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Jermain Taylor, Unrequited Love and the Unforgiving March of Time

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Jermain Taylor never graduated from high school, and he never went to college either. But he loves the University of Arkansas more than most who have degrees from there. Arkansas Razorback paraphernalia adorns his body nearly at all times. He loves the school, its sports teams and the Razorback culture.

He loves it no matter what.

Taylor, age 36, defeated Sam Soliman via 12-round decision on October 8 to become the IBF middleweight champion. It was Taylor’s first title win since defeating Cory Spinks by split decision in May 2007. Taylor twice defeated long-reigning middleweight king Bernard Hopkins two years prior to become the new face of the division albeit for a short time. He defended his titles four times in two years before losing them to Kelly Pavlik in September 2007. Before the loss, Taylor bested Hopkins in the rematch, earned a draw against Winky Wright and won decisions against Kassim Ouma and Spinks.

But most boxing fans didn’t want to see the former undisputed middleweight champion fight Soliman for the title on Wednesday. In fact, most fans don’t want him fighting at all. Most writers didn’t want to see it either, something they opined about through stories and social media banter all month leading up to the fight.

Their reasoning was sound enough. Between 2007 and 2009, Taylor suffered four losses in five fights, including three brutal knockouts at the hands of Kelly Pavlik, Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham. In the last bout of the period, Taylor was diagnosed with a cerebral hemorrhage following his Round 12 knockout loss to Abraham.

When Taylor came back to the ring in 2011, he underwent a battery of medical tests at the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. He passed them and was granted a license to fight again when the Nevada Athletic Commission’s Medical Advisory board voted 5-0 in his favor.

“I’ve seen a guy who I was with at the Olympics training camp, and he can’t even talk now,” Taylor told the New York Times’ Josh Katzowitz in 2013. “His brain swelled up, and his speech was slurred. I don’t want to be like that. But he chose his sport. I chose this sport. And I love it.”

But never mind that. Boxing doesn’t love Taylor.

Not being loved back is the worst. They call the phenomenon “unrequited love” but I think a better term might be something like “life-sucking death punch to the soul.” Or something like that. I don’t know. But I know it sucks. I’ve been there. It’s awful.

I remember the first time I saw her. Her name was Marcy (it wasn’t, but for the purposes of this story it will be). I didn’t know what to do! Literally, I was frozen in my tracks. I had no answer for Marcy’s existence. I was stunned by her. She was the most beautiful person I’d ever seen. In boxing terms, she was Ray Robinson and I was some bum off the street with two fists and a face.

I had no hope.

I was a sophomore in high school. She was a freshman. She was in the gym that day for some kind of orientation. I don’t know. I don’t remember that part. But I remember seeing her across the room. I remember seeing her and feeling like my heart broke into a million little pieces right then and there.

I didn’t know what to do.

I didn’t say one word to Marcy that day, and I didn’t say anything to her for two years after either. What was I going to say? She was from another planet. I might as well have been an ant. Besides, I knew if I walked up to her, it’d be like she was speaking Arabic and I’d be speaking Chinese.

Even when I ended up talking to her, it was by accident. I would call her phone and hang up. I did that for two years. It wasn’t that I was building up the courage to speak to her. I didn’t have that in me. I just wanted to hear her voice. But one day she caught on to me. You see, there was a new service offered by the phone company that not everyone had yet back then. It was called Caller ID, and it showed the name and number for all incoming calls. When I was as senior, and she was a junior, Marcy had it.

I’d never heard of such a device! Clearly, this contraption was the work of the devil.

Marcy figured everything out like a little detective. She called me back and detailed to me how she deduced it. I’ll never forget the conversation. My stepsister and I shared a phone line in our house. It was listed in her name. But Marcy knew it wasn’t her. Marcy knew it was me.

Marcy was used to people falling head over heels for her. But it was the most embarrassing thing that had ever happened to me! Marcy was sweet about it though. She wasn’t interested in me in that way, but she was always sweet to me. She’d talk to me on the phone. She’d entertain me if I visited her at work. She’d read all the little letters I’d write to her. Marcy was always kind and warm-hearted, even if I wasn’t.

But she’d never date me, and it sucked! Oh my Lord, it was the absolute worst feeling in the world. She dated someone else. Or if she wasn’t dating him, it was someone else. Or no one. Just never me. I just wasn’t her type, and there was no convincing her otherwise.

I tried, of course. Sometimes I think I did the best I could. But like I said, I didn’t know what to do. I was too young, selfish and stupid to know what to do. We’ve all been there, in one way or another.

Anyway, I loved Marcy as much as my little heart was capable of loving anyone back then. But I didn’t know how to love. Not really. Not yet. I came from a broken home rife with all sorts of dysfunction. I didn’t know what to do, so eventually I decided I’d just pretend like I didn’t love her. And when that didn’t work, I decided to just make myself forget her. And when I couldn’t figure out how to do that, I turned to drugs for help.

That’s probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to admit to myself. I started doing drugs, something I battled for seven long years, to forget about a girl! It’s incredibly embarrassing and shows a great weakness in my character.

Drugs eventually worked, except that they didn’t. You see, Marcy always popped into my head for some reason anyway. And I didn’t remember why until almost 20 years later. I have to tell you, there’s no greater sense of loss that I’ve experienced in my life than that remembrance. Knowing that the unforgiving march of time can go on and on and on without the acknowledgment of something so important is a devastating realization.

It all seems such a waste. Obviously, the waste isn’t thinking or believing or wanting things to have worked out differently than they did between Marcy and I in the romantic realm. Marcy fell in love and got married. She has three daughters now, each as beautiful I remember her, and a husband she loves more than anything else in the world. And I fell in love, too. Rachel and I were meant to be together. When God made Rachel, he was thinking of me! I love her so much. I could not ask for a more perfect wife. We’re two peas in a pod. We’ve been married for nine years now, going on one hundred.

But Marcy was important to me, and I ignored it. I can’t get that back. I never would have known how to love Rachel if I’d never seen Marcy across room that day. I never would have known what love is without having experienced the unrequited kind first. I never would have turned out to be me if had I not met Marcy.

I could’ve been at her wedding. I could’ve seen her grow into a mother. I could’ve been there if she needed me. I could’ve just loved her anyway.

But I didn’t.

All I did was discover 20 years later that not being loved back isn’t the worst thing after all. No. The worst is denying where love exists in the first place. The worst is throwing the truth away for a lie. The worst is forsaking unrequited love for the vanity of sparing your own feelings.

Here’s what I respect about Jermain Taylor: He hasn’t done that in his love for boxing. He might have taken two years off to pout about his life. He might have made poor decisions here and there. He might never be what he could have been.

But Taylor loves boxing, and he knows something about love that I didn’t, too.

Taylor knows love isn’t dependent on reaction, but action. Love is really straightforward if you think about it. The Beatles were right: It’s easy! Where most people get love wrong is that they believe it necessitates being loved back in return. But that’s all wrong. Love doesn’t demand reciprocity. It demands respect. Not for you. But for it.

Love exists for its own sake.

Taylor might do lots of things wrong in life. I’ve only met him twice. I don’t know. I know he doesn’t throw punches in proportion to the physical tools God gave him. I know he can’t always get out the way of knockout blows. I know he might very well be a criminal in regards to pending legal matters.

But Taylor I also know that he gets this one thing right in life above all else: He loves boxing, and he keeps on loving it. No matter what, he loves it. Boxing might not love him back, but Taylor loves boxing anyway.

“A champion is someone who gets up when he can’t,” said Jack Dempsey. It’s probably the most famous quote of one of boxing’s most popular heavyweight champions ever. Taylor is now the IBF middleweight champion because he does exactly that, even when he probably shouldn’t.

Whatever there is to say in regards to other matters, I’ll tell you this about that particular piece of information: I respect and admire the hell out of that.

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In Dismantling Povetkin, Joshua Recaptured His Swag among the Heavyweights

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experienced opponent

He was in against a very crafty and experienced opponent in former WBA titlist Alexander Povetkin 34-2 (24). And although he was troubled by the dangerous Russian fighting small as he tried to inch his way in and time him, AJ adjusted well and started to take the initiative and dropped and stopped Povetkin in the seventh round, retaining his WBA, WBO, and IBF heavyweight titles and thus becoming the first fighter to ever stop Povetkin, something Wladimir Klitschko failed to do.

During the fight AJ was forced back. He had to adapt to Povetkin making him punch down and that caused him to be a little tentative, especially after being bloodied from a broken nose in the first round. And early on, AJ was a little confused and busy trying to keep Povetkin occupied from outside so he couldn’t get in on him. His most effective weapon in doing such was his left jab, delivered to the head or body, although the fight really turned when he began putting his one-two together. Then after a fairly evenly-paced bout, AJ slowed some with the hope it would lure Povetkin to close in a little harder, and he did.

As Povetkin, who came to fight, became more assertive, he became more vulnerable. AJ found the openings for his big right hand and left hook. With the first really solid right hand that bounced off his chin, Povetkin buckled and instinctively went back. Joshua pursued him and then, with near Joe Louis-like accuracy, put his right hands and hooks together, along with a beautiful right to the body in the middle of the assault and finished his game opponent.

Once again it was shown that trading with AJ is almost certain suicide. Povetkin was in great shape and would’ve been a handful for any other heavyweight in the world because he no doubt brought his A-game. Sometimes it takes AJ a little while to get going, and if you don’t do anything to bother him or wake him up, he doesn’t fight with the urgency of a “Smokin” Joe Frazier. However, when you wake him up and force him to cut loose, he’s so dangerous that he doesn’t need too many clean shots to end it. And making Joshua more lethal is that he has both short and inside power in both hands.

After months of hearing how Povetkin was the most serious threat to Joshua, that’s now finished business. Prior to the bout The Ring magazine rated the top six heavyweights in the world as follows…..Joshua, Wilder, Povetkin, Ortiz, Whyte and Parker, in that order. Now Joshua is 3-0 (2) versus Povetkin, Whyte and Parker which squashes the narrative that he has fought weaker opposition than WBC title holder Deontay Wilder 40-0 (39) who has only faced Ortiz among the top six.

Today, the most widely levied criticism of any elite fighter is that he didn’t fight the best man or men in his division. Fighters can’t control who their contemporaries are but they can control fighting the best of their era. Rocky Marciano’s era wasn’t stellar, but he fought every top fighter who was in line to challenge him. Floyd Mayweather fought in a stout era – the difference is an overwhelming majority of his bouts with big name opponents were strategically manipulated so that he faced them on the downside of their career – and that’s a fact, not a theory.

Forty years after his last victory in a title fight, Muhammad Ali is respected and revered as a fighter even by those who don’t claim to be a fan of his. Why? He wasn’t the most fundamental boxer in heavyweight history nor was he the biggest puncher, and not all of his fights were edge of your seat exciting. The thing that’s often cited as to why he was a marvel is that he fought the best of the best during one of the deepest eras in heavyweight history. There were a few times between 1975-77 that he held a win over every fighter ranked among The Ring magazine’s top-10. Sure he fought a few Brian London’s and Jean Pierre Coopman’s, but London was encompassed by Sonny Liston and Ernie Terrell during the 1960s and Coopman by Joe Frazier and Ken Norton during the 1970s.

Anthony Joshua hasn’t yet sniffed the greatness of Ali on many levels, but he is on the same trajectory in regards to meeting and defeating the best of his generation. By the end of this month, the WBC heavyweight title fight between Deontay Wilder and former champ Tyson Fury will likely become official with them meeting in early December. And regardless of who wins, Joshua, if he really wants to etch a great legacy, must pressure the winner to meet him in their next bout. In addition to that, he must tell his brain, aka Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn, to forget about winning the purse war if it is the only stumbling block. If the winner of Wilder-Fury is impressive, he will have earned a 50-50 split.

During the faux negotiations between the Joshua and Wilder camps this past summer the purse split was the focal point. And prior to the prospect of Wilder and Fury meeting, Joshua clearly held the better hand based on his resume and owning three titles to Wilder’s single title.  But the Wilder-Fury winner will have closed the gap and Joshua needs to be next while the fighters are at or near their prime. The fact is Joshua versus the Wilder/Fury winner will be the most widely anticipated fight in the heavyweight division since Lewis-Tyson and maybe even since Tyson-Holyfield I. The onus is on the fighters to make it happen and they both have the clout to make sure it does, especially Joshua.

Interviewed in the ring after dispatching Povetkin, AJ said it didn’t matter to him who he fought next as long as it’s Wilder or Fury, but it was obvious that he preferred Wilder. A lot depends on how Wilder fares with Fury, but until then, here’s what we know…..Alexander Povetkin and Luis Ortiz are about on the same level; having never faced each other, it’s a tossup as to who’d win. Both Joshua and Wilder scored impressive stoppages over Povetkin and Ortiz respectively…AJ needed seven rounds and Deontay needed ten rounds. During his bout with Ortiz, Wilder was knocked around the ring and had to endure a few big exchanges, some of which he came out second-best. Wilder was also nearly stopped in the seventh round but battled back, summoning great courage and reserve to win a fight he was losing. Against Povetkin, Joshua was more troubled than he was beaten up. And once he found his range and pace and began putting his punches together, the fight ultimately ended when AJ got off with his best stuff. In essence, Joshua was more impressive against Povetkin and had fewer close calls than did Wilder against Ortiz.

Between now and the time Wilder fights Tyson Fury, it’ll be debated as to who was more impressive – Joshua against Povetkin or Wilder against Ortiz; the answer is clearly Joshua for the reasons stated. Moreover, when analyzing a fight, A + B doesn’t equal C. Joshua will be favored over either Wilder or Fury, but probably along the line of 7-5 and nothing will change that.

The thing that emerged from Joshua dismantling Povetkin is that AJ recaptured some of the limelight and swag he ceded to Wilder this past March. AJ is again the fighter to beat in the heavyweight division and will probably get the bigger purse split regardless of whether he faces Wilder and Fury.

That said, he better not let the fight fall through over it!

Between 1977 and 1982, Frank Lotierzo had over 50 fights in the middleweight division. He trained at Joe Frazier’s gym in Philadelphia under the tutelage of the legendary George Benton. Before joining The Sweet Science his work appeared in several prominent newsstand and digital boxing magazines and he hosted “Toe-to-Toe” on ESPN Radio. Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@gmail.com

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Tanaka vs. Kimora: A Monday Morning Treat For Serious Fight Fans

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Kosei Tanaka was just 4-0 the first time he was appraised on The Sweet Science back in 2015; the question then was, is Tanaka the world’s brightest boxing prospect? The question now is whether or not Tanaka is about to add a strap at a third weight to an already glittering career that has seen him annex belts at 105 and 108lbs in just his first eight fights.

Now 11-0 with seven knockouts he prepares, this coming Monday, to duel Sho Kimura in Nagoya, Japan and with a lot more than just the WBO trinket on the line.

Hearts and minds, as always, translate into dollars and yen. The winner of this all-Japanese contest will find himself buoyed in fame, glory and gold in his home country, which also happens to be one of the few places on the planet where a boxer can collect a small fortune without ever leaving his native shores. Should the winner dare to dream a wider dream, then that too can be facilitated by the win.  Even fistic denizens of boxing strongholds in Japan and Britain feel a shiver run down their spines when the words “Las Vegas headliner” are whispered into their ear.

The favored man among the hardcore in the west is Tanaka. He is still very young at just twenty-three years old and is slick and quick, what the west expects of a Japanese force. Interestingly enough, however, the Japanese seem to be leaning towards Kimura: older, at twenty-nine, armed with a superb work-rate, good power, limited technique but the conqueror of Chinese superstar Shiming Zou who he stopped in the summer of 2017. Zou may have had his bubble burst by the Thai brawler Amnat Ruenroeng in 2015, but it was Kimura who sent him stumbling into retirement and at a time when the talk was of China stealing Japan’s thunder as boxing’s home in the east.

Kimura was indeed impressive that night in Shanghai. He maintained pressure with wonderful variety, eschewing the jab, perhaps, for spells, but filling those gaps with an assortment of wonderful punches, most of all his body attack, which was persistent, withering, and apparently went unscored by two of the three judges who somehow had the Chinese ahead at the time of the eleventh round stoppage. Zou had shown a skill for flurrying while fleeing and Kimura had shown him how to fight.

Now a strapholder at 112lbs, Kimura staged two defenses in the following twelve months. The first was against Toshiyuki Igarashi, the man who beat Sonny Boy Jaro, the man who had beaten the superb champion Pongsaklek Wonjongkam before a softer fight against Froilan Saludar. He won both by stoppage.

Kimura, then, rather came from nowhere but made the most of his arrival. What he displayed in all three of these fights was a determination to offer pressure and footwork educated enough to do it while taking many fewer steps than his harried opponent. A tad overrated as a puncher, I suspect, he places himself in hitting position often enough that his default fight plan – chase, harass, throw – makes him capable of hurting his opponents by way of persistence and pressure.

He left Zou, Igarashi and Saludar, broken in his wake.

In short, he is the type of opponent Kosei Tanaka has been waiting for.

There have been calls for Tanaka to be considered a pound-for-pound talent should he overcome Kimura this Monday. I understand the impulse. Tanaka, were he to triumph, would become a three-weight world champion and he hails from a boxing territory which has little direct control over the meaningful pound-for-pound lists, if such a statement is not a contradiction in terms.

In short, it is felt he would be undervalued.

Tempering these calls is the fact that he has never beaten a divisional number one and that Kimura would be, by far, the best opponent he would have bested, and the most proven. Some Tanaka opponents have come good after he defeated them, some were ranked in the lower reaches of their respective divisional top tens when he matched them, but none are scalps as impressive as those dangled by the likes of Errol Spence or Anthony Joshua, who populate the nine, ten and eleven spots in reputable lists.

But this is neither here nor there; the key is not what Kimura does not represent, it is what he does represent. He is the best that Tanaka has met and, I would argue, the first truly elite fighter that Tanaka has met. He is the litmus test and he is one with a stylistic advantage.

Tanaka can punch. Here we will find out whether or not he punches hard enough to keep Kimura off him. Personally, I doubt it and that means that Kimura is going to hand him a serious gut check.

Interestingly, it will not be Tanaka’s first. The first time I wrote about him I stressed that his chin was essentially untested. That is no longer true. Tanaka, who is reasonably sound defensively, can be lazy in minding himself and foolish in pursuing the attack.

Thai puncher Rangsan Chayanram checked him in 2017, delivering a serious eye injury among other ignominies before succumbing in nine; puncher Angel Acosta, a ranked fighter if not a great one, hit and hurt Tanaka repeatedly late in their 2017 contest. If Tanaka has been learning these lessons, expectations concerning his potential may be realized. If he is not, he will fall short. Kimura is the man to test him.

Kimura’s experience and seemingly limitless twelve-round stamina are to be pitted against Tanaka’s skill, proven heart and taut footwork. It sees a superior technician – Tanaka – who has shown a propensity for being drawn into a cruder fighter’s wheelhouse matching an aggressive stalker – Kimura – who specializes in drawing technically superior foes into knockdown-drag-out scraps.

It is framed both as a fight that is likely to finish a future pound-for-pounder’s education and a fight where a young pretender is found out by a grizzled veteran.

Best of all, it is a fight that fight fans can watch for free, simply by clicking here.  The Asian Boxing website has secured exclusive international rights to the fight and will broadcasting it, free of charge, to anyone with an internet connection. As can be seen here, the fight is due to start at 4pm Japanese time.

All the reader has to do is find out what that means for timing in their own corner of the globe and a potential fight of the year will unfold before his or her eyes free of charge.

World class boxing being broadcast for free and including two of the best below 115lbs; a stylistic crossroads contest that opens up the on-ramp to pound-for-pound recognition for at least one of the combatants – on a Monday.  All facts worth keeping in mind the next time that someone tells you boxing’s prime was any number of decades ago.

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Fast Results From London: Joshua Takes Out Povetkin in the 7th

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UK sporting

It was a very wet night at Wembley Stadium, but the dampness didn’t diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd which welcomed UK sporting hero Anthony Joshua into the ring with a thunderous ovation. And Joshua didn’t disappoint. After six relatively even rounds, he found his range in the seventh and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin. A three punch combo that began with an overhand right sent Povetkin sprawling into the ropes. The Russian beat the count, but Joshua smelled blood and as soon as the ref allowed the proceedings to continue he moved in for the kill. The official time was 1:59.

Povetkin started fast and in the eyes of many observers won the first three rounds. A sharp right hand in the waning seconds of round one reddened Joshua’s nose which leaked blood in the next round. The tide began to turn in round four when Povetkin suffered a cut above his left eye.

Povetkin (now 34-2), was the lighter man by 23 pounds. Joshua had a four inch height advantage and a seven inch reach advantage. And it mattered greatly that AJ was the younger man by 10-plus years. Povetkin wasn’t intimidated by Joshua and had several good moments but, at age 39, his reflexes betrayed him once the fight had crossed the midpoint.

Joshua, who owns three of the four meaningful heavyweight title belts, improved to 22-0 with his 21st stoppage. His next fight is penciled in for April 13 of next year against an opponent to be determined. His promoter Eddie Hearn has reserved that date at Wembley Stadium.

Other Bouts

In a 12-round lightweight bout, Joshua’s Olympic Games teammate and fellow gold medalist Luke Campbell (19-2) avenged the first loss of his career with a unanimous decision (119-109, 118-111,116-112) over France’s Yvan Mendy (40-5-1). This was Campbell’s second start since coming up short in a bid for Jorge Linares’s lightweight title and his first fight under his new trainer Shane McGuigan.

In their first meeting in December of 2015 at London’s O2 Arena, Mendy won a split decision that should have been unanimous. Campbell insisted that he had improved greatly in the interim and tonight’s fight bore witness. However, he needs to develop a harder punch to rank among the top lightweights in the world, a list headed by Mikey Garcia. As this fight was framed as a WBC title eliminator, Campbell is next in line to meet Garcia, but Mikey has indicated that he will pursue bigger game.

Lawrence Okolie, a 2016 Olympian who trains with Anthony Joshua, won a Lonsdale belt in only his 10th pro start with a 12-round decision over defending BBBofC cruiserweight champion Matty Askin in a messy fight. The undefeated Okolie had a point deducted in round five for leading with his head and had two more points deducted for holding, but banked enough rounds to get the nod on all three cards: 116-110, 114-112, and 114-113. Askin, who declined to 23-4-1, had won five straight heading in.

A 10-round heavyweight match between Sergey Kuzmin (13-0, 1 NC) and David Price (22-6) ended suddenly when Price retired on his stool after four relatively even rounds. The six-foot-eight, china-chinned Price claimed to have aggravated a biceps tear.

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