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AbrahamTaylor Keilhorn 8The return of Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell sounds much like the return of Old West legends Jesse James and his brother Frank. In many ways it’s true.

Both Taylor and Dirrell have spent months away from the prize ring.

Like a pair of Old West gunfighters Taylor (28-4-1, 17 KOs) returns to boxing and fights Jesse Nicklow (22-2-3, 8 KOs) and in the co-featured bout Dirrell (19-1, 13 KOs) faces Darryl Cunningham (24-2, 10 KOs on Friday, Dec. 30. The loaded fight card takes place at Morongo Casino. Showtime will televise.

It’s been more than two years since Taylor suffered his second consecutive knockout loss, against Arthur Abraham in Germany. It’s been 21 months since Dirrell beat the same Abraham, but suffered a concussion from a late hit in the just recently ended super middleweight tournament.

Just how many bullets remain in each gunfighter’s arsenal?

“It’s good to be back in boxing. I got my focus back,” said Taylor, who returns to the middleweight division after a sojourn into the 168-pound weight class. “I missed boxing.”

Taylor, 33, lost to Abraham and before that to Carl Froch. Neither boxer was an easy touch and though he was stopped in the ring, the boxer known as “Bad Intentions” returns with that same mental attitude that most former champions retain: they still long to hold the world title.

“It ain’t about the money,” says Taylor. “I want to be number one again.”

Who can forget that Taylor holds two wins over the near mythic Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins?

Anyone capable of beating Hopkins and his massive boxing wizardry stands more than a journeyman’s chance of returning to the prize ring. But sometimes youth and zest can defeat even the most successful.

Nicklow, 24, has prayed for this type of opening.

“I appreciate the opportunity. I’m going to go out and show the world what I can do,” Nicklow said.

In the co-feature Dirrell finds himself against the very capable Cunningham who hasn’t lost a match in four years and is a southpaw too.

“I’ve been sparring with a lot of southpaws,” says Dirrell, whose nickname is “The Matrix.”

Blessed with a long reach and speed galore, Dirrell seems anxious to showcase the skills that enabled him to defeat Abraham easily and nearly topple Froch.

“I would love my name to be a household name like Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather,” Dirrell said. “I have a strong desire to be the best boxer out there.”

Dirrell was on the cusp of fulfilling that goal when he was forced out of a match with WBA and WBC super middleweight world champion Andre Ward. Many felt at the time the two super middleweights were the best in the world and the winner would finalize that position.

In Dirrell’s mind Ward has deservedly attained the position as best super middleweight in the world.

“Andre Ward, no question about it,” Dirrell said.

Now the southpaw with blinding punches faces another southpaw. Lefty versus lefty can often prove perplexing, even to the best of fighters.

Dirrell counters that he’s sparred with plenty of southpaws recently and looks to make large elongated strides toward re-establishing himself among the elite.

“I’m just looking to get the belts man,” Dirrell said with passive aggressiveness. “It all depends on the showing I give on Friday. I don’t want just a win, I want to impress the crowd.”

Dirrell and Taylor are both back on the saddle, but can they still shoot straight?

For tickets and information call Morongo Casino at (800) 252-4499.

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