ARTHUR ABRAHAM vs JERMAIN TAYLOR

TAYLOR, ABRAHAM: First up in Super Six. / Photo HOWARD SCHATZ, for Showtime
Location: 
BERLIN, Oct. 17
Graham's Odds: 
Abraham -200; Taylor +160
Over 11.5 -105, under 11.5 -115

So near to victory yet so far away against Carl Froch in April, Jermain Taylor faces another strong European fighter on Saturday when he meets Germany’s Arthur Abraham in the first of the eagerly awaited “Super Six” contests in Berlin.

The 12-rounder will be shown on tape-delay on the Showtime network, followed by live coverage of Carl Froch’s fight with Andre Dirrell.

These 12-rounders are what boxing should be all about: the best fighters fighting the best, and fans debating the outcome.

For those unfamiliar with the format, six of the world’s top fighters in the super middleweight division are meeting in a round-robin tournament, each boxer guaranteed three fights. Mikkel Kessler will meet Andre Ward in the third of the opening bouts in the tournament

First up, though, is Abraham against Taylor, which is expected to get the tournament off to a thrilling and dramatic start.

Taylor, 31, believes he has found the answer to late-round fades of the type that led to his last-seconds defeat against Froch. He brought a nutritionist on board to monitor his diet and placed extra emphasis on strengthening his legs at his Houston training camp. Naturally, he says he is in the best shape of his life. “All I have to do is be in shape and I can beat anybody,” Taylor said in a phone conversation from Houston shortly before his departure for Germany. “I’ve been losing weight too fast. I haven’t been doing it right. It’s been killing me.”

His plan for Abraham is to “box him a little bit, fight him a little bit”, he said, adding: “It’s going to be an easy fight.”

An easy fight for Taylor? That’s not how the German side sees it. “Taylor is a great champion, but he will not beat me in front of my home fans in Berlin,” Abraham told the German media.

“It will be a special evening. Taylor is a strong opponent, but inside the ring, it is not the stronger boxer who wins but the smarter one. You will find out on October 17.”

Abraham is moving up from the middleweight division and is seen as the small fighter in the tournament. “Once Arthur has hit them, they will all have problems,” says Abraham’s trainer, Ulli Wegner.

“In the past my biggest fight was to make weight, but not any more,” Abraham assured a press conference last week. “I’m a happy man being a super middleweight.”

Abraham has ventured outside of the middleweight division before, of course, when he knocked out Edison Miranda in the fourth round of their rematch 16 months ago in Florida. After biding his time in the first three rounds, Abraham suddenly exploded into action with big left hooks that sent Miranda sprawling for three knockdowns.

There was a serene confidence about Abraham before that fight. He would just give a knowing smile when Miranda spouted his usual fire-and-brimstone pre-fight declarations. It was as if Abraham knew what was going to happen in the fight. I have this feeling about him as he approaches Saturday’s fight.

Taylor is seen as the faster, more athletic, classier boxer, which he probably is, and the former middleweight champion from Little Rock, AR, has the height and reach advantages.

Abraham, though, is a strong, heavy handed, technically sound fighter, and he is undefeated — plus having home ground advantage.

Also, Abraham is an exceptionally tough fighter, mentally and physically. This was demonstrated when Abraham fought the last eight rounds with a broken jaw in his first meeting with Miranda three years ago in a stirring display of guts and tenacity.

Abraham can be criticised for starting slowly in his fights, and the 29-year-old Armenian-born fighter has given away rounds to lesser boxers. I do think, though, that in some of his middleweight title defences Abraham was pacing himself, knowing that weight-making had compromised his stamina. It wouldn’t surprise me if he lets his hands go a bit sooner against Taylor than, for instance, in his last fight, when he allowed Mahir Oral to race away with the first three rounds.

I think that Abraham’s ring intelligence is a bit underestimated. He always seems to know exactly what he is doing, and he has so far judged it right when it comes to picking the appropriate stage of the fight in which to begin piling on the pressure.

Taylor is a skilled boxer with an immaculate left jab but the late rounds have traditionally been treacherous waters for him. The much smaller Kassim Ouma was chasing him around the ring in the closing stages of their fight, while the later rounds were a nightmare for him in the two narrow wins over Bernard Hopkins.

After almost stopping Kelly Pavlik in their first fight, it did appear that Taylor faded under pressure, to be knocked out in the seventh round.

In the rematch it was more of the same, with the exception that the return bout went the distance: Pavlik swept the last four rounds on one judge’s card in the encore and won three of the last four on the other two cards.

All this makes me wonder if Taylor’s problem is a psychological one as much as it is physical. The onset of the late rounds could be like a danger signal flashing in his brain. The saying goes: You can if you think you can. I suppose the reverse of this is: You can’t if you think you can’t.

Maybe the addition of the nutritionist and the extra work on stamina and leg strength has solved Taylor’s problem, but I wonder. I took note that at one of the press conferences Taylor said he would win “if I don’t get tired”. It is as if a doubt exists.

Taylor will almost certainly win the early rounds in Berlin. He might, though, find it is more difficult to land clean punches on Abraham than he anticipated. Abraham’s stonewall defence isn’t easy to penetrate, and a fighter can use up energy trying to blast through and around the German boxer’s shield of gloves and arms.

As ever, Abraham will be looking to open up in heavy-hitting bursts. He surely knows that he cannot let Taylor dictate the course of the fight. I think that Abraham will be picking his punches and looking to hurt Taylor and make him feel anxious in the first half of the fight, then gradually ratchet up his punch output. Taylor has the more polished look but Abraham has excellent hand speed and I think he will be able to land the sort of punches that will take effect.

It is true that Taylor has fought the higher calibre of opponent, but when a boxer has been stopped in two of his last four fights one wonders if his durability is starting to diminish. We all remember the last-round collapse against Froch, but I believe that the British boxer was starting to hurt Taylor several rounds earlier — unless I’m very much mistaken, the impact of Froch’s blows was causing Taylor’s face to register a degree of concern as early as the sixth round, and I’m expecting Abraham to be making an advance to victory around this stage of the proceedings.

A boxer of Taylor’s experience and talent always has a chance to win, but I see this as one fight that will follow preconceived notions — early rounds to the American boxer, Abraham catching up with him in the second half of the fight.

In my preview for Boxing Monthly I picked Abraham by late stoppage, perhaps even in the last round à la Carl Froch. I’m sticking with that: Abraham by TKO in the 11th or 12th round.

Last Updated: 
October 15, 2009 - 4:08pm