Sunday, June 04, 2023  |



Dettloff: Taylor still battling ghost of Pavlik

Fighters Network

No man likes to be shown up when he’s trying to get business done, especially if he’s a prizefighter. Even within the ostensibly safe confines of a sparring session, most fighters suffer from a kind of emotional affliction that causes them, when hit with a punch of substance, to immediately try to reply in kind.

Though we like and admire this quality in our fighters (probably because so many of us lack it in real life) it’s not always the smartest tact, particularly when it opens one up to danger.

On Saturday, former world middleweight champion Jermain Taylor will continue to try to erase from our collective memory his two losses to Kelly Pavlik, which certainly represented to Taylor a kind of grand insult administered on a world stage. Especially the second one, for which a fully prepared and aware Taylor could muster no defensible excuse.

He will meet England’s undefeated Carl Froch in Mashantucket, Conn., on Showtime for some super middleweight alphabet title or another and if it’s important to you which one it is, you can find its identity elsewhere.

At any rate, Froch probably does not represent the kind of danger to which Taylor is very vulnerable. He has fought but once outside the United Kingdom (though that doesn’t mean nearly as much as it once did, thank you very much Joe Calzaghe) and probably the most important of his 24 wins came against talented, but unproved Canadian Jean Pascal in a wonderful brawl in Nottingham last December.

Nevertheless, Taylor, 28-2-1 (17 knockouts) and once a soft-spoken sort, is talking a very big game leading up to the match.

“He’s a cocky fighter and I love that because I plan on bringing all that down. He doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into and I’m going to teach him,” Taylor said recently.

“It’s all about being a champion. All these other fights mean nothing until you get these belts back. As far as me going over there (to Europe) ÔǪ Going over there? For what? I mean who is he? I didn’t even know who he was until now. So I wasn’t going over there. He needs to come over here.”

Taylor feels relatively good these days, having gotten back on the winning track with a decision win over Jeff Lacy, who knows something about trying to erase bad memories. In truth he didn’t look great beating Lacy and hasn’t looked in a long while like the star he appeared to be on the way up, when he was fed mostly a diet of frayed junior middleweights.

But cede him this: Taylor is undeterred by his bracingly amateurish skill set and indifferent ring presence. He is more afflicted than most by that instinct that drives men to seek the best and biggest challenges, hence his rematch with Bernard Hopkins and the fight with Winky Wright, two technicians far more seasoned and respected than he and whom he fought to a virtual standstill.

Froch, for his part, concedes that Taylor is the far more experienced fighter but dismisses the importance of it out of hand.

“It’s easy to say that I haven’t fought anybody. But that’s what boxing is about. We’ve got two fighters here who are both putting it all on the line. We’re both of a similar age. We’re both on the top of our careers. We’re both fit and hungry. He wants my belt? I don’t want him to take my belt,” Froch said.

“It’s going to be a fabulous fight. I’ve been in 24 fights, I’m unbeaten, I haven’t been in any trouble. I’m coming to this fight confident that I’m taking my belt home with me. No problems.”

Froch is no doubt emboldened by the success other Europeans have had in the last few years against American fighters, and especially at super middleweight, a class essentially inhabited by European boxers promoted by Frank Warren.

Make no mistake about it – Froch can fight a little. He’s fairly mobile and can punch a bit. And he’s inordinately confident. He also appears terribly easy to hit, which should make him an easy target for Taylor’s left jab, still his best weapon.

I don’t know if the sea of self-doubt created by the losses to Pavlik will hurt or help Taylor as he tries to hit back at the greatest failing of his professional life. Only that he is far from being over it.

“I just know that hard work pays off,” he said. “Those few fights I lost, I not only let myself down, I let my fans down; I let my hometown down. I just want to get these belts back and all of it will be erased. Now, I have a chance to do that and I’m going to take it. I’m Arkansas Razorback until the day I die. I have another chance to come back and be champion. It’s amazing. That’s what I love about boxing because I’m never out of it. Everything I’ve done in the past will be erased. I’m not worried about anything.””

It should be interesting.

Some miscellaneous observations from last week:

Congratulations to friend and RING colleague Ivan Goldman, whose excellent new boxing-themed novel, THE BARFIGHTER, was nominated for inclusion on the American Library Association’s Notable Books of the Year list. That’s a big deal in the literary world, folks. Kudos, Ivan. ÔǪ

While I’m handing out kudos, congratulations to me for making it to the third round of Selcuk Aydin’s exciting win over Said Ouali Saturday night before caving in and hitting the mute button. That’s a personal best for a ShoBox fight.

I did, however, turn up the sound whenever Roger Mayweather was on camera. His instructions to Ouali between rounds sounded like an installment of HBO’s Def Comedy Jam. Brilliant. ÔǪ

No one will ever mistake Hector Rojas for anything but a fighter. His nose looks like a Dill pickle that’s been stepped on. And that was before Yuriorkis Gamboa hammered it for 10 rounds. ÔǪ

David Haye’s antics have already so enraged Wladimir Klitschko that Klitschko, in a rare departure from his typical Eastern European stoicism, threatened to do something during the fight that he hasn’t done in years: throw a right hand before the sixth round. ÔǪ

Note to everyone crying in their Dom Perignon at Oscar De La Hoya’s retirement: just because a guy calls a press conference to tell us he’s retired doesn’t mean he’s any less likely than any other fighter to change his mind later. ÔǪ

How much longer is Brian Minto going to keep fighting guys who look like the guy fixing my dishwasher? 

Please, stop acting like Ruslan Chagaev-Nikolai Valuev means anything to anyone other than a few ill-tempered Russian mobsters.

Bill Dettloff can be reached at [email protected]