Pavlik vs Taylor: A Battle of Nerves - Boxing
By Gabriel Montoya and Realtorchill (Feb 14, 2008) Doghouse Boxing         
Sandwiched in between fights involving over hyped youngsters, aging veterans, and borderline talent is the rematch between Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor.  For the second straight year, this will be the premier battle for true boxing fans.  This Saturday, the MGM Grand will host the showdown of 166 pounders.  Because the fight is above the middleweight limit, Pavlik will be able to hold onto his belts.  But will he hold onto his undefeated record?
This past Monday at the Beverly Hills Hotel, both Pavlik and Taylor stated their cases before a packed house of boxing
media. It was an interesting and insightful look at two men who are polar opposites. Pavlik, calm, cool, and collected, was pleased about the extra six pounds allowable for the rematch.  He oozed confidence that stemmed from being able to train harder and longer. “I think it’s a huge advantage,” Kelly would tell me. “My weight right now is awesome. I’ve been able to workout more and get reenergized and refuel my body so I feel great.” Pavlik would also speak to how his confidence has grown since winning the title. “Definitely, but you don’t take that for granted, either.  You still train like you did before you won the title. You can’t take anything for granted. You just go out there to be ready to go twelve rounds.”
On the flipside of that was Taylor who seemed a bit high strung yet adamant that this time he had found the keys to success. "I'm coming to fight, I got my butt kicked the last time in that ring and I'm a better fighter because of the loss. We had a great training camp and I'm in good shape. I'm at the top of my game and I know I will come away with the victory.”  Taylor insisted he hadn’t done the little things in his last camp to insure success. "I took Kelly Pavlik for granted, I underestimated him and I learned something from the loss. I'm not taking anything away from him, but I'm
coming to get back everything he took from me. I'm very focused for this fight.  Everything is on the line with me for this fight."

After staving off a late rally to win the middleweight title in 2005, Taylor gave former pound-for-pound champion, Bernard Hopkins an immediate rematch.  He tried his best to silence critics, but more doubters appeared after a second controversial victory.  Instead of accepting a showcase bout, Jermain faced the next best fighter in the sport, Winky Wright.  A hard fought draw created even more questions, but no answers.  His new trainer, hall of famer Emanuel Steward, chastised Taylor for sitting on the ropes and taking unnecessary punishment.  By the time Jermain entered the ring against former 154 titleholders Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks, he looked like a lost fighter.  Steward tried desperately to correct a multitude of bad habits, but his effect on the champion was minimal, at best.

Meanwhile, a highly talented fighter from Youngstown, Ohio was steamrolling his competition.  In 2005 and 2006, Kelly Pavlik knocked out all six of his opponents.  In 2007, promoter Bob Arum was ready to pit Pavlik against anyone.  In January, he dispatched of rugged Jose Luis Zertuche in eight rounds.  In May, on the Taylor/Spinks undercard, he upset power-punching Edison Miranda in a fight of the year candidate.  The only man left for Kelly to conquer was Jermain Taylor.

Despite the well chronicled problems that Taylor had, he was still a small favorite to defeat Pavlik.  The top two middleweights in the world stepped into the ring confident, in shape, and seemingly in the prime of their careers.  They fought at a frenetic pace.  Early on, Taylor got the best of Pavlik and was moving in for a knockout.  It looked for a moment that Jermain would finally get the explosive victory that he had desperately yearned for.  Taylor gave it his all, but could not put the surprisingly calm challenger away.  Pavlik took over in round five and scored an impressive seventh round stoppage.  The bubble had finally burst in Jermain Taylor's intense six fight run.  Shortly afterward Emanuel Steward was replaced with Jermain's amateur trainer, Ozell Nelson. 

Debates about Taylor's slide since entering the ring versus Bernard Hopkins have run rampant.  Jermain's been called too green, too undisciplined, overrated, and lacking in fundamentals. But if we look deeper, we might find the real problem.  Prior to the Hopkins' fight, Taylor displayed an excellent jab.  He also showed patience in the ring.  But since round eight of the first fight with Hopkins, Jermain Taylor has developed a new bad habit: wasted energy.  Taylor hinted after the bout with Bernard that nerves sapped most of his energy in the blatantly slow-paced bout.  For some unknown reason, Jermain has brought those butterflies into the ring ever since.  Prior to the first time we saw those nerves unveil, he was coasting to a victory against the former pound-for-pound champ.  Only he knows what caused him to become unraveled on that summer night in 2005.

This Saturday, Jermain Taylor will be in the fight of his life.  To make matters worse, he'll be entering the ring against one of the more composed fighters in the world. “No ifs, ands, or buts, “said Taylor. “I’m not worrying about jabbing more or doing this or that. I’m not boxing or moving. I’m coming to fight. I’m coming straight to him. If I lose, so be it. If I get him down again, he will stay down.”
If Taylor’s nerves get the best of him again, a knockout loss is inevitable and we'll have a new star in the sport of boxing.  “I don’t think he is going to be much different at all,” says Pavlik. “Everyone is saying he is changing this, doing this, working harder. But all I heard last time was that it was his hardest training camp and best so I don’t know. All’s I know is we are ready to go.”

“I stick to the one thing that got me here,” Pavlik says with an easy calm. "Throw a lot of punches, stay busy and whatever happens happens. Whatever [Taylor’s] gameplan is, I'm sure we'll have an answer."

With the addition of Nelson, Taylor feels he is returning to his roots. He claims to be rediscovering what got him to the top and is banking on that to get him through this time. "A lot of people have said to me, why don't you take a tune-up and get your confidence back. I don't need a tune-up to get my confidence back, I never lost my confidence. I can beat Kelly Pavlik."

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