Friday, June 16, 2006

Taylor-Wright: A young champion ventures past Hopkins’ era

By JE Grant

Jermain Taylor’s stock has risen tremendously in the run-up to his defense of his middleweight championship against Ronald “Winky” Wright and not for anything he’s done lately.

You see, Taylor’s two close struggles with the ancient wonder Bernard Hopkins has to be viewed through the prism of Hopkins’ crushing win over the consensus number one fighter in light-heavyweight division Antonio Tarver.

So comprehensive was Hopkins’ win that he captured all but one round and the outcome of the bout was never in doubt. The vaunted punch of Tarver did not slow Hopkins or even make him go into a defense mindset.

Such a defensive posture was ever-present against the young bull Taylor. Whatever one thinks of the decisions (and there are plenty of arguments about the outcome of both bouts) it is clear that Hopkins did everything he could to avoid the sharp punching of Taylor and he took almost none of the chances necessary to pull away the judges’ collective eyes.

Against Tarver, Hopkins risked it all on numerous occasions, often leading with right hands and leaving himself open for counters – if only briefly.

Yes, there must be something different about the way young Jermain hits that led the crafty veteran Hopkins to decide on a largely survival strategy. If Tarver has a big punch, Taylor must have something much greater in order to have forced Hopkins into a cocoon.

It may very well be the case that Taylor already hits harder and faster than the either Hopkins or Tarver. Winky Wright is sure to find out.

Since the two wins over Hopkins, Taylor seems more inclined to build on his gains than rest on them.

He added Emanuel Steward and the Kronk family to his team. Multiple blistering sparring encounters in the halls that spawned Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kenty, the McCrory brothers and many others, ensure focus and discipline that may close the gaps that remained in the young champion’s game.

Taylor has 24 rounds under his belt in his two championship bouts against the best fighter in the division for the last 12 years.

Combined with his new preparation regime this may provide a hurdle that is too high for any potential contender to clear. Any contender that is, who is unable to take the champion out of his zone. Any contender who fights conventionally and attempts to out-speed or out-punch him.

The one person who just may have the right ingredients to take him out of his zone and will not worry about trading quick punches or scoring a big knockout is his opponent Saturday night, Winky Wright.

Wright has made a career of confounding stronger opponents with a high guard from his southpaw stance. He adds to the mix a willingness to move closely to his opponent and land punches consistently while not getting pounded in return. He is not a runner.

While Taylor shoots a sharp jab and a hard, though sometimes looping, right hand, Wright may prove able to make only slight movements, block those big shots, and counter with his pesky right jab and straight lefts.

That remains the unknown variable coming in. Sure, Wright smoked past Felix Trinidad, a reputed puncher, but Trinidad was not a proven hitter at middleweight – he made his mark as a welterweight. Likewise, his twin wins over Shane Mosely represented victories over a very hard punching lightweight, turned hard punching welterweight, turned average punching junior middleweight. Chances are that Mosely would not strike fear in any of the top middleweights.

No one can expect that Wright will puncture Taylor’s grill (he hasn’t scored a knockout win in four years). To be victorious, however, he must have enough pop to keep Taylor from setting and throwing with abandon.

Power, then, is what makes this encounter interesting. Taylor has it. Wright doesn’t. How both fighters can apply their considerable talents will dictate the course of the bout.

PREDICTION: Taylor will press the bout early. While Wright will not shrink from the fight (and he will likely once again prove the sturdiness of his chin), the sting and volume of the younger champion (Taylor is 27, Wright is 34) will lead to one of two scenarios. Either Winky is overwhelmed and stays behind his high hands, or the proud former undisputed junior middleweight king attempts to outfight the young king. Either way, Wright loses. This won’t be a repeat of the master Winky teaching a lesson to the strong, though one-dimensional Trinidad. Not even close. Taylor has boxing ability and can adapt. Not that it will be easy --- and we can be glad for that. A fighter who for any reason goes to sleep against Winky will get outworked and confused. A fighter who falls behind against Winky will see desperate attempts to get back into the fight thwarted by one of the smartest ringmasters in the game today. It is possible for both or either circumstance to befall Taylor. It will be a tough fight and probably more entertaining than most of Wright’s boxing clinics. This time, however, it will be the champion dictating the fight and the tempo. Look for his jab to be the difference. Winky will very likely learn why Bernard Hopkins didn’t go into the pit with Taylor.

Taylor by decision.


Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

I REALLY like Taylor here guys. I about crapped my pants when I saw that he was listed as an 8-5/9-5 UNDERDOG a few weeks ago. I JUMPED on it. Sure enough, the 'wise guys' have now bet it down to about 7-5/6-5, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it go off at even-money, or JT a slight favorite. I think that he is just a bit too big, fast, and YOUNG for Winky. I have been saying for years that Wright was a bit underrated, but now? I think he may be slightly overrated at 34 or 35. I do however, think that he is a 'true middleweight'. He is about 5'11", and walks around at about 170-180. It was getting to be murder for him making 154. However, Taylor is a HUGE middleweight (one of the biggest looking I have ever seen) and I like for his youth & athleticism to bring him to a 8-4/7-5 type decision.

6:10 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

I like him for the much the same reasons. I do hope the fight is competitive.

5:47 AM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

I think it will be at least semi-competitve JE. I don't know if it will be a very good fight, but I think it is a very interesting fight. I don't think the 'kid' is going to be WAY too much for him, but a BIT too much for him.

*I would like to see JT step up to 168 to take on Calzaghe or Kessler next...

BTW-Have you seen Chad Dawson JE? He's a young (23) 6'3" southpaw lt.hvy, with adequate power, and is FAST. This kid has promise, and I could see him eventually ending up at cruiser perhaps.

12:54 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Well...About as I thought.(I'm USUALLY on-target...Or close! LOL) I actually had it a 6-6 draw though. It was SLIGHTLY closer than I thought it would be, and yes...Winky ARGUABLY even won by a NARROW margin.

More to follow tomorrow...

10:15 PM  
Blogger orltroy said...

I had it 6-6 as well, but I felt taylor was more impressive, except on the ropes. Why Taylor kept backing up into the ropes escapes me, but I knw he was punching Winky's arms, but those still have a effect. I also don't give much credence to Taylor's eye being caused by Winky's punches. Winky came in like a bull several times, and his lowered head kept knocking Taylor's. It could've gone 7-5 either way, but I would have much rather been Jermain Taylor last night and not Winky Wright, and that is how I score fights.

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:26 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

This fight was indeed very close. When I looked at my scoring I had it 115-113 Wright. I could very well see a draw. I was disappointed in the lack of improvement of Taylor. He didn't adjust as well as a young champion should. He was too easy to hit.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

What a bizarre situation with Taylor. He wins about 18 rounds out of 36 in his last three fights, against two top-5 P4P fighters that NOBODY ever looks good against or 'dominates', so how critical can one really be? Well...Not THAT critical, but...A bit critical nevertheless. He appears to be getting it done by the absolute 'skin of his teeth', and with 'smoke and mirrors'. Also - he is not THAT young anymore, either. (It's not like he is in his early or even mid-20's.) I trying to keep things in prespective given the very high level of recent opposition, but simply put; he is a bit flawed. And I just don't quite see the ring intelligence/'intangibles' there to completely override this. I see 'goodness' written over Taylor - but not GREATNESS.

10:51 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

JE- Absolutely agreed with that last post. Keeping all things in consideration - I was still a bit disappointed in the lack of improvement. This kid (I use that term somewhat loosely these days) has all the physical tools in the world, but...(But???) He STILL looks a bit 'GREEN' to me. (Yes...'Green' in other areas as well though.) But he shouldn't be doing (or NOT doing) some of things that he is JE? (Am I right?) He had a long and decorated amatuer career,has now fought TOP-level competition as a pro, and is now in his late-20's. Part of me says the kid is just 'missing something', and doesn't quite 'have it', and part of me is saying - "Perhaps he isn't THAT flawed or 'green', and he has just fought two bona-fide top-10 P4P fighters, and went (at the VERY lest) nearly 'even up'?

What gives JE???

12:54 AM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

Regardless...Winky? He fell just ONE (last!) round short of the HALL OF FAME in my opinion. This applies to the 12th round of not only this fight, but the Vargas one as well.

* I had Winky winning 7-5 in the Vargas fight as well, but he also lost the LAST round in that one as well. MSG to Winky: If a fight is even SEMI-close: WIN THE LAST ROUND! As a sidenote, I don't think it is completely outrageous to give the 12th round of Winky-Taylor to Winky. But in the FINAL round of a good & close fight - I'm going to lean more towards the guy that 'digs a little deeper', and 'swings a bit more leather' than the other guy. Just a bit of a 'personal preference' there. And while Taylor didn't do much in that last round either - he did a bit more than Winky.

Bottom line? You could make a reaosnble case for Winky 7-5, even 8-4, but you could a 6-6 draw as well. Taylor didn't WIN here - it was a DRAW. Sometimes boxers (and fans) are 'robbed' of victory. Those are the types of absurd decisions that hurt both the fighters, and the sport. But THIS JUST IN...

This...WASN'T one of those.

1:04 AM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

Agreed, Winky shouldn't have let the last round ride.

11:09 AM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

It looks like Taylor may fight Sergio Mora in the Fall. An okay defense I suppose, given the nature of JT's last three fights/opponents, and the fact that I do have Mora on 'the fringes' of my top-10 (I think I have him at 12 or 13...)

* I do wish that he would give Wright a rematch though, as a convincing victory would do wonders in hushing the critics, and a strong indicator of his growth and maturity as a pro. However - my gut-feeling is that it would be much like the last fight, and the first & second Hopkins one for that matter. In other words; close, controversial, and 'inconclusive'...

10:45 PM  
Anonymous the cruiserweight said...

One more quick thing...

I was very disappointed in JT's inability TO adapt in this fight, and he looked like a rank amatuer fighting off the ropes. I certainly hope that wasn't by design (which I don't think it was) poor Steward must have been having fits. I sometimes wonder about JT's 'ring intelligence', however...He has been in with a couple of 'old masters' his last few times out.

10:51 PM  
Blogger JE Boxing said...

I'm starting to believe that he may not be able to put it all together. His reign may not be a long one.

5:41 PM  

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