SAN ANTONIO — Sweat streamed from the chisled, glistening upper torso of shirtless Jermain Taylor on Wednesday as the former undisputed middleweight champ jumped rope and, later, shook out in a makeshift ring like a man possessed to the delight of the gathering fans at Market Place in downtown San Antonio.
A 35-year-old veteran who is the only fighter that can claim two victories over Bernard Hopkins, Taylor (31-4-1, 19 knockouts) will end a 14-month ring absence on Saturday when he faces Juan Carlos Candelo (32-12-4, 21 KOs) on the undercard of Showtime’s Adrien Broner-Marcos Maidana card at the Alamodome.
“I’m 35, and I’ve only got a short window to get done what I want to get done, so Candelo’s got to go. He’s in the way of some important stuff, and he don’t even know that he’s in the way of something big,” said Taylor, who has not fought since stopping Raul Munoz in the second round in October of 2012.
“I’ve been boxing since I was 12. They told me that I was never going to make the Olympics, and I did that. They told me that I was never going to be a world champion, and I did that. Now, they’re looking at me and they’re saying that same thing, that I can’t come back and win a world title. But we’ll see who will have the last laugh.”
Taylor had lost four of his previous five fights, two of them by 12th-round knockout, before ending a 26-month ring absence with an eighth-round stoppage of Baltimore’s Jessie Nicklow in December of 2011.
Prior to facing Munoz, Taylor had to rise from a ninth-round knockdown for a unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Caleb Truax in April of 2012.
“As far as my fight with Candelo, I’ve been wanting this fight for a year, so I’ve been in shape for a year. It’s just one more fight, and I’m happy to be here. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life by not training right, but I’m sure that everybody here has made mistakes,” said Taylor.
“But I’m 35-years old, and I’ve got my s__t, I mean, I’ve got my stuff together, and man, I’m ready to win another championship. They’ve told me that I couldn’t do it, and I did it before, and I’m going to do it again.”
In Candelo (32-12-4, 21 KOs), Taylor faces a 39-year-old veteran who was last in the ring for a sixth-round stoppage loss to Fernando Guerrero in November of 2012.
“We came off of three wins and really did well, back-to-back, to back, and then we had a rough year last year. Three fights that were scheduled fell out on the other end. It had nothing to do with us. We’re happy to be right back in here,” said longtime trainer Pat Burns.
“But we don’t want to mess around. We want this fight, and then, we want to go right in there for the world title. We’d like any of the champions. We’d really like to get Sergio Martinez. He’s somebody that we’re targeting. But we’d take any of the champions, because I think that Jermain could whip them all.”
Burns reunited with Taylor against Nicklow, having guided the Arkansas native to a mark of 25-0, with 17 knockouts before being replaced in 2006 by Emanuel Steward, who died on Oct. 25 of 2012 at the age of 68.
Prior to Nicklow, Taylor had suffered frightening 12th-round knockouts against both Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham in April and October of 2009, the latter prompting his withdrawal from Showtime’s Super Six Super Middleweight Classic tournament.
Taylor received a CT Scan and an MRI as well as other testing in the days after the loss to Abraham. He was diagnosed with a concussion, short-term memory loss and bleeding on the brain. But Taylor was unanimously approved for a boxing license last September 2011 by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and returned to action against Nicklow.
“Everybody was talking crap when Jermain came back, and then, all of a when they saw that he got better and better and better,” said Burns of Taylor, who is advised by Al Haymon.
“Then, they didn’t want to fight. They started to pull out on us. That’s why we’re going to take this fight and then go after it. Al Haymon is doing everything that he can.”
In 12 of his previous 13 contests prior to Nicklow, Taylor’s opponents had been men who were titleholders at the time they faced Taylor, or had been previously.
The lone man who had not worn a crown 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 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 consecutive title defenses.
“Pat Burns was there when it all got started,” said Taylor. “When I hit my dream, he was there for the Hopkins fights, those championship fights.”
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. After earning a decision over Jeff Lacy in his super middleweight debut in November 2008, Taylor lost to Froch.
“Being at 160, that’s the right weight class for me. I don’t know why I ever went up to 168. Just getting lazy and not training hard and getting into a lot of bulls__t,” said Taylor. “But I’m back on my s__t, now, and I want to show people. I’m going to do what I do best, and that’s to box. Whoever wants it, they can come and get it. If Al Haymon can make it happen, it can happen.”
Near the end of his rope-jumping, Taylor was asked if his critics were taking his resume into account.
“I don’t give a damn if I’m appreciated or not, because that’s how it’s always been during my entire career,” said Taylor. “I’m a happy man, my family is fed, so damn the legacy.”
Then the man whose nickname is “Bad Intentions” looked at a camp member and asked, “You guys ready to get into the ring?”
Photos / Soobum Im – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions, Tom Casino-Showtime
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com