Abraham Topples Taylor in the 12th Round

In the opening bout of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, Arthur Abraham successfully jumped from middleweight to super middleweight when he dominated and knocked out Jermain Taylor with less than ten seconds left in the fight.

In a match that would have watered mouths when both men were middleweights, Taylor and Abraham were finally facing off. And, with the additional hype of the Super Six, the fight was perhaps even bigger than it would have been had it taken place two years ago, despite Taylor having suffered three losses since that time.

Taylor was coming off a debilitating knockout to WBC Super Middleweight Champion Carl Froch, who managed to stop Taylor with just fourteen seconds left in their fight in April. Demonstrating stamina problems in all of his biggest fights, many boxing pundits felt Taylor could be in serious trouble against the young lions of the Super Six tournament. And, against Abraham, that turned out to be the case.

Prior to the fight, Taylor’s camp had strongly vocalized their concern about being robbed in Germany. After all, Taylor was fighting outside the United States for the first time since the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. And Germany has housed some of the worst officiating in boxing history. But on this night, Taylor should have been more concerned with going twelve hard rounds against the undefeated Abraham, who made sure the fight didn’t go to the scorecards anyway.

Jermain started off well, taking the first round more or less on activity. He landed some good body shots and one right hand around the defensive-minded Abraham’s glove. But in round two, Taylor strayed well below the beltline on a body punch and caught Abraham low. This was important because, going into the fight, Taylor’s camp had expressed concern over being penalized for shots they felt were legal. In this instance, Referee Guadalupe Garcia was correct for warning Taylor.

Shaking off the warning, Taylor caught Abraham with a good left hook. Abraham simply responded with a shake of the head, which is about as much as he’s ever responded to a shot. Taylor then snapped Abraham’s head back with a pair of jabs. Abraham finally launched a rally near the end of the round to try to steal it but really only got in one good right hand. He was even warned for punching behind the head after Taylor complained, and Jermain took the second round as well.

Round three was much more competitive as both men landed big right hands to the head of their opponent. Being two of the biggest punchers in the Super Six, it was quite a spectacle, down to the end of the round when Taylor, feeling Abraham was trying to hit him behind the head, answered back with his own rabbit punch and proceeded to shout in Abraham’s face. Garcia struggled to keep the fighters apart, and the bell temporarily called a halt to the confrontation.

Aside from being warned for another low blow early in the round, Taylor fought a brilliant round four. He worked his jab and set up some quality right hands that pushed Abraham back, though most of them hit glove. At the end of the round, just as the bell was sounding, Taylor landed a hard left hook for good measure.

Taylor’s early lead was not surprising – Abraham fights almost all of his fights that way, allowing his opponent to punch himself out over the first four rounds. He started to make his move in round five, a round in which Taylor twice landed a right to the body, followed by one to the head. Abraham then came on strong over the final minute and a half, punching in combination and even catching Taylor with a right to the head just before the bell.

Abraham started to dial in some body shots to Taylor in round six, so Jermain responded with a combination that went low. He immediately spread his arms to plead innocence, but Garcia had no choice but to take a point after two earlier warnings. When the action resumed, Abraham drilled Taylor with a straight right through the guard and added a few more shots before the bell to close a 10-8 round in his favor and take what should have been his first lead in the fight.

Taylor stayed committed to his jab to a fault in round seven as Abraham blasted him with a combination to the body and a right to the head. The jab simply was not enough to hold Abraham off – especially as Taylor was punching with less force. Jumping in close range, Abraham caught Taylor with a right over the back of the head, so Taylor delivered a rabbit punch in return. After a warning to both men from Garcia, Abraham finished the round chopping away at Taylor’s exposed body and mixed in a hard left hook to the head.

Early in round eight, Taylor ate a hard right from Abraham, who didn’t land another good one until the last minute of the round. Still, he was doing more than Taylor, who was no longer throwing his jab so much as he was flicking it, in part because he was finding out that Abraham’s jab was almost as good as his own. In the last thirty seconds, Abraham stepped it up again, unleashing a five-punch volley to drive Taylor into the ropes.

A minute into round nine, Abraham caught Taylor ducking with a perfectly-placed right hand to the temple that immediately wobbled Jermain. Taylor tried to clinch but ate a left hook as well. He did manage to hold on the next attempt and seemed to have regained his legs after the scare, even landing an uppercut and body shot on Abraham. Normally a very strong finisher, Abraham failed to put Taylor away but grinned after the bell as if he realized he had his man ready to go.

Both men’s left eyes were swelling going into round ten, and something had snapped in Abraham’s trunks, causing them to sag low. But both were too dialed into the fight to notice any of that. The tenth was a war of the jab until Abraham started letting his hands go in the last minute, picking up another round that Jermain refused to bite down and make a stand in. Having won every round after the fourth, and with Jermain resigned to making it to the final bell, the only question for Abraham was whether or not he would get the extra point from scoring a knockout.

That, and whether his trunks would stay on him. Between rounds, Abraham’s corner had to remove his protective cup and tie his trunks in a knot to keep them from slipping any farther. It had to have thrown Abraham off his game plan because Taylor had his best round since the fourth in the eleventh. Jermain landed some good left hooks, right hands and body shots, in addition to the jab, throughout the round while Abraham’s attack was limited to one strong body assault. Going into the twelfth round, however, Taylor undoubtedly needed a knockout to win.

For the first half of the round, Abraham wisely held his hands in front of his face and played defense. Taylor, meanwhile, piled up the points as he had done through the first four rounds, but there was no sense of urgency in him to score the come-from-behind knockout. When Abraham saw that Jermain wasn’t going to try to knock him out, he decided to try to put Jermain away. He stunned Taylor with a short left hook to the chin.

Abraham appeared calm and relaxed as he hopped around the ring, looking into the crowd repeatedly as if calling his shot. Then, with under twenty seconds left in the fight, he hurled a left hook and shot a straight right hand directly on Taylor’s chin. Taylor collapsed flat on his back, the back of his head bouncing off the canvas, and the German audience went wild with excitement.

Garcia counted to six as Taylor held one glove frozen in the air – a scary sight considering the way he had landed. The ringside doctor climbed into the ring before the count was through and rushed to Jermain’s side. Garcia then quickly waved off the fight, stopping it with eight seconds left and giving Abraham the knockout win.

It was the second time in a row that Taylor was knocked out with less than 20 seconds remaining in a fight. The only difference is that, this time, he was clearly behind on the judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage, 107-102, 106-102 and 105-103.

Abraham stood with his arms spread and basked in the glory as Taylor was tended to by referee and doctor. After the brief celebration, he managed to break free and check on Taylor before being turned away by those tending to the fallen fighter. After a minute or two, Taylor was back on his feet, defeated but not seriously injured. And at ringside, WBA Champion Mikkel Kessler applauded Abraham’s performance.

So after getting the biggest win of his career, Abraham will face Andre Dirrell in Group Stage Two. Dirrell suffered a split decision loss when he was robbed in his Group Stage One fight against Froch in Froch’s hometown of Nottingham. Like Taylor, Dirrell can be expected to pile up the early points and begin to fold under Abraham’s increasing pressure somewhere in the mid to late rounds. But unlike Taylor, Dirrell finished strong against Froch. Abraham’s extra point from knocking out Taylor gives him a cushion should he drop a decision to Dirrell next time out.

Taylor, meanwhile, moves on to face Andre Ward, who has yet to compete in the Super Six but is a polished boxer with some power. Ward fights Kessler in late November.

But after suffering such a bad knockout, it’s not clear whether Taylor will continue on with the tournament at all, which was the fear of many involved in boxing going in. Fortunately, there are replacements lined up should Taylor or anyone else bow out after a bad knockout, but this is the reason many felt Jermain shouldn’t be included in the first place, given his terrible track record against opponents who come on strong late in fights.

Regardless of what Taylor said coming into the fight, he is done now as an elite fighter. There’s no point in continuing with the tournament after yet another knockout loss and proving that he can’t go twelve hard rounds regardless of how much as he trains. The mental tenacity has never been there, and now the physical aspect is quickly leaving him.

To be champion and remain champion, intangibles like heart and desire are required, and Taylor has never had either. The Abraham knockout was a cold reminder of that and a warning that should not be ignored. It’s time to call it a career before he gets seriously hurt.

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