Taylor, Froch have much at stake
For such accomplished fighters, Jermain Taylor and Carl Froch sure have a lot to prove.
Taylor, the one-time undisputed middleweight champion from Little Rock, Ark., is trying to convince everyone — including himself? — that he has fully recovered from disappointing losses to Kelly Pavlik in 2007 and last year.
Froch, the undefeated English brawler who outpointed Jean Pascal in his last fight to win the WBC super middleweight title, has come to the U.S. to prove that he should be a major player in the sport.
On Saturday, they’ll have the opportunity to make their points when they meet for Froch’s title on Showtime from Mashantuckett, Conn.
“It’s an enormous fight for both of them,” said Lou DiBella, Taylor’s promoter. “Jermain is a two-time champion who wants to be back on top. If he wins, he becomes the poster child for Showtime. If Froch wins, he’s validated.”
Taylor (28-2-1, 17 knockouts) was on top of the world only two years ago. The Olympic bronze medalist in 2000 was undefeated, had held at least two major titles for two full years and had twice beaten Bernard Hopkins.
Then he ran into an even hotter fighter, Pavlik, who stopped him in seven rounds and then outpointed him in a rematch. Taylor bounced back with a convincing unanimous decision over former titleholder Jeff Lacy in November but needs a victory Saturday to reclaim his spot among the elite.
Taylor, 30, said he has renewed focus in light of his setbacks.
“I was hungry for the Hopkins fights but I think I got too relaxed and too comfortable after them,” he said. “I was confident against Pavlik but I did some unnecessary things that I should not have been doing. I didn’t do what I was supposed to do in the gym. In the second fight with Pavlik, I had him ready to go but I was too cautious.
“But you learn from mistakes and that makes you a better fighter. This is my way of getting back on track and showing everybody that the fights I lost, it wasn’t me in there.”
Taylor had problems with Pavlik’s aggressiveness and power at 160 pounds. Froch (24-0, 19 KOs) is also aggressive and has quite a bit of power at 168 pounds; he’s the natural super middleweight. The Englishman also has never been down, although his opposition has been spotty.
Taylor, probably the superior boxer and athlete, doesn’t seem concerned.
“I’m not worried about his power at all,” Taylor said. “As far as him never being on the floor before, there’s a first time for everything. He gets hit a lot. His defense is his head. He stands right there. If he’s bigger, so what? It doesn’t mean anything as long as I’m boxing and moving.
“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.”
Froch apparently isn’t a big star back home; the fight will be shown live only online for a fee because no TV network in England was interested in it, although ITV will televise it delayed. Taylor said he had never even heard of Froch until recently.
So what better way to make a name for yourself than to fight an established, big-name fighter in his own country and beat him. At least that’s Froch’s plan.
“Taylor says he wouldn’t know me if I walked into his gym but trust me, if he even saw me in the gym, he wouldn’t go ahead with the fight because I’m on fire right now,” Froch said. “By the time I’m finished with him on (Saturday) Jermain Taylor will know exactly who I am and what I’m all about.”
Froch, 31, defeated Pascal by a unanimous decision to win the vacant title in December in his hometown of Nottingham but it was a taxing brawl, one in which the new belt holder displayed his toughness and determination. Clearly, he can fight.
However, one must question his opposition overall. He has faced few fighters with recognizable names and has fought outside the UK only once, when he stopped Henry Porras in 2005 in Hollywood, Calif.
This, his first title defense, is by far the biggest test of his career. And he seems to relish the opportunity.
“When you first put on a pair of gloves as a kid you don’t dream about making routine defenses,” he said, “you dream about putting it all on the line and fighting the best in the world, and that’s exactly what I’m doing now.”
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]