Still Champion: Taylor Beats Hopkins In Rematch

By Francis Walker
Updated: December 5, 2005

NEW YORK — Jermain Taylor retained the world middleweight championship with another 12-round unanimous decision victory against Bernard Hopkins Saturday at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The highly anticipated rematch occurred almost exactly the same as the previous encounter when Taylor (25-0, 17 KOs) wrestled the WBA, WBO, and IBF titles from Hopkins in July.

Hopkins rallied after losing nearly every round in the first half of the bout. Taylor finished stronger to record his first successful defense of the middleweight championships.

Throughout his career Hopkins was known as “The Executioner” and rightfully so. Hopkins (46-4-1, 32 KOs) had the fourth-longest title reign of any champion in boxing history. He made 20 consecutive successful middleweight title defenses in more than 10 years, which is the longest middleweight title reign in boxing history.

“I think after all the years that after reviewing my fights, especially these two fights with Jermain that I will be considered among the top middleweights and my fights will be mentioned along with all the other great middleweight fights in history,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins is the only fighter to unify the WBC, WBA, IBF, and WBO middleweight championships. Hopkins is the only fighter to knockout both Felix Trinidad (Sept. 2001) and “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya (Sept. 2004), whom he is a partner with at Golden Boy Promotions.

“I want everybody to understand that Bernard Hopkins tonight that being one month shy of 41 put on a twelve round exhibition. I don’t have to be ashamed of what happened tonight. There gets to be a point in life like when right before Michael Jordan retires, the Ken Griffeys and now in boxing with Bernard Hopkins, where I can compete at this level and still do what I do.”

Hopkins who turns 41 in January ’06 had a memorable career and was the best middleweight of his era for more than a decade. His Hopkins’ 25 middleweight world title fights is equivalent to Taylor’s 25 professional fights. However, Taylor, a 26-year-old native of Little Rock, Arkansas and a former U.S. Olympian, has emerged in the prime of his career. A new middleweight era has begun.

“Hopkins is great fighter, Taylor said afterward. “He came out there and at his age he gave it all. He is a very tricky fighter and he’s tough to really hit cleanly. You have to work to get him. But I beat him and I deserved the decision.”

Taylor, similar to the first fight, was aggressive with his left jab and managed to keep the more experienced Hopkins away. In fact, Taylor basically Taylor had the rematch won, as two of the three judges scored five of the first six rounds 10-9 for the champion. Another judge had Taylor leading 60-54 after the first six.

“He never hurt me. He hit me with a couple of good jabs but he never hurt me at all. I was trying to pace myself.”

Hopkins needed to become more aggressive in the earlier rounds in order to regain his championships. It was ridiculous to see Hopkins, recognized for being a slow starter throughout his career, wait until the seventh round to pressure Taylor.

“I think Jermain learned to hold much better in a down and dirty fight with Bernard Hopkins,” said the former champion. “He did a great job in close quarters and he proved that he can fight that way”

The fight was close until the eleventh and twelfth rounds when both Hopkins and Taylor desperately needed to win. Taylor did enough to emerge victorious, winning the championship rounds.

“I knew that I had to make a stand and a statement in the last three rounds to prove that I am still fresh and that I am still here. Prove this old man can hang with these young lions. I think I proved that.”

All three judges scored the bout 116-112 for Taylor.

“But I beat him and I deserved the decision,” Taylor said afterward. “I thought the decision was fair because I outworked him.”

Hopkins added” “I think that I did enough to prove that I am still the champion. Jermain Taylor proved that he can pout on a lion-like performance but there are champions and there are people’s champions. I don’t think I get the right type of respect, the type of respect that I won’t get until I die. But I have proven that I always win the battles in the long run.”

Taylor’s Future

The winner of Taylor-Hopkins II must defend the world middleweight championship against former undisputed junior middleweight champion, No. 1-ranked Winky Wright. On Dec. 10, Wright will face Sam Soliman in a 12-round middleweight eliminator.

Wright originally earned the WBC No. 1-ranking after his one-sided unanimous decision victory against the legendary Felix Trinidad in May. Hopkins, then the undisputed middleweight champion relinquished the belt prior to his first loss to Taylor in the summer. Wright has not fought since defeating Trinidad, who announced retirement two days following g his loss to Wright.

Wright will face Soliman, a tough Australian boxer who has not lost a fight since 2001. Soliman won an IBF middleweight title eliminator in July 2004, but never received a world title shot.

Taylor-Wright would be an ideal middleweight title fight for 2006. Wright has two consecutive victories against Shane Mosley. Wright’s last loss occurred six years ago when he lost a controversial 12-round majority decision to Fernando Vargas for the IBF junior middleweight crown.