Steward done training Taylor after disappointing four-fight run

Updated: November 12, 2007, 10:21 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

The decision is in: Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward is out as the trainer for former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor.

Their disappointing four-fight run together is officially over, Steward told ESPN.com on Monday.

Speculation that Steward would be replaced has run rampant since Taylor lost the middleweight title on a seventh-round knockout to Kelly Pavlik on Sept. 29.

Taylor said the move was made "three or four days ago" during a telephone conversation with Ozell Nelson, Taylor's father figure and assistant trainer. Nelson, who made the decision, is the one who hired Steward in the first place.

Taylor and Pavlik
Al Bello/Getty ImagesJermain Taylor's loss to Kelly Pavlik, standing, all but guaranteed Emanuel Steward would be replaced.
"I talked to Ozell. We have a very good relationship, but he said he may try to [train Taylor] himself. I got no problem with that," Steward said. "If he wanted me to do it, I would do it. He said he might try to do it himself. It's not a bad decision. I'm real fine with it."

While Nelson could take over training duties on his own, a Taylor camp source told ESPN.com that there has been contact made with Pat Burns to gauge his interest in returning to train Taylor. Burns guided Taylor to a 25-0 record, the middleweight championship and both victories against Bernard Hopkins in 2005. But Nelson, whose relationship with Burns is not strong, made the decision to fire him and bring in Steward with much fanfare in the spring of 2006.

Steward said one of the key concerns he and Nelson talked about was his training schedule. If Steward remained with Taylor it would mean preparing three fighters for major fights in three weeks, not to mention the accompanying rigorous training camps.

Pavlik (32-0, 29 KOs) and Taylor (27-1-1, 17 KOs) are scheduled for a Feb. 16 rematch. But if welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron defeats Jesse Feliciano on Nov. 23, and Cintron is a big favorite, Steward will be preparing Cintron for a Feb. 2 unification bout with Paul Williams. Steward also trains heavyweight titleholder Wladimir Klitschko, who is going to fight Sultan Ibragimov in a Feb. 23 unification fight.

"It's very hard to do that with that schedule and do what is necessary to do with Jermain," Steward said. "He really needs to be with me right now because he needs to be going over and over and over things so he does things automatically in the rematch and doesn't have to think about what to do. It would mean coming with me now and Jermain is not the kind of guy to do that. Ozell said he thinks he has retained enough of what he saw me working on with Jermain to do it himself."

Said Lou DiBella, Taylor's promoter and longtime friend of Steward's, "I don't think this move is a referendum on Emanuel Steward. He's one of the greatest trainers in the game. But I think with Cintron and Klitschko also fighting that month that Emanuel has his hands full with two other champions. Things didn't click as well as they could have and Emanuel thought that Jermain often didn't follow his instruction. Obviously, he's a great trainer, but sometimes a trainer and a fighter don't have the requisite chemistry."

DiBella refused to address the question of who would replace Steward.

A news conference had been tentatively scheduled to announce Pavlik-Taylor II on Tuesday in New York, but it was canceled. Part of the reason was the uncertainty about who would train Taylor. Pavlik is also recovering from a household accident last week in which he put both of his hands and arms through a glass window and required 108 stitches, an injury that is not expected to delay the rematch.

The Taylor-Steward pairing just never seemed to click. They had an abbreviated training camp for their first fight together, Taylor's controversial draw with difficult southpaw Winky Wright. Then came decision victories against Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks, fights against junior middleweights for which Taylor's lackluster performance was roundly criticized. They were followed by the brutal knockout loss to Pavlik.

"I told Ozell if he needs any advice or just wants to talk, I'll be glad to," Steward said. "We finished up saying that he might try training Jermain himself and I wished them good luck."

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.