A Dog's Breakfast
By Luke Dodemaide (December 7, 2005) 
Photo © HoganPhotos.com
Those of you counting the kilos (or pounds) best better avoid this serving of boxing’s favourite column, because with all the action in the heavyweight division – or perhaps the lack of it – we’re serving up a heavyweight edition of ‘A Dog’s Breakfast’, complete with bacon, eggs and all the pork of James Toney.

But hey, just because at the Doghouse we eat out of dish doesn’t mean this chef ain’t preparing you no entrée. Like all good meals it’s best this verbal boxing banquet starts with something a bit lighter, and since the middleweights are making more noise than the popcorn in my microwave, let me put my food for thought onto your virtual plate.

Jermaine Taylor’s self evaluation of his performance being ‘B grade’ may seem overly modest – or alternatively egotistical if you look at it as degrading Bernard Hopkins by beating him with a second rate performance – but I believe it was spot on. Although I love fluid motions in a fighter, Taylor’s left-right was a little too loose at times. Had it been more compact he would have had more control of the fortunes of the fight, catching Bernard more frequently.

Fluidity in fighters should come with the flow in motion. Taylor could have been tighter in his punches yet had he been more mobile and offered more manoeuvres in his offence it would have seemed a more effective and more attractive performance. His movement left much to be desired. This is not asking too much of Taylor and his talents and he knows it, hence the ‘B grade’ self assessment.

When Taylor was rising up the ranks it was not only the jab in itself that caught my eye, but rather also the way he delivered it, both from a distance and from ever changing positions. He threw it quite effectively from his toes and in movement, something he didn’t do against Hopkins in the rematch that I think would have proved quite effective. Angles always trouble old dogs.

Taylor offered a lack of variety, and when he did throw punches in bunches, there was a lack of precision. As the younger pup in this encounter, I think it was his hunger that eventually got him over the line, as well his youth. But this did not need to be the case. Please note I am merely pointing out these possible flaws to outline the potential of Jermaine Taylor as a fighter. There is much to like about this twenty-seven year old proud Arkansas native; the fact that he went out to take the torch from Hopkins in the ring rather than waiting to inherit it as the heir apparent after Hopkins hung up his gloves is not only a huge plus for Jermaine and his nature, but for his legacy and the credibility of today’s middleweight division. Had Hopkins got the nod in the rematch or even the first fight it would have left an undeniable stain on the division’s future, tattered by a fighter of the past. It is this reason why I would have loved to have seen Taylor take this fight more convincingly. Don’t get me wrong, I like Bernard Hopkins, but first and foremost I love boxing, and Jermaine Taylor with the titles is good for the game.

Taylor can and will keep improving. It was essentially the teachings and knowledge of Bernard Hopkins that allowed him to surpass his peers and fight to such a late age, and if twenty-four rounds with this man is going to do anything for Jermaine, it can only be positive.

If Jermaine is to beat Winky Wright (who fights honest Aussie Sam Soliman to become number one contender to the middleweight championship this weekend) he must register no less than an A-grade performance. Wright is clearly at the peak of his powers and unless Soliman can conjure up a miraculous formula to get by that pillar like defence, Wright will almost certainly be Taylor’s next opponents due to the mandatory status he will hold.

Now after writing that report card boys and girls, I think it’s story time…

With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar out of the 1980 finals, the Dr.J led Philadelphia 76ers hot on their heels and game six scheduled in Philadelphia, the Los Angeles Lakers didn't have too much to smile about. It was a time of tension, fuelled by potential devastation that was both symbolised and accredited to the vacant seat on the team plane where Abdul-Jabbar – the NBA's all time leading scorer – usually sat.

But then, last on board, arrived the young, fast and flashiest rookie in
the league, Magic Johnson, with a charismatic smile and words so cool they
could extinguish the heated headache which was communal among the rest of the team, "Do not fear guys, Magic is here!".

The moral of the story? When Los Angeles Lakers lost their big man, they recovered. Just as boxing will with the loss of our premier big man Vitali Klitschko. And let me tell you, Klitschko ain't no Kareem.

The Philadelphia Eagles will also tell you, sometimes you have to remove the best man from the mould to create the most fertile future.

Simply, I don’t understand the mourning that has come with the retirement of Vitali Klitschko. The dude not only fought like Lurch but faced opponents – in Corrie Sanders and Danny Williams – that even Wednesday would have disposed of. The two big names on his resume, Chris Byrd and Lennox Lewis, both have L’s next to them on his record, with his fifteen minutes coming in a ‘gallant’ stoppage loss to an ageing Lewis.

If anything, the exit of the paper champ provides the heavyweight division with a clean slate of opportunity for a new champion to emerge, or at least with such commonly competent competition in the monopolized grip Don King now has over all four heavyweight champions, we may get some reasonable, if mediocre, match ups.

Klitschko never beat the champion or even a former champion, therefore has as much justification to the championship claim as newly installed WBC champ, Hasim Rahman. It has also taken Hasim Rahman less than a week to do what Vitali Klitschko couldn’t do in eighteen months as champion – secure a big fight. Rahman’s first defense looks to be with the charismatic but controversial James ‘Lights Out’ Toney on the 4th of February… ‘War on Feb 4’ anyone?

It’s a risky move with every chance to cut Rahman’s second reign even shorter than his first stint, but give the guy his props, he’s giving the heavyweight championship belt what it deserves; big fights.

And even if that doesn’t bring you much excitement, you only have to look south to the 140 and 147 pound divisions to the supreme talent of Floyd Mayweather to get your fix of the science at its sweetest. He may be on HBO, but it’s always showtime when Mayweather steps between the ropes. And haters, just when you thought it was safe to label Floyd the next ‘Reluctant Roy’ he goes and organises a March meeting with undisputed welterweight champ, Zab ‘Super’ Judah, a fight that’s going to have more hip-hop than the ‘Up In Smoke’ tour. Make sure nobody gives the police ringside seats, because with such fast hands between the ropes the speeding fines could que Ice Cube and rest of NWA to stand up from their baggy jeans and preach their old testament (‘F*ck da Police!’) prompting the WBC, IBF and WBA to clean up the sports image NBA style. And there’s no way you’re getting Zab Judah’s ghetto ass in a suit and tie.

Tarver vs Tyson eh? It’s so bizarre it makes perfect sense. Hell it’s gonna sell pay-per-views, make money and at the end of the day isn’t that what this whole industry is about? Even at thirty-eight and coming off consecutive knockout losses, Tyson is still going to be dangerous for the opening two, or perhaps three, rounds. As long as Antonio Tarver can survive through this nine minute period, the sound of the bell for the fourth will almost certainly symbolise the song of the fat lady for Iron Mike.

I don’t know if it’s the facial art or the apparent addiction of the boxing’s biff and bucks, but Mike Tyson seems to make last hurrahs more frequent than regularly retiring and returning rockers KISS. Should the boxing community feel cheated by this? By the continued ugly scars Mike seems to smear upon his legacy with every next go-around? Jeez, if the former god of thunder wants to keep rocking and rolling all fight night pulling the strings on his gloves more often than Gene Simmons does on his love-gun, who are we to complain? How many of us credit Mike Tyson for our induction to the sweet science?

Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to see Mike hang ‘em up as well, but if the man wants to keep fighting and bring interest and headlines to a sport starved of the mainstream, is that necessarily a bad thing?

After seeing a couple of photos from the shooting of ‘Rocky VI’ (viewed at this very website) which took place at the Taylor-Hopkins rematch I’m starting to think sixty-two year old Rocky Balboa may just have a successful comeback against Desmond Mason. So maybe a thirty-eight year old Iron Mike can draw inspiration from and then emulate this performance. Because is it just me or do Rocky and Tyson’s respective opponents – Mason and Tarver – look kinda alike?

Well put the knife and fork together guys, because that’s it for another Dog’s Breakfast.

Until next time….
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