By Sean Crouse
No one wanted this fight to happen.
That may be an exaggeration, but it isn’t much of one.
For virtually all boxing fans and analysts felt that Jermain Taylor had no business fighting for the middleweight title against Australia’s Sam Soliman on Wednesday. Sure, Taylor had held the title once upon a time, but he had taken some real beatings since then against the likes of Kelly Pavlick, Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham. Word was out that his speech had started to slur at a certain point. What was more, no less a luminary than Doctor Margaret Goodman felt at one point that Taylor shouldn’t be allowed to fight.
Yet here Taylor was, stepping into the ring in front of a live televised ESPN2 audience. One couldn’t help but have a sinking feeling as Soliman smiled and laughed his way into the squared circle from the dressing room moments later. Something just felt wrong about the whole affair. Even Teddy Atlas made it clear that he himself didn’t think Taylor should be fighting.
The awkward Soliman was all movement right from the jump. Yet Taylor was competitive throughout the first round. Soliman may have taken the first on the judge’s cards, but it was close. The second round was close, as well, with Taylor acting as the aggressor and Soliman mauling (as best as the light hitting man could maul) on the inside.
Taylor had been known for his jab over the years, but it seemed to be the right that the Arkansas native wanted to land. By the third, however, it became clear that Soliman was successfully able avoid that punch – at least for the time being. The bout was beginning to fall into a pattern, with Taylor pursuing and Soliman keeping a few steps ahead of him.
Taylor finally connected with his right in the sixth. It didn’t have a huge impact and one had to wonder if the man would have to come up with a Plan B in order to secure the title. Soliman was indeed chaotic – one sometimes felt he might actually knock himself out – but he was simply more active than Taylor and better able to control the tempo of the bout.
It began to look like Soliman was cruising his way to victory…but then Taylor suddenly dropped his man in the seventh. With a jab, no less. Soliman got right back up, true, but in the matter of a second, a one sided affair had become a very interesting fight. Taylor looked to nearly put his man down again at the end of the round, just to put an exclamation point on things. The one sided affair had suddenly become up in the air.
Soliman was dropped again in the eighth. Truth be told, he looked hurt. Something was clearly wrong with at least one of the man’s legs. But, boy, the guy had heart. He kept fighting. Hurt or healthy, the man was a pure warrior.
A thunderous right put Soliman on the mat again in the ninth. The champion, who had long depended on his movement to win, no longer had his movement to work with. People were rightfully worried about Taylor’s well-being before the bout. Now it was time for people to worry about Soliman’s well-being, as well. The ring doctor was indeed called in to check Soliman out. He allowed Soliman to continue, but it seemed like a moot point, at best.
And, in fact, it was a moot point. Soliman went down again in the eleventh and Taylor took the decision after twelve – thanks, at least in part to an injury sustained by his opponent. Believe it or not, Jermain Taylor is once again middleweight champion of the word, a peer of Miguel Cotto and Gennady Golovkin.
It’s probably been said many times before, but it’s worth saying again – strange things happen in boxing.