"This must be a pretty good fight, Jim. I've already got five dots of blood on my shirt." -- HBO's Larry Merchant, in the sixth round
They made it worth the wait to get the fantastic fall boxing schedule kicked off.
Fights being canceled and rescheduled ruined the month of September, for all intents and purposes. After looking at a big fight every weekend of the month, we were left waiting until tonight for the middleweight title showdown between Jermain Taylor and Kelly Pavlik. Champion and challenger did not disappoint.
And it was the challenger that came out on top. Ladies and gentlemen, your new middleweight champion of the world: Youngstown's Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik, the big puncher deemed "average" and "overrated" by Taylor and trainer Emanuel Steward.
Pavlik survived a vicious early onslaught from Taylor, including a second round knockdown, storming back with his straight right hand and a jab that kept Taylor at bay just enough. And in the seventh round, it was the pride of the fallen steel town wiping out the celebrated champion with a volume-punching knockout, hammering Taylor enough in the corner that even referee Steve Smoger -- notably slow to stop any fight -- stepped in.
So ends the undefeated record of Jermain Taylor. And so begins the story of Kelly Pavlik: Middleweight Champion of the World.
It was a phenomenal fight, and I hope that Jermain Taylor won back some fans that had become detractors. Faced with a big, right-handed puncher that refused to stop coming forward, Taylor fought a good fight, and he outboxed Pavlik for the majority of the bout.
For Pavlik, it's official: He's a superstar. The underdog against Edison Miranda, he creamed the Colombian slugger in the seventh round. The underdog against Taylor, he creamed the champion in the seventh round. Let there be absolutely no more doubts: Kelly Pavlik is for real. He's the man at 160.
In the TV opener, welterweight prospect Andre Berto may have officially surpassed "prospect" and become a real contender. In a rough and tumble bout against veteran David Estrada, Berto traded punches with a tough guy and came out on top, knocking Estrada out in the 11th round to capture the largely ceremonial NABF welterweight title. Sooner than later, Berto is going to step up and fight a very serious opponent. He might be more than ready for it. Estrada fought hard, but Berto's so naturally gifted and so strong that it was impossible for him to keep standing. Berto could be a big, big star. This may have been his best career showing, since this was probably his best opponent, and he dominated. The third and eighth rounds were two of the best we've seen this year.
But the story of the night is Kelly Pavlik. A hard-working, no-bullshit fighter from Youngstown, Ohio, who has the same trainer he started with at age nine, is the king of the middleweights. Both fighters should be commended for the bout, but it's Kelly Pavlik that stands tall.
There is already talk of a rematch, which Taylor says he wants. There's a clause in the contract that says the fight could be fought at (if I heard correctly) 166 pounds, which would mean the titles would not be on the line. I hope Taylor abandons the idea of moving to 168 for now, and they do it at 160 again, if they do it again. And, really, it would be the best fight for both guys.
Other results from Saturday: Chad Dawson retained the WBC light heavyweight title with a fourth round TKO of late substitute challenger Epifiano Mendoza. ... IBF light heavyweight champ Clinton Woods retained with a tough unanimous decision against Julio Gonzalez, his second win over the challenger. Scores were 117-111, 115-113, and 116-112. ... Nikolai Valuev easily outpointed Jean-Francois Bergeron, 118-111, 118-111, 117-111.