By Jake Donovan
Former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor continues the comeback tour, though the latest stop raised plenty of old concers. His latest win came Friday, as he was forced to climb off the canvas to take an uninspiring unanimous decision over Caleb Truax at the Beau Rivage Casino in Biloxi, MS.
It was hoped that the opening round was merely a warm-up session for both fighters. Sadly, the bout never changed speeds as the combatants remained reluctant to let their hands go.
Taylor spent most of the early going looking for openings, throwing a short flicking jab rather than using it as a table setter. Truax promised prior to the fight to force a fast pace, but didn’t come close other than a stiff jab that at times proved to be a nuisance.
The ensuing rounds saw Taylor throw a far more purposeful jab and Truax dance on the outside while awaiting opportunities to shoot his right hand. Taylor managed to pile up rounds as a result, but also lose fans in the process as neither fighter provided much in the way of entertainment value.
Truax enjoyed his best moments in the middle rounds, opening up his offensive attack as Taylor’s clinching became more frequent. The adjustment was hardly earth shattering, nor did it last very long. Taylor looked to regain control later in the fight, including an 8th round in which Truax landed a measly three punches.
However many he landed in round nine isn’t as relevant as the impact of one punch in particular.
Instructed to fight as little as possible and to tie up when necessary, Taylor came out for the ninth round like a fighter who had victory all secured. From a scoring perspective, he was right to think that way, but it’s never over ‘till it’s over in boxing.
Taylor’s surprise trip to the canvas was a stern reminder of that fact. Truax connected with a one-two over Taylor’s lazy left jab, with the “two” being a beauty of a right hand. Taylor dipped at the knees as he fell backwards to the canvas. He was up at six and in time to beat the count, but never seemed to fully regain his faculties.
To his credit, Taylor managed to survive the remaining two minutes of the round without absorbing any more punishment. A frantic Pat Burns – Taylor’s head trainer – instructed his fighter in between rounds to tie up whenever possible heading into the 10th and final round.
The early portion of the round suggested that Taylor either wasn’t going to listen or he still wasn’t all the way back. Both fighters momentarily let their hands go before Taylor realized that he needed to remain upright in order to finish and win the ring. The clinching contest soon resumed, with Truax unable to capitalize on the lottery shot from the round prior.
Final scores of 97-92, 98-91 and 97-94 all read in favor of Taylor, whose record advances to 30-4-1 (18KO). The win is his second straight since returning last year. To say the comeback is on would be as irresponsible as the yes men in his career who insist he still has what it takes to make some noise.
Noise is all that Taylor made in his post-fight rant, expressing pride in overcoming a knockdown in an intended tune-up fight against a garden variety Midwestern fighter.
As a result, Truax heads home to Minnesota with a built-in headline for whenever he plans to return to the ring. The loss is his first as a pro, falling to 18-1-1 (10KO).
Taylor returned last December, scoring an 8th round stoppage over Jessie Nicklow in the final U.S.-televised card of 2011. The bout ended a 26-month break from the ring, following his abrupt exit from the Showtime Super Six tournament after being knocked in the closing seconds of his Stage One bout with Arthur Abraham.
The defeat was his fourth in a span of five fights, with three of the losses coming by knockout. It was decided by his handlers that it was in Taylor’s best interests to step away from the ring. Apparently, all that the Little Rock, Ark. native felt he needed was a break and not a full-blown retirement.
His in-ring weight of 160½ lb marked his second straight fight within proximity of the middleweight division. His previous four bouts took place at or close to the super middleweight limit, with the drop back down to middleweight suggestive that he’s back in his element.
Friday’s result should be evidence enough that anything but that is really the case.
In the televised co-feature, Top 10 super welterweight Erislandy Lara made quick work of Ronald Hearns, blasting out the fringe contender in the opening round.
Lara had been unofficially blacklisted by the industry ever since getting robbed against Paul Williams in Atlantic City last July. The former amateur standout in his native Cuba didn’t even give the judges any chance of filling in the wrong scores this time around.
In reality, Hearns was in over his head from the moment he signed the contract to accept the fight. The second-generation boxer was never expected to truly follow in the shoes of his legendary father, Tommy “Hitman” Hearns. That said, it’s clear that his famous surname has already carried him as far as he can possibly go.
The bout quickly developed into the perceived mismatch, but Lara still turned heads in producing the quick ending. A left hand early on from the Cuban southpaw sent Hearns crashing to the canvas for the first of three official knockdowns
An ensuing flurry along the ropes produced a standing eight count, which once was used to give the referee a chance to survey the damage and determine if a fighter should continue. Apparently it didn’t take here as Hearns was allowed to fight just long enough to get flattened midway through the round.
The bout was finally waved off at 1:32 of round one, with Hearns laying along the bottom rope at the time of the stoppage.
Lara improves to 16-1-1 (11KO) with the win, his first in more than a year.
Hearns suffers his second straight loss in falling to 26-3 (20KO). All three losses have come inside the distance, including a 7th round stoppage in an undeserved title shot against Felix Sturm last February.
2011 couldn’t have gone any worse for Lara, whose lone win of the year was a 1st round stoppage over hapless Delray Raines. The fast-rising contender was held to a draw against hard-luck Carlos Molina in their ESPN2-televised bout last March before suffering one of the worst decisions in recent history in his poorly scored 12-round affair with Williams last summer.
The quickie win over Lara gets his 2012 campaign in gear, with boxing fans and experts alike already calling for a top shelf fight for the Cuban standout. Fights with James Kirkland and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez remain the dreams and hopes of many, considering all three fighters (including Lara) fight under the Golden Boy Promotions banner.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected].