You Again??

By Francis Walker
Updated: February 13, 2008

NEW YORK — The rematch between Kelly Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs) and Jermain Taylor (27-1-1, 17 KOs) will commence on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

During their first encounter, Pavlik shocked the world by knocking Taylor out in the seventh round of an exciting battle to lift the WBC/WBO middleweight championships.

Instead of taking a tune-up following such a brutal KO defeat, Taylor has optioned to fight Pavlik in an immediate rematch.

“I choose to do this rematch because I want to beat the guy who beat me,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to waste anytime with any tune-up fights. That’s what the fans want to see.”

The first time, Taylor fought a tall, strong middleweight puncher in Pavlik, he did step his game up a notch in comparison to previous title defenses against 154-pounders Winky Wright, Kassim Ouma, and Cory Spinks.

Taylor had Pavlik down and nearly out in the second round of their initial encounter at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City last Fall. But the 29 year-old Arkansas native couldn’t finish Pavlik, 25, from Youngstown, Ohio,

Taylor, although he was ahead on the three judges scorecards (58-55 twice, 59-54), he became a sucker for Pavlik’s right hand combinations. Pavlik imposed his will on Taylor, who kept backing up into a corner and allowing the then unbeaten challenger to impose his will.

Pavlik pressed Taylor continuously before knocking him out cold.

“He knows what’s going to happen the next fight,” Pavlik said. “I’m going to be there. I’m going to throw punches. The main question is what are you going to do any different this fight? Nothing! Go back to the drawing board work on some things I did wrong.”

“There’s going to be fireworks that night. Jermain is one of those guys that have a lot of self-pride. He’s going to comeback with something. My job is to be ready for the best Jermain Taylor, who may be in the best possible shape that I’m in.”

The second go-around between these two fighters will be a little different, as Pavlik’s 160-pound championships will not be at stake. In fact, the bout will be at 166 pounds – thus confirming speculation that Taylor was having some difficulty making the 160-pound limit.

The weight advantage will benefit Pavlik more so than Taylor. Pavlik will be stronger, as his 6-foot-2½ structure will carry the extra six pounds well. Pavlik is already a pure middleweight puncher and there aren’t too many middleweights that can punch with him including Taylor.

One of the adjustments that Taylor had made was releasing Emmanuel Steward. The chemistry between the two fighters simply wasn’t there as Steward became increasingly critical of Taylor’s lack of power, lack of explosiveness, and refusal to listen to directions.

Steward is excellent working with fighters than can both punch and box effectively. But a boxer like Taylor, things simply didn’t workout.

Taylor has rekindled the relationship with his former Olympic coach Ozell Nelson. Regardless as to what Taylor is working on in camp, the first few solid shots that Pavlik lands (and he will land something significant), Taylor will revert back to the same fighter he was when he fought Pavlik the first time.

While Taylor was middleweight champion, he was heavily criticized for his lackluster performances against Wright, Ouma, and Spinks. Many believed Wright beat Taylor, but the fight was ruled a draw.

Taylor struggled in vain to get rid of a much smaller Ouma and won a tactical boxing match with Spinks, via an unexpected split-decision.

Pavlik should beat Taylor in the rematch, but remember the once former unbeaten world middleweight champion had the current unbeaten 160-pound titlist badly hurt in the second round.

The skills and talent that led Taylor to two consecutive victories against Bernard Hopkins in 2005 is there. Taylor was ahead on points, but his inconsistency as a fighter and bad habits of fighting near the ropes and dropping his hands were evident as well.

Fights are both won and lost in training camp, but the fact that Pavlik brutally knocked Taylor out could have a psychological effect on him as well.