Jermain Taylor returning to ring
Former undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, idle for nearly two years after suffering a head injury in his last fight, is returning to the ring with a clean bill of health and trainer Pat Burns, who was fired during the title reign in 2006, back in his corner.
"I'm training him. We're working out all the logistics right now about exactly when and where the fight will take place. (Taylor adviser) Al Haymon is working on all of that now," Burns told ESPN.com Monday. "I will be with Jermain in the next couple of days. We need to get going on the next phase of training, and that's sparring."
Burns said Taylor will return to the 160-pound middleweight division instead of continuing to fight in the 168-pound super middleweight class, where he fought with little success in the four fights before his layoff.
Multiple sources told ESPN.com that Showtime, which had a contract with Taylor, one of the original participants in the Super Six World Boxing Classic, likely will televise the bout on Aug. 13. It is likely to take place in Taylor's hometown of Little Rock, Ark., according to sources. No opponent has been selected.
If Showtime goes with Taylor on Aug. 13, it would be a split-site card because the network is already committed to airing its four-man bantamweight tournament final -- titlist Joseph Agbeko against Abner Mares -- from Las Vegas that night.
Taylor did not respond to multiple interview requests, but his comeback has been in the works for some time with Taylor, his family, Burns and Haymon assessing his medical reports.
Taylor (28-4-1, 17 KOs) has not fought since suffering a severe concussion in a brutal 12th-round knockout to Arthur Abraham in Berlin in the opening bout of the Super Six tournament in October 2009. It was such a bad knockout that Taylor was briefly hospitalized because of the concussion, short-term memory loss and a small amount of bleeding on his brain.
In January 2010, Taylor bowed out of the round-robin tournament, but said he was not retiring.
I like everything I'm seeing, but most important, both neurologists he has seen have given him 100 percent clearance to compete and, based on what I've seen, he looks outstanding. He's very hungry. He has the look he had when he was on the way up.” -- Boxing trainer Pat Burns
"I'm going to take some time off from the sport of boxing and take myself out of Showtime Sports' World Boxing Classic tournament," Taylor said at the time. "It's important that I give my body and mind some much needed rest, because I have been boxing for nearly 20 years. I plan on keeping myself in shape and making a return to the sport sometime in the future."
That time is now.
Burns said he was not interested in reuniting with Taylor, who turns 33 on Aug. 11, until he knew he had passed a battery of tests from multiple neurologists.
Burns said Taylor did and that he's gone over the reports, which he said indicate Taylor is at no greater risk for injury than any other fighter. They have worked together in multiple mini-training camps over the past several months, although there has been no sparring, Burns said.
"I like everything I'm seeing, but most important, both neurologists he has seen have given him 100 percent clearance to compete and, based on what I've seen, he looks outstanding. He's very hungry. He has the look he had when he was on the way up.
"He went through a lot and lot of guys would have thrown in the towel, but he has a determination to come back and capture the title, and that's pretty exciting. I'm glad we were able communicate and work this out. He's very hungry, which is great to see, and he's done a lot of maturing."
Taylor, according to Burns, had extensive neurological tests done in Little Rock as well as at the renowned Mayo Clinic. He said both neurologists received copies of the medical reports from Germany from after the Abraham fight so they could compare test results.
"This has been going on for a little over a year," Burns said. "When it comes to a concussion there is nothing like time (to allow it to heal). He is still young and we all did a lot of research. The medical reports say he is at no greater risk than any other fighter, otherwise I'm not interested.
"I don't need the money. I'm very content with the way I'm living my life. But there is a feeling that is itching me -- that he can recapture the world title."
Lou DiBella, who promoted Taylor for his entire career, resigned shortly after the loss to Abraham because Taylor was still considering staying in the tournament at that time. DiBella had no comment on Taylor's impending return.
Burns said Taylor approached him about eight months ago.
"The first time I saw Jermain he was 197 pounds," Burns said. "He came down to Miami to see me. He had called me two or three times and I wasn't showing a whole lot of interest. But Jermain was adamant about it. So he came down and we had some heart to heart discussion about what went down and there was a lot of acknowledgement about what happened from his side.
"I told him that, yes, I was disappointed about what had happened, but I put it in my rearview mirror pretty quick and moved on. I was very disappointed in the way he was being handled by his new trainers and the people he was surrounded with in Little Rock, who were supposed to be the people looking out for him."
Burns said he worked out with Taylor but wouldn't commit to training him again for a comeback until he went through testing.
"My concern was that he go to a neurologist," Burns said. "He went to a local one in Little Rock. I advised him to go the Mayo Clinic, which he did about four months ago. His safety is more important to me than anything else. Working with Jermain is going to put money in my pocket, but it won't change my lifestyle. I need to make sure I can live with myself.
"I later found out that Al Haymon was adamant about him going to the Mayo Clinic also, so we were on the same page, which was great."
Burns said that Taylor has been on a diet program as well as strength and running programs.
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"It was a test to see the commitment and I was very, very pleased with his commitment," Burns said. "About four weeks ago, he came down and was 170 pounds and left at 164. The other day he was 165. I have someone in Little Rock I trust and that's what he weighed. He knows there is no room for anything other than honesty.
"He's doing great. I've spoken to Al Haymon, I've been in touch with Jermain and his wife about this and he wants to fight, and I'm willing to take this on. In a nutshell, here's my evaluation: He looks extremely hungry, extremely sharp and all the instincts are there. He looks tremendous. His mental state is great and I sense a real commitment."
Taylor will return having lost four of his last five fights (three by knockout), a rut that began when Kelly Pavlik knocked him out in the seventh round to win the middleweight title in September 2007. Taylor then lost a decision to Pavlik in a non-title rematch five months later, prompting his move to super middleweight.
Taylor, a 2000 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist, didn't fare well at 168 pounds. He outpointed Jeff Lacy, his Olympic teammate, and then got knocked out in the 12th round of his next two fights -- by Carl Froch in an April 2009 title challenge followed by the one against Abraham.
Taylor won the undisputed middleweight title by outpointing Bernard Hopkins in July 2005 and then edged him on another close decision in the rematch five months later. Taylor made four defenses before running into Pavlik. Burns had guided Taylor to a 25-0 record, the undisputed title and both wins against Hopkins before he was fired and replaced by Emanuel Steward, who had a disappointing four-fight run with Taylor -- a draw with Winky Wright and decisions against Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks before the first loss to Pavlik.
Burns was on the verge of re-joining Taylor's corner in late 2007, but ultimately longtime assistant Ozell Nelson, Taylor's father figure, took the reigns instead.
Burns said he and Taylor plan to start a full training camp, including sparring, perhaps as soon as next week with the intention of fighting in August. He said all of this is being done with the support of Taylor's family.
"In Erika, he has a great wife. She had concerns for him and his health and she wanted to make sure he was cleared," Burns said. "There is life other than boxing. She supported him. She helped facilitate all of the exams Jermain undertook. If she's happy, that is very important. The people that love him and care about him have to support this for it to be a go. Had there been any doubt, it wouldn't have happened. And Jermain told me himself, 'I have to take care of my family and be there for them.' He wasn't going to go through any undue risk because he has a family to take care of for a long, long time."
The move back down to middleweight is something Burns pressed for.
"He should have never been at 168 pounds," he said. "Not only will he fight at middleweight now, he'll be able to have a big dinner (the night before the weigh in). None of that killing himself to make weight.
"Nothing replaces hard work. I still have that old marine mentality. I was raised hard. My mother was tough on me. I'm going back to him to make him a world champion again. Let's see if we can win a few fights and recapture a middleweight title."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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