L AS VEGAS - When last we saw Jermain Taylor in the ring it was September in Atlantic City. He was on the ropes and Kelly Pavlik was smashing him with hard punch after hard punch on the way to winning Taylor's two middleweight championship belts via a seventh-round knockout.
That Pavlik got up from a knockdown during a second-round thumping at the hands of Taylor only added to the tremendous nature of Pavlik's win, and to Taylor's humiliation.
Taylor is back five months later, with a pledge.
"This time when I get him in trouble, I will finish him off. He won't get back up," said Taylor, who will take on Pavlik in the main event tonight at MGM Grand. Pavlik's titles will not be on the line because the rematch clause - instituted by Taylor and his promoter Lou DiBella - called for a bout at 166 pounds. That's six over the middleweight limit.
Taylor's goal won't be easy to accomplish. Not only was the loss to Pavlik his first, he has to deal with the idea that he was beaten into what appeared to be a short spell of unconsciousness as the fight was being stopped.
It's going to be difficult for Taylor to stop Pavlik if he doesn't go hard at him. The question is, will Taylor want to go toe-to-toe with Pavlik, who already won big in that kind of fight?
"I don't know how he is going to react to that knockout," Pavlik said. "It wasn't just a stoppage, it was a pretty wicked knockout. I don't know how that is going to affect him. We are prepared for him coming right at me, we are prepared for him coming out boxing."
Jack Loew has been Pavlik's only trainer, and he has been very vocal during the promotion for this fight. He has not been thrilled about Taylor's excuse that he was not well prepared for Pavlik the first time. And he doesn't believe for a second that Taylor changing trainers from Emanuel Steward to Ozell Nelson will mean a thing.
"I just want to thank Jermain for that, for bringing back the guy who taught him all the bad habits," Loew said of Nelson, who was Taylor's head coach as an amateur and his assistant trainer as a pro. "He can do whatever he wants. He can run ... all day out there. There is nothing he can change that is going to do anything to us."
Like Pavlik, Loew wonders just how fragile Taylor's psyche is after what happened five months ago.
"We took something away from him that night," Loew said. "How is he going to react when he takes that first shot?"