Taylor defends title in front of home crowd

12/12/2006 - Boxing

NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- Jermain Taylor didn't deliver the knockout he had promised his hometown fans, but it didn't matter in the end.

With blood dripping from a nasty cut over his left eyelid from the fifth round on, Taylor cruised to an anticlimactic unanimous decision against Kassim Ouma to retain the middleweight world championship Saturday night before 10,119 "Pig sooooooie"-chanting Razorbacks at the Alltel Arena.

The fight was contested under the WBC's newly adopted open-scoring policy, and the scores were announced following the fourth and eighth rounds, after which Taylor (26-0-1) had a lead that only an unlikely Ouma knockout could erase.

Judge Jack Woodburn had it 118-110, Tom Kaczmarak, a late substitute when Harold Laurens of Curacao couldn't get into the United States because of visa issues, scored it 117-111, and Sergio Silvi scored it 115-113. ESPN.com had it 119-109 for Taylor.

Taylor was making the third defense of his championship and first since an unsatisfying draw with Winky Wright in June.

This fight, however, was nowhere nearly as close. Ouma (25-3-1), a former junior middleweight titlist, was just too small to have much success against Taylor. Ouma was undeterred, however.

He displayed a big heart and absorbed some thunderous blows, but never stopped bulling forward against Taylor, who won easily despite backing up for long chunks of the bout.

"He came out and fought hard for all 12 rounds," Taylor said. "He's a little guy, but he's very tough."

"I'm never going to give up. You know me," said Ouma, who added that he planned to stay at 160 pounds. "I'm a small guy, but I am here to stay."

Taylor, whose nickname is "Bad Intentions," came out with them in the first round. He was gunning for a knockout and ripped Ouma with hard right hands. He wobbled Ouma with a right uppercut.

"I came in the first couple of rounds trying to knock him out," said Taylor, who went the distance with Wright and in two fights with Bernard Hopkins. "I had it in my head all night."

Taylor expended a lot of energy early looking for the knockout and was winded in the late rounds.

"I think I threw myself out," he said. "I was in such good shape, I stayed in there."

Promoter Lou DiBella thought the cut also had an impact on Taylor, who dabbed at it often as blood dripped down his face.

"I think the cut threw Jermain off a little bit and he had laid out a lot of gas in the early rounds and was on fumes late in the fight," DiBella said. "But he's a true champion."

Even though Ouma, 27, was taking big shots and unable to mount his typical 100 punches per round output, he tried to swarm Taylor, 28, throughout the fight.

In the fifth, he cut Taylor over the left eyelid with an accidental head butt. It was clearly bothering Taylor in the sixth round as blood dripped out of it, as well as later in the bout.

"It was a real deep cut," said cutman Ray Rodgers, who was never able to stop the bleeding. "It will probably take 10 stitches to sew it up."

Even when Taylor dazed Ouma in the seventh and seemed to momentarily lift him off the canvas with an overhand right, Ouma never retreated.

"Ouma's a bad little dude," DiBella said. "I thought Jermain fought through some adversity with the cut and Ouma kept coming and took some tremendous shots."

Ouma was busier than Taylor, which came as no surprise, but Taylor landed many more punches. According to CompuBox statistics, Taylor landed 244 of 597 punches (41 percent) while Ouma connected on 177 of 701 blows (25 percent). Taylor's shots were clearly the heavier ones, too.

With the victory, Taylor -- who earned in excess of $3 million -- can look forward to big business in 2007.

The likely scenario will see Taylor face "Contender" Season One winner Sergio Mora in April followed by a summer showdown with super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe.

Taylor, working with trainer Emanuel Steward for the second time, didn't want to address specific opponents right after the fight, but said, "Whoever wants to fight, come on. I'll fight the toughest guy out there."

Said DiBella: "We're going to sit down and talk Monday, but Mora is certainly a big option."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.