For eight rounds tonight in Mississippi, former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor was cruising and sending boxing fans snoozing with a jab-only, routine performance against Minnesota club fighter Caleb Truax. After that, it got a lot more dicey.
In the ninth, a right hand from Truax creamed Taylor and put the Little Rock native on the canvas. Taylor recovered, but was on clearly unsteady legs, and took holding to a new level by constantly grabbing onto the determined Truax, who badly wanted to put an end to things and score the upset. But as Taylor held, the referee gave him all the time in the world to get his legs back under him, and eventually, they came. Taylor was able to survive the round and then get through the tenth, too, en route to a decision win that seems to spell impending doom far more than it does convince anyone that Taylor's comeback is the real deal.
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Taylor won on scores of 98-91, 97-92, and 97-94. Bad Left Hook scored it 97-92 for Taylor.
After the fight, a deranged Taylor was interviewed by Showtime's Steve Farhood, repeatedly and almost nonsensically shouting, "Whoever want it! Whoever want it!" and going to great length to detail that he didn't care that he was knocked a bit silly by a fairly light-punching guy, whose skills were about on par with the guys Taylor was demolishing on his way up a decade ago.
Taylor, the fighter himself argued, would not be getting knocked out anymore, and he was crazily thrilled with his ability to recover. Unfortunately, a harder puncher absolutely would have knocked Taylor out on that punch. And a better fighter would have found a lot more opportunities to land one against Taylor's sloppy, lazy jab, which deteriorated as the fight wore on, another sign that he just isn't a fighter who has good stamina, no matter his conditioning or how much weight he gains between fights, whether he's getting up to 200 pounds or 175.
There is no doubt in my mind: If Caleb Truax can get Jermain Taylor in real trouble, good fighters will seriously do him harm. The 33-year-old Taylor's comeback has been doubted by many who worry that he's a boxing tragedy in the making, whether or not Nevada has medically cleared him, which they have. This fight will do nothing to quiet those fears.
Taylor (30-4-1, 19 KO) gave the impression -- or at least tried to -- that he wants to fight a top 10 guy next and get in line for a title shot. That may have been more nervous energy and bluster than anything, but trainer Pat Burns did not sound quite as convinced, stating that there were things to work on in the gym, and they'd speak with promoter Lou DiBella and totally-not-promoter Al Haymon about where to go next.
Jermain Taylor is not faded. He's a shot fighter, a shadow of his prime, and nothing about his performance tonight was impressive. Even during the first eight rounds, which he either swept or only lost one round, he was not impressive. He was twitchy, had trouble getting more than his jab in on Truax (who is no defensive marvel), and Burns constantly warned him not to fight. If you have to warn a fighter not to get into a fight at all costs, how can he possibly be expected to succeed against fighters better than Truax and Jessie Nicklow?
It doesn't add up. This is an experiment that should have the plug pulled before something bad happens. That's just my opinion, but I'd feel truly dishonest if I didn't express the thought in this fight recap. Nothing good can happen against a better fighter.