Jermain Taylor bucked the odds tonight and regained a piece of the middleweight championship, beating Sam Soliman for the IBF title in Biloxi, Mississippi. But this was not really a story of career redemption so much as a fight that became an ugly non-story, but for unexpected reasons.
Taylor (33-4-1, 20 KO) won the fight on scores of 116-111, 115-109, and 116-109, with BLH scoring it 116-108 for Taylor, who scored official knockdowns in rounds seven, eight, nine, and 11. But those knockdowns all came as a result of the 40-year-old Soliman (44-12, 18 KO) hurting his right knee, an old injury that came back to haunt him.
Without the injury, though, the fight wasn't anything to write home about, either. The first six rounds were split even for us, a 57-57 card, before everything changed due to the injury. Taylor was having moments, and Soliman was, too, but neither of them really looked like top middleweights. Soliman wasn't pressing the pace like he said he would, and Taylor often looked unable to pull the trigger.
But whatever you think of it, Taylor is now the IBF middleweight titleholder. Whether or not he's actually a top 10 or 15 fighter in an increasingly weak division is another story.
"He's a warrior," Taylor said of Soliman and the injury. "He did the same thing I would've did. He kept fighting. He did exactly what I would do."
When asked who he wants to fight next -- mandatory challenger Hassan N'dam was in attendance, as was former WBO titleholder Peter Quillin, who like Taylor is with Al Haymon -- Taylor said he's open, or at least open to whatever Haymon wants.
"Whoever Al Haymon puts in there. Whoever Al Haymon says to fight," he told Bernardo Osuna. "I don't care. I've never dodged anybody in my whole career."
Soliman said he's not looking to hang up the gloves yet -- "I'm not going to take up table tennis just yet" -- but also didn't use the knee injury as an excuse, saying it was Taylor's performance that brought the injury back, not luck.
"His performance, you can't take that away from him," he said. "It wasn't that the injury came back because of bad luck, it came back because of a good performance by Jermain."
Soliman will have fights waiting for him back home in Australia, and if a current shooting charge against Jermain Taylor doesn't derail his comeback, we should see him back soon in a first defense, too.