- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Almost seven years to the day since losing the middleweight world championship by knockout to Kelly Pavlik -- and five years after suffering a brain bleed in a knockout loss to Arthur Abraham -- former undisputed champion Jermain Taylor will once again fight for a piece of the 160-pound title.
Taylor will challenge Australia's Sam Soliman for his version of the 160-pound title at a U.S. venue to be determined. According to Warriors Boxing promoter Leon Margules and Lou DiBella, who are co-promoting the card, the contracts are signed for the fight to take place on Oct. 4. However, there is a good chance the fight will be moved to Oct. 8 and air on ESPN2 as a Wednesday night boxing special, one week after the network will carry the Oct. 1 title elimination bout between Curtis Stevens and Hassan N'Dam for the right to become the mandatory challenger for the Soliman-Taylor winner.
"Jermain is very excited about it," trainer Pat Burns told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "We've won four fights since we got back together and Jermain has come back. I'd like to have had more fights, more activity, but that's the business. Jermain has been maintaining himself and his weight is good. It should pay off for him. He's already in pretty good shape."
Burns said they will open their official training on Tuesday in Miami.
"We always wanted to get another opportunity. They don't come around too often," Burns said. "We have a second chance and it's a blessing. He's fortunate to have this opportunity. I know there are some who say Jermain shouldn't get this opportunity and some that say Sam Soliman shouldn't be fighting Jermain, but I don't worry about the critics.
"I put them aside and let's go ahead and see how it comes out. I think we'll win the fight. I know Jermain will work hard. We will be prepared and let the cards fall where they may."
The 36-year-old Taylor (32-4-1, 20 KOs), a 2000 Olympic bronze medalist from Little Rock, Arkansas, has won four bouts in a row during an on-and-off comeback following back-to-back knockout losses at super middleweight in 2009.
Taylor was stopped in the 12th-round by Carl Froch in a super middleweight bout that Taylor was winning handily before being knocked out with 14 seconds left and then he suffered a brutal 12th-round knockout to Abraham in the opening stage of the Super Six World Boxing Classic. That knockout left Taylor with a small brain bleed and a concussion.
Taylor subsequently dropped out of the tournament, took a long break and did not fight again for 26 months. Before making his December 2011 comeback, Taylor received a clean bill of health after undergoing extensive medical testing, including at the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas.
Rather than seek a license in a state with flimsy requirements, Taylor went to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which has some of the stiffest licensing rules in the nation. The commission's medical advisory panel offered a 5-0 recommendation that the commission approve his license request. Taylor appeared at a hearing in front of the commission, which voted 5-0 to license him after doctors said he was at no more risk for an injury than any other boxer.
Taylor, who returned to middleweight for his comeback and reunited with Burns, his original trainer, who led him to the undisputed title and two wins in a row against Bernard Hopkins, has not been very active during his comeback. He fought the 2011 fight, twice in 2012, including against fringe contender Caleb Truax, and once in 2013, a sharp performance in a seventh-round knockout of J.C. Candelo in San Antonio in December on the Marcos Maidana-Adrien Broner undercard. Now he is getting the title shot in a deal engineered by adviser Al Haymon.
"This should be a competitive fight," said DiBella, who has promoted almost all of Taylor's fights. "Jermain came back for this kind of opportunity and he is getting it against probably the most vulnerable of the middleweight champions. It's a winnable fight and a great opportunity. Jermain is very live to win that belt."
The 40-year-old Soliman (44-11, 18 KOs) will be making his first title defense since outpointing Felix Sturm on Sturm's turf in Germany to claim the belt by unanimous decision in May. The fight was a rematch of their February 2013 title eliminator, which Soliman won by unanimous decision. However, the result was changed to a no contest because Soliman failed his post-fight drug test and was suspended for nine months by German regulators.
Kurt Emhoff, an attorney and Soliman's and co-manager, said Soliman has signed for the fight, deciding to fight Taylor rather than accept a unification fight against Gennady Golovkin that was also on the table.
"We got a very generous offer for this fight," Emhoff said.
Emhoff said he was "pretty far along in negotiations with Golovkin" even before Golovkin's third-round destruction of Daniel Geale on July 26, but he said he could not close the deal with Golovkin promoter Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions because the fight with Geale had not happened yet.
"They had the Geale fight coming up and we had to wait a little bit and then this offer came in and it blew the (offer for the) Golovkin fight out of the water," Emhoff said. "It took Sam (17) years to win a title. He has fought everybody, but he's going to be 41 and he was looking for the best possible financial package that was offered and that's what we took.
"Jermain is ranked by the IBF, he's a big name, he's won four fights in a row and he beat Truax. So we know we have to be ready and we expect the best Jermain Taylor. He was seconds away from beating Froch. We're taking him seriously. He's a tough out for anybody."
Former undisputed champion Jermain Taylor will once again fight for a piece of the 160-pound title.