By Mike Indri
Retired Boxers Foundation
Atlantic City, NJ For the 10,000 plus in attendance at the Boardwalk Hall and the millions watching on HBO, undefeated world middleweight champion Jermain Taylor and undefeated top ranked challenger Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik brought their best, and fought their best, in a world title fight reminiscent of Zale vs. Graziano, Robinson vs. Basilio and Hagler vs. Hearns.
DiBella Entertainment and Top Rank, co-promoters for this fittingly served night of boxing at it’s best, aptly named the fightcard pitting the two best middleweight fighters in the world “Throwback,” and both fighters delivered, giving career enhancing performances.
From the opening bell of round one the predominately Pro-Pavlik crowd, with an approximately 6,000 making the trip from their hero’s hometown of Youngstown, Ohio made their presence felt; screaming, cheering and waving their towels in such a constant and frenzied manner that left many believing that the ever-vibrant, open-24 hours-a day Atlantic City was actually a “Ghost Town”!
Taylor, the pride of Little Rock, Arkansas, started fast and peppered Pavlik was his stiff jab. Sensing he had much to prove and not appreciating the negative media feedback from his most recent performances (a debated draw against Ronald “Winky” Wright and two lackluster decision wins over smaller, light hitting foes; Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks) the champ looked to establish early control and confidence.
Continuing his fast pace in round two, Taylor’s stifling jabs found their mark, and left openings for a two-fisted attack which stung the usually granite chinned Pavlik, dropping the hurt fighter to the canvas. Beating the count on rubber legs, Pavlik did all he could to survive. Holding onto the knockout-minded champion and wobbling, with referee Steve Smoger attentively looking on, Pavlik miraculously managed to make it thru the longest minute of his professional career.
During the post-fight press conference referee Smoger, one of the best in the business, would say that Pavlik was one or two punches away from being stopped.
To the absolute amazement of all, as well as the credit to his fortitude, Pavlik took round three on all three of the judges’ scorecards with an unthinkable display. Obviously having weathered the storm, Pavlik backed Taylor into the corners, and onto the ropes, throughout much of the three minutes, and in doing so, made a profound statement. Taylor’s chance had passed.
With the only stoppage of action in round four being a warning to Taylor for a low blow, the awestruck crowd knew they were witnessing boxing magic. Filled to the top, the near capacity crowd kept a fever pitch during rounds five and six. As Pavlik’s powerful bombs were being equaled by the tenacious champion, raining his trademark jab and quick, precision punches, it looked like Taylor was winning the battle - yet as round seven approached, it appeared Pavlik was winning the war.
Bruised and swollen, Taylor knew he was fighting for his WBC and WBO title belts, as well as his personal pride. While also banged up and sporting a face full of his badges of courage, Pavlik’s power had overtaken Taylor’s speed and athleticism.
While leading on the three judges scorecards (58-55, 59-54 and 58-55) Taylor desperately struggled to regain control and quickly hammered Pavlik to the body. Leaving his hands down and taking unwarranted punishment, Taylor found himself backed into his opponent’s corner. Just as quickly, it was over.
Pavlik, seconds away from being a thirteen-year overnight sensation in the boxing world, drove one of his concussive right hands to the head of the gallant champion, who was out before his body hit the canvas.
At the 2:14 mark of round seven Jermain Taylor, the dignified and well-respected champion who so admirably dethroned the legendary Bernard Hopkins (beating him not once, but twice) was knocked out, and Kelly Pavlik was now boxing’s newest superstar and world champion!
Pavlik, who is already in talks to take on Irish John Duddy over the 2008 St. Patrick’s Day weekend, at Madison Square Garden, improved to 32-0, with Taylor being his 29th knockout victim.
Taylor, who will be back to challenge for his championship belts (a rematch clause is contracted), tasted defeat for the first time as a professional, 27-1-1 (17 KO’s).