By Keith Idec
New Jersey boxing commissioner Larry Hazzard would not have licensed Jermain Taylor if promoters attempted to bring the Taylor-Sam Soliman middleweight title fight to The Garden State.
Hazzard, who recently resumed his duties as commissioner of New Jersey’s State Athletic Control Board, is surprised the Mississippi Athletic Commission didn’t take the same stand. Taylor, 36, will challenge Australia’s Soliman for the IBF middleweight championship Wednesday night in Biloxi, Miss., just six weeks after authorities in Taylor’s native Arkansas charged him with two felonies following an Aug. 26 incident at Taylor’s home in which Taylor shot his cousin.
“I wouldn’t have allowed him to fight here,” Hazzard said. “This incident just happened. So are we just going to say you can do anything and then compete as a fighter?
“Come on. We’re trying to do as much as we can to clean up this sport. We know that boxing is a sport that has always had a rehabilitative nature to it. But that’s with guys who are trying to turn their lives around through boxing, not guys who are fighters and then go out and shoot people, rape girls and do other bad things.”
Taylor (32-4-1, 20 KOs), who lost his middleweight titles to Kelly Pavlik seven years ago at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, was charged with first-degree domestic battery and aggravated assault after shooting Tyrone Hinton. Taylor shot Hinton twice, but Hinton survived.
In addition to Taylor’s legal trouble, Hazzard has reservations about Taylor’s health as the 2000 Olympian prepares to face Soliman (44-11, 18 KOs, 1 NC) in a 12-round fight ESPN2 will televise from Beau Rivage Resort & Casino (9 p.m. ET).
The former undisputed middleweight champion suffered a brain bleed and a concussion during a brutal, one-punch knockout loss to Germany’s Arthur Abraham in October 2009. Those injuries prompted Taylor to withdraw from Showtime’s “Super Six World Boxing Classic” and take a 26-month break between bouts. He resumed his career in December 2011 after undergoing an extensive battery of tests at two renowned medical facilities – the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission’s medical advisory panel later voted unanimously, 5-0, to grant Taylor a license because medical experts determined he wasn’t more at risk than other boxers to suffer a brain injury.
“When I see tests where there’s bleeding on the brain, I have a problem with that,” Hazzard said. “I don’t care how many tests are done because, to me, if he had it once it could happen again and the kid could die. I just have a serious problem with that and I think that my medical people would have a problem with it. I’m not a doctor, but I have a problem with that, as well Jermain Taylor’s level of skill at this point. That’s something I’d have to evaluate. But the criminal charge would have a great impact on him being able to fight in New Jersey.”
Taylor has fought just once since December 2012. He defeated faded Colombian J.C. Candelo (32-14-4, 21 KOs) by seventh-round technical knockout in that December 2013 fight in San Antonio.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.