By Gary Purfield
This Friday night from the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in Cabazon California, two of the Super Six participants that dropped out early in the tournament will make their returns to the ring in separate bouts aired on Showtime. Jermain Taylor and Andre Dirrell had to take time off and re-think their careers after each suffered head trauma during their last bouts.
The Little Rock Arkansas native Taylor, once the recognized middleweight champion of the world after twice defeating long-time middleweight king Bernard Hopkins, has not fought since his 12th round knockout loss in the Super Six opening bout, in October, 2009. It was the second straight fight where Taylor was knocked out in the 12th round. Taylor has also lost four of his last five fights, three by knockout.
Following his wins over Hopkins, Taylor fought to a draw with Winky Wright and then won two straight against Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks. But then Taylor was dethroned in violent fashion when Kelly Pavlik knocked him out in the seventh round to take the middleweight title. They re-matched in a non-title super middleweight bout where Taylor dropped a unanimous decision.
Taylor moved up to 168 lbs. where he defeated his friend and fading contender, Jeff Lacy. Then Taylor took on Carl Froch for the WBC Super Middleweight title. Taylor was in control early and put Froch down in the third round but he faded as the fight went along and Froch, who never stopped coming, scored the knockout, putting Taylor out cold with only fourteen seconds left in the final round.
Despite the loss Taylor was invited to be included into Showtime’s Super Six tournament but drew a tough assignment taking on power puncher Arthur Abraham in his opponent’s home territory of Germany. Again Taylor fought well early but faded late. Abraham landed a monster straight right with only six seconds left in the fight, knocking Taylor out cold and leaving him in a German hospital for several days.
It appeared that Taylor’s fighting days were done with the rough knockout losses, but after more than two years off and a battery of medical tests, he believes he is ready to return to the ring. He will do so by dropping back down to the middleweight division and returns to his old trainer Pat Burns, who only accepted the assignment after Taylor had passed multiple medical exams, clearing him to fight.
Taylor 28-4-1 (17 KO) takes on Jesse Nicklow 22-2-3 (8 KO) in his ten round comeback bout. Nicklow appears to be a safe opponent with only eight knockouts in twenty seven bouts. Nicklow’s only notable bout is a fourth round knockout loss to Fernando Guerrero in 2009.
Also on the card is Andre Dirrell making his return to the ring after dropping out of the Super Six. Dirrell was considered a talented fighter with an undefeated record yet to be challenged when he entered the tournament. Dirrell lost a close disputed decision to Carl Froch in his opening tournament bout in Froch’s backyard of Nottingham England. He entered his second bout against Taylor’s conqueror, Arthur Abraham a significant underdog, but thoroughly out boxed and out-hustled Abraham using speed and movement and scored a knockdown in the fourth round. It appeared Dirrell was well on his way to a victory when he was drilled by Abraham on the temple after slipping to the canvas. The shot put Dirrell out and Abraham was disqualified for hitting Dirrell while down. Due to issues from the shot Dirrell has not fought since.
Dirrell 19-1 (13 KO) who is from Detroit Michigan, returns Saturday against Darryl Cunningham 24-2 (10 KO) in a ten round super middleweight bout. Cunningham has not lost since 2007 and has a win over Antwun Echols. Cunningham was scheduled to face Kelly Pavlik earlier this year but the bout was cancelled when Pavlik pulled out.
Both bouts will be shown on a special episode of Showtime’s Shobox series beginning at 11pm eastern time.
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