Injuries seemed to KO more fights than actual boxers in the ring, as a number of big bouts set for September, such as Juan Manuel Marquez-Rocky Juarez, have been either postponed or canceled altogether. Luckily, at least one of them is still raring to go. Middleweight champion Jermain Taylor will lock horns with hot challenger Kelly Pavlik in a contest that has been on the wishlists of many a boxing follower for a long time, tonight in Atlantic City. Two young, undefeated fighters known for their potential, offense, and power, it is a bout that cannot be an absolute "will win" for either. Taylor, though, has not looked spectacular in much of his fights since his first Hopkins match. He has had some glimpses of greatness, but his lack of clean skills (which has deteriorated more with each fight) and lasting stamina have been growing issues, and he has not won many of those fights in convincing or definitive fashion. Despite this, he has won all of them (however contested they have been). Pavlik, on the undercard of Taylor-Spinks, showed many why he has been as lauded as he has been by displaying good skills and strength in a KO win against Edison Miranda--the kind that is capable of taking out the champ.
Pavlik has much to prove to the division, the champion, and the world, and has much motivation in taking out Taylor. He has what it takes and, hopefully, has the personal motivation to pull it off against the oft-reckless latter. However, Taylor has his own motivation in shutting his critics up and especially in dispatching the "unworthy" challenger. He strongly believes that he is nothing to himself and he does not understand why there is so much hype around Pavlik or even the matchup itself. Taylor has looked sloppy in his recent fights, but personal indignation can become a great fuel in any fight when one feels that many are doubting or insulting him. Lest us not forget how he became champion or how he has managed to win those disputed fights in the first place (aggressiveness, power punching, hand speed).
Prediction: Taylor will most likely be piping hot in the early rounds, focused and eager to punish and decimate Pavlik. The challenger will either trade blows or pick off shots on the oft-open champion while staying active. The real intrigue may lie late in the fight, where Taylor tends to slow down and look messy, as Pavlik and his 28 out of 31 KO wins (mostly early to mid rounds) could betray him in the stretch. An early KO for either isn't out of the question, but unlikely either. Taylor's poor defense and possibly fatigue may open the door for Pavlik to capitalize, should he weather the early storm and is saavy enough (and his head in it) to do it. Pavlik, KO 8 (Taylor, if he is cold, or nervous, in the ring and can't take the assault).