Tuesday November 18th, 2008

Welcome back to relevancy, Jermain Taylor.

It's a little shocking that it took him a one-sided pounding of former super middleweight champion Jeff Lacy on Saturday night for Taylor to be considered a marquee fighter again. Consider that we're not talking about an aging Bernard Hopkins scoring a stunning upset, or Vitali Klitschko returning after a four-year layoff to reclaim a piece of the heavyweight title. We're talking about a 30-year-old fighter who, up until the seventh round of a September 2007 fight with Kelly Pavlik, was considered to be one of the premier fighters of his generation.

But I digress.

Without question, Taylor's win vaults him back onto the national scene. After back-to-back losses to Pavlik -- once as a middleweight and a second time at a catch weight of 166 pounds -- Taylor looked comfortable fighting for the first time at the 168-pound, super-middleweight limit. His jab looked crisp and his power shots (which inexplicably vanished from his repertoire after the second round of his first fight with Pavlik) were both potent and on target.

"This was my comeback fight," Taylor told reporters after the fight. "This is my announcement that I'm back. I'm on my way back to the top."

Taylor's correct. With the win, the former middleweight champion has earned a shot at the vacant WBC super middleweight title. But that's not the fight Taylor is interested in. He's after Joe Calzaghe. And he's crazy if he thinks he is going to get him.

Clearly, a matchup with Calzaghe would be more lucrative than one with either Carl Froch or Jean Pascal, who will fight each other Dec. 6 to determine who will face Taylor for the WBC belt. And I believe Taylor would go to Wales to fight Calzaghe on his home turf. I'd believe Taylor if he said he would go to Mars to fight the reigning light heavyweight champion.

But it's never going to happen. What's more, Taylor shouldn't want it to happen.

Calzaghe told me before his fight with Roy Jones Jr. that he was done with the super middleweight division. He told me he was "extremely comfortable" at 175 pounds and if he were to fight again, that's where he would stay.

I don't blame him. Calzaghe knows there isn't a light heavyweight out there with the power to knock him out, and with his super middleweight speed, he is capable of carving them up without significant risk. Taylor has never fought at 175 pounds and would be seriously overmatched.

Besides, what is Taylor's rush? He just reclaimed his career and has a chance to establish himself as the world's elite super middleweight. Who's going to stop him? IBF champ Lucian Bute? WBO title holder Denis Inkin? Taylor would box circles around them. The only real threat to Taylor's supremacy is WBA champion Mikkel Kessler, who gave Calzaghe all he could handle in a super middleweight unification fight last year.

Taylor shouldn't get too greedy. He should fight for the WBC title early next year and go after a unification fight with Bute or Inkin later in 2009. He should help set up a marketable, super middleweight mega-fight with Kessler by getting him a fight on American soil with a Winky Wright-type who will net Kessler the exposure he needs to appeal to the U.S. audience.

Focus on your new division, Jermain. You're back. Try and stay there.

More of a comment than question: If you get another chance to talk to Joe Calzaghe, maybe ask him why he waited until both Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones had lost numerous fights and were either over or about to turn 40 before he was willing to fight them. That's why the American public hasn't given him the respect he wants. Up until the Jeff Lacy fight, he had not taken any risks in his entire career. --Nate, Baltimore

I agree with you that Calzaghe would be a much bigger star if he had fought Jones or Hopkins earlier in their careers. And after watching Lacy self-destruct Saturday night, I wonder more and more just how good he was when Joe beat him. But you can't pin all the blame on Calzaghe. Certainly, Calzaghe could have been more vocal in wanting to fight either Jones or Calzaghe (he told me last week that he wanted to fight both of them much earlier than he did). But Jones and Hopkins both seemed satisfied to take the mandatory (and usually inferior) challenger to their respective titles throughout their careers and they have to shoulder some of the responsibility.

In the end, Nate, it doesn't matter. It's not them who suffer. It's the boxing fans like us.

If anyone is a [baby] it's Calzaghe, who wouldn't leave his Welsh cocoon for any of his "big" fights. He gets no respect because he doesn't deserve it. He's beaten no one in their prime. Jones took on Hopkins and beat him at his best. Calzaghe is nothing. Too bad Jones is too old. He would have destroyed him in his day. --Rick, Miami

Ah, the Jones Kool-Aid is flowing today. Look, I'm not going to say Calzaghe would have beaten Jones 10 years ago. Jones doesn't possess a fraction of the speed or power he once did and Calzaghe will readily admit he is a much better fighter today than he was in the '90s.

But destroy him? Please. Calzaghe's hand speed alone would win him a few rounds and at super middleweight (which is the weight the fight probably would have been at 10 years ago) he would be able to absorb Jones' power shots.

And you have to consider the technique. When he wants to be, Calzaghe is a flawless fighter. Jones has never been. He has gotten by on raw speed and athleticism. Don't get me wrong, his accomplishments are laudable. But at worst, a Jones-Calzaghe matchup 10 years ago would be a tough, competitive fight.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.