Former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor had lost four of his previous five fights, two of them by 12th-round knockout, before ending a 26-month ring absence with December’s eighth-round stoppage of Baltimore’s Jessie Nicklow.
The matchup with Nicklow represented a reunion with longtime trainer, Pat Burns, who had guided Taylor (29-4-1, 18 knockouts) to a mark of 25-0, with 17 knockouts, before being replaced by Emanuel Steward in 2006.
Burns and Taylor will be together, yet again, on Friday night, when the boxer takes on unbeaten Caleb Truax (18-0-1, 10 KOs), of Osseo, Minn., on Showtime.
In this, the second part of a Q&A with Burns, the corner man laments Taylor ‘slost luster despite an otherwise solid career.
In 12 of his previous 13 contests prior to Nicklow, Taylor’s opponents had been men who were either titleholders at the time of they faced Taylor, or, who, at some point, were once beltholders.
The lone man who had not worn a crown during that time was Daniel Edouard, a contender who brought a 16-0 record with nine KOs into the ring before being stopped by Taylor the third round in in February of 2005.
Otherwise, Taylor’s unbeaten run under Burns included consecutive victories by split and unanimous decision over Bernard Hopkins in July and December of 2005, the first of which earned Taylor the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO middleweight belts. The loss to Taylor was the first for Hopkins in 12 years, ending his record run of 20 consecutrive title defenses.
Taylor left Burns for Steward after the bouts with Hopkins, and subsequently battled through a draw with former 154-pound champion Winky Wright in June of 2006 at a time when Wright was regarded as one of the sport’s premiere defensive wizards.
After facing Wright, Taylor earned decision wins over southpaw former titleholders Kassim Ouma and Corey Spinks. Taylor also dominated ex-titleholders Raul Marquez and William Joppy by ninth-round knockout and unanimous decision in June and December of 2004, respectively.
Taylor was 27-0-1 with 17 knockouts when he suffered his first loss — a seventh-round knockout to Kelly Pavlik in September of 2007. Burns shared more of his thoughts on Taylor below.
RingTV.com: What is it like to be back with Jermain?
Pat Burns: I’m glad that we’re back together. It’s kind of unique, because when we walked back into the gym together, it was just, “let’s get in and go to work.”
The first two minutes of training together, it just felt like we were never apart. It’s just one of those things. It just instantly worked. It felt good. There wasn’t a whole lot to say. We just wanted to get to work, and that’s exactly what we did.
RingTV.com: How is the Jermain Taylor that you began working with the second time different from the one you last worked with as far as his technical skills?
PB: It’s simply this: first and foremost, I needed to get his balance back to where he kept his head behind his knee, and used that world class jab that he has.
Jermain can knock you out with that jab when he’s using it properly. The key thing is Jermain’s jab and the balance. So I saw that. Actually, against Jessie Nicklow, Jermain had sprained his hand in the second round of that fight.
Nicklow was shorter, and so Jermain was hitting on top of the head a lot. So he hurt his hand, and he couldn’t properly use his right hand other than for a decoy.
Actually, that was a little bit of a blessing in disguise if you will, because he could have perhaps knocked Nicklow out in two or three rounds.
But that wouldn’t have helped Jermain. So what he had to do is make some adjustments. Jermain had to revert back to using his old friend, and that was the jab.
So as the fight moved along, Jermain started to regain and find that balance and that rhythm step to where that jab foot and that jab hand were working together again.
So he was able to do more things off of the jab hand yet never really used that right hand. So Jermain definitely got that jab back.
RingTV.com: What is your overall assessment of his performance against Nicklow?
PB: Well, I thought that in the very beginning, he was rusty. He had a very good training camp and he worked very hard, but he was very rusty. He was tense and tight.
And then, all of a sudden, around the fifth round, I saw where he started to get a little loose, and his hands started to fly a little bit. Then, I noticed in the sixth and the seventh round, Jermain was back to having fun.
His hands stared to fly. And then, of course, in the referee came in and stopped it. But it gave me something to build on, and I’m building on what I saw in the sixth and the seventh rounds.
I would have liked to have gotten a clean knockout, but I have no control over that. The referee did what was best for the guy that we were fighting. But we’re building on that sixth and seventh round.
I saw the old WD 40, you know, the stuff you spray on the old bolts and nuts that start to go squeak? I saw that starting to go to work on those joints coming back. The tightness started to disappear. That was the best part of that fight.
Jermain was going from shooting a jab that was going out at 120 miles an hour to probably 160 miles an hour. The old rust was wearing off the bolt. This were starting to move a lot better for him, and that was basically it.
RingTV.com: How do you find Jermain to be, mentally?
PB: Well, from the mental standpoint, he’s older. He’s been through a lot and he’s learned a lot. Jermain has the hunger again in order to reach out for a world title.
But it’s different. In the past, it was, “I just want to be a world champion and make all of this money.” It was, “I want this $100 belt around my waist.” Now, as he’s older, he’s approaching things a lot differently. He’s a better student.
He’s listening. He’s living the life that a champion needs to live. There’s no extra curricular activities. He’s showing up to camp weighing 169 or 170 pounds.
He’s keeping a maintenance program going, and he’s got a little mean streak on him earlier on that he never had before. Jermain’s on a mission. He’s biting the inside of his lip every time that he spars.
You know, sparring is not a world title fight, so it’s not the actual fight. But we work on a lot of things. Even in the jab, he’s got a little extra on it. It’s almost like every time tha he punches, he’s trying to hurt somebody.
He’s not loading up on the punch, but he’s got a little bit more of a mean streak in him and I can sense that he really wants to get this belt back.
But he wants to do it with a little more hunger. Jermain’s the big wolf in the woods, you know? He’s fighting with a little more viciousness. He’s a little more ferocious.
RingTV.com: Do you have any sort of goal in mind or expectation concerning Taylor’s performance?
PB: I don’t knock the man that he’s fighting. I’m not going to make a prediction. But I don’t want this fight to end in three or four rounds. I want this fight to get rounds and I want to get all of the burrs off.
I want him to be sharp and I want him to get all of the nicks and burrs off. I want him to really smooth that blade out and to be really, really sharp with both hands. I want to see good lateral movement.
I want to see him fighting at angles. I want to see him get hit a couple of times and all of that sort of stuff. I want him to get in there and get back used to being in there with some guys that can crack and who are tough guys.
I just want Jermain to come away from this confident that he’s ready to go and that he’s just about where he needs to be to go ahead and to fight for another world title.
Photos by Jeff Julian, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com