Jermain Taylor: What's Next For the Former Middleweight Champ?

This past Saturday night Jermain Taylor competed in a prizefight for the first time in over two years against a club fighter named Jessie Nicklow on a "special edition" of Showtime's prospect series ShoBox. Taylor lost nary a second as he jabbed, smacked, and moved around Nicklow with the relative ease reserved for these types of comeback fights. In fact, the only point Taylor lost during the evening was the result of his own doing. Like a schoolyard bully poking a kid after the teacher had already broken up the fight, Taylor showed his nickname "Bad Intentions" wasn't just false advertising as he snuck in a little jab a few seconds after the bell to end round six, earning himself a point deduction.

Taylor dominated the fight. Even though referee Rey Corona (who no doubt gets asked if he is related to the beer) stopped the bout very prematurely, it was very apparent as to who the superior boxer was. Indeed, the rules clearly state that a boxing match is to be stopped when one boxer is clearly outclassing the other. If we wanted to be strict it could have been stopped during the first round after only a few jabs had been tossed haphazardly.

Nevertheless, Taylor won and looked fairly good doing it. He was not as explosive as his counterpart Andre DIrrell was earlier on the card, but he got the job done. Now, however, comes the real question. What the heck comes next?

At the age of 33 Taylor is no spring chicken, and when one adds in the fact that he suffered a concussion and had bleeding on his brain after his knockout loss to Arthur Abraham it just makes his situation even more murky. Besides his health issues, what really did the win over Nicklow prove to him or anybody?

In my mind the fight only showed us a few things for the moment. First, he can still outbox a guy smaller, slower, less skilled, and less talented than him. Second, he still likes to tap himself on the head after nearly every combination. Third, he can take a headshot without spontaneously combusting. That's it. There was never any point during the bout where I thought to myself, "I'm happy Jermain is back. He looks good, and can shake up the middleweight division."

That said, it wouldn't take much to liven up the middleweight class. Sergio Martinez, the recognized champion, is great but after him it turns downhill. Martinez is promoted by Lou Dibella, same as Taylor, but Dibella has clearly stated that he has no plans to match them. Dibella is also currently promoting contender Matthew Macklin, and that could be a possibility for the future. The problem, however, could be getting any top fighters to actually sign to fight Taylor. If Macklin were to lose to an older Jermain Taylor it would severely halt his momentum. If he were to emerge victorious then people would just say that he beat an old, burned out fighter that never fully recovered from his concussions.

When I heard Taylor was moving back down to 160 I was a little curious as to what his plan was. I recall him having problems making the weight when he was champion, and his return match with Kelly Pavlik was fought at a catch-weight of 166 (they ended up each officially weighing 164). After that fight he stayed at super middle until his brief retirement. Apparently, his weight problems were due mostly to his own laziness; a fact that he has admitted in interviews.

If he were to stay at super middleweight his options would be a bit more lucrative. Super middle has become a solid weight class filled with many good fighters such as Mikel Kessler, Andre Dirrell, Anthony Dirrell, Glen Johnson, and Taylor's former conqueror Carl Froch. That's not to mention the top two dogs, Andre Ward and Lucian Bute. The ground is fertile for Taylor to grow here, but it is not in the immediate plans.

When I initially heard of Taylor's (bad) intentions to return I figured a possible opponent could be his old rival, Pavlik. Pavlik has also been down on his luck, but as the result of a vastly different set of circumstances. He too could use a fellow big name to lift him out of the doldrums of mediocrity. Unfortunately, his latest drunk driving arrest will put him back on ice.

The obvious retort questioning Taylor's comeback fight would be to say he must be allowed to take his time after suffering the brain injury that he did. Perhaps after being out of the ring for two years he should be allowed a grace period. That makes sense to me, but I can't shake a bad feeling about all of this. Taylor was knocked out by Pavlik, Froch, and Abraham in definitive fashion.

Dibella stopped promoting this man for a reason, but, somehow, we all knew this day would come. We knew that Dibella would bring him back as soon as Taylor was deemed fit enough to receive a license. Never mind what we have seen with our own eyes, it is the opportunity to make money (for both Taylor and Dibella) that controls most of what they will do. In Taylor's defense, boxers don't exactly have much else to turn to, but Dibella certainly has the ability to make a choice.

I have a world of respect for Jermain Taylor. I have liked him ever since watching him turn professional, and even suffered through the Cory Spinks debacle without changing the channel. However, I'm afraid that his next retirement will soon begin the same way that his first one did: an overnight stay in the hospital.

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