Abraham and Taylor relaxed and ready
Story by Bob Hough
Photo art by Howard Schatz for Showtime
Jermain Taylor knows, all too well, that there’s truth in the belief that hard work can earn great success, but with losing focus, that person suffers.
Taylor beat Bernard Hopkins twice, and stood among boxing’s best. He ate more, took life easier, then lost three out of four fights, getting bludgeoned in two of the losses.
Reality has hit home, real strong and real clear, Taylor (28-3-1, 17 KOs) said Tuesday in a conference call with Arthur Abraham (30-0, 24 KOs), whom he fights in Berlin, Germany, on October 17th as part of the Super Six World Boxing Classic, a tournament of super-middleweight fights including Andre Dirrell, Carl Froch, Mikkel Kessler and Andre Ward.
“I got comfortable,” Taylor, 31 said. “I was doing things I wasn’t supposed to do to stay in tip-top shape. With training, I was training hard, but I wasn’t training right.”
He wasn’t eating right, either, according to trainer Ozell Nelson, to a point that he had to lose 20 pounds in the two weeks before his last fight, a 12th-round knockout loss to Froch.
“He’s training at weight, which makes a big difference,” said Nelson, who joined his fighter on the call.
One big reason: Big Macs.
“Jermain loves to eat; he loves a Big Mac,” Nelson said. “This cat here, he can’t have Big Macs, so he’s ready.”
Nelson said it’s hard to overstate the difference between focusing on Abraham and focusing on losing weight.
“We know Arthur is a big hitter so we’ve been working on a bunch of different ways to take away some of that power,” he said. “Jermain’s in excellent shape and had his weight down for the first time in years.”
Abraham, meanwhile, is ready for the fight, and not concerned that Taylor’s faced better fighters than he has. He is tranquil and confident to a point that he comes across as ready to fight polar bears. Low-key as he is, the Armenian who lives in Germany is determined to stand where Taylor stood.
“I have big goals,” Abraham, 29, said through an interpreter. “I am fighting to have big fights in America. I want to win the title and have big fights like Sugar Ray Leonard, Mayweather and Oscar De La Hoya had, in the States because I love America and it’s my goal to make a big fight like in Las Vegas or Madison Square Garden in New York. This Super Six tournament will only help me get that big fight in America.”
Time is short, he knows.
“I have three, four, five years left and I want to make the most of it,” he said from Zinnowitz, Germany, a town of 3,700 on the country’s northwest coast where he’s training.
The move from 160 to 168 pounds is making life easier, said Abraham, who defended his middleweight title 10 times before surrendering it after his last fight, in June, a 10th-round TKO of lightly regarded Mahir Oral.
“It’s a great thing for me,” he said. “I’m so happy. I’m in a great mood. I spent so much time making weight so I’m really relieved. I’m just so happy when I go work out that I don’t have worry about that. I’m a happy man at super middleweight.”
Abraham pays no attention to Taylor’s past stamina problems; his loss to Froch; his two losses to Kelly Pavlik, one by TKO.
“Taylor has beaten Hopkins,” he noted. “That’s all you need to know and say about him. He’s a good boxer. There’s nothing really else I can say about him. I don’t really think I should praise him anymore here. So we’ll just see what happens on October 17.”
While Abraham isn’t thinking about his opponent’s recent struggles, Taylor does dwell on his loss to Froch.
“I think about it all the time,” he said of the fight in which he was stopped with 14 seconds left, when he was ahead on all three scorecards. “If I had trained a little bit harder, if I had lost that weight a little bit earlier . . . .”
If there was no motivation from his defeats and no changes, it would be correct to question his wisdom in continuing, Taylor said.
“I’ve done everything there is to do in boxing, but I’m not ready to go yet,” he said from Houston, Texas, where he’s training at George Foreman’s gym. “I’m not ready to go yet. I feel like there is more to accomplish.”
There’s a desire to write a happy ending, not a need to pay the electricity bill, said Taylor, who mentioned, “I kept my money good.”
“I just want to win this tournament,” he said. “There ain’t nothing else to it. It’s not about the money or anything, but that I want to win. I plan to just leave it all in there. That’s all I got. That’s my state of mind right now. No excuses. Just go in there and fight.”