ever a fight should be the main-go, this it – drama! Will Pavlik fold under Miranda’s nukes or is he ready for prime time?  If he can weather four rounds of bombs, he’ll systematically pick Miranda apart till what little technique he has frays and unravels.  Miranda will keep pitchin’ Hail Mary’s but will be cut down for good in the 11th.


Though Jermain Taylor may have been effective going forward against Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright, I don't buy the fact that he is an aggressive fighter. Taylor has regressed as a boxer since the two fights with Hopkins. He looks very doofy to me when he fights going forward. This leads me to believe that he isn't comfortable being the aggressor. Spinks' height, lateral movement, quick hands and the right jab will pose a lot of problems for Taylor. I am, however picking Taylor to win, but it's not going to be easy. From a style standpoint, this is a bad match up for Taylor. Taylor is going to have to chase the southpaw Spinks all night and he hasn't shown the ability to be able to make the proper adjustments in fights accordingly. Taylor wins a very boring unanimous decision. But don't be surprised if that jab Spinks utilizes while moving backwards wins him the fight.

Now Edison Miranda and Kelly Pavlik may be the reincarnation of “Tito” Trinidad and Ricardo Mayorga. It will be exciting while it lasts. Pavlik has shown to have a better chin then Miranda. Pavlik will weather the early storm from Miranda, then box the socks of f 'Pantera' till he puts him out for the count in the 6th round. Potential fight of the year candidate. The fans will be requesting a rematch.