Former undisputed middleweight world champion Jermain Taylor makes his comeback tonight on ShoBox, which we'll have live round-by-round coverage for at 11 p.m. EST, and believes that his moving back to the middleweight division will give him the spark after two years out of the ring:
"These two years that I had off, it just woke me up. I was fighting at 168. I wasn’t supposed to be there. I was just lazy."
Taylor (28-4-1, 17 KO) went 1-2 fighting as a super middleweight, with a win over a shot Jeff Lacy and two 12th round stoppage losses to Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham. He also lost a 164-pound catchweight rematch against Kelly Pavlik.
This is Taylor's first fight as a middleweight (he came in at 161, but the pound is not the issue) since losing his crown to Pavlik in September 2007 in a classic middleweight clash.
Let's ignore the reservations about Taylor coming back to the ring at all for a moment and just focus on the boxing aspect of things. Taylor had a lot of issues after he beat Bernard Hopkins two times. Almost every outing had some kind of asterisk on it if he won, and when he lost, it was pretty clear.
Post-Hopkins, Taylor drew with Winky Wright in a bizarrely inconsistent effort that made him look like a greenhorn, talented prospect more than a world champion. He beat Kassim Ouma, but Ouma is a junior middleweight. He beat Cory Spinks, also a junior middleweight, in a truly horrible fight where he all but refused to let his hands go despite Spinks being of no real danger.
After Spinks, it all came down. Pavlik knocked him out, then beat him by decision in a rematch. He beat Lacy, but Lacy had nothing left in the tank and the fact that he was in an HBO main event showed just how eager the network was to get Taylor's contract fulfilled and off their books. The loss to Froch was a fine loss, as losses go, because Froch is good and it was a hell of a fight and Taylor mostly fought well, but he ran out of gas badly, and it wasn't the first time he appeared to have some lousy stamina.
As for the Abraham fight, he didn't fight well and then got clean knocked out with a right hand down the pipe. And frankly, I think we've seen now that Arthur Abraham has himself largely failed at 168 pounds, and isn't quite the monster he appeared to be at the time.
Jermain Taylor is 33. The word is he's in great shape and everyone's not worried about anything and that's why Pat Burns and Lou DiBella are so excited to work with him again: He's re-dedicated and he's here to be a champion again.
But while Taylor looked fit and very healthy at the weigh-in, we'll just kind of have to wait and see here. Is the stamina still a problem? He never looked bad before, either. If Jessie Nicklow pushes him too hard, even if Taylor wins, does DiBella re-evaluate his involvement in a Taylor comeback, or does Jermain wind up thrown to the wolves to cash out while the gettin' is, well, not good, but at least exists?
There are so many questions about the Taylor comeback purely from the boxing perspective. I'm going to trust his doctors and the commission that passed his physical for now about his health -- they say that he's of no more risk than anyone else stepping into a boxing ring, and I can live comfortably with that.
I like Jermain Taylor. I hope this is a good comeback story. But I have my doubts, and only some of the questions can be answered tonight -- unless he loses.