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Pavlik/Taylor II: Your OTHER Combat Sport Choice for the Evening

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Below you'll find a very solid (as always) preview of tonight's rematch between Jermain Taylor and Kelly Pavlik by SC of BadLeftHook. If a MMA card headlined by two glorified street-fighters (and don't get me wrong, I dig Kimbo) isn't your thing maybe you'll consider dropping some cash on a legit boxing PPV.

I'm up in Michigan for the weekend and will be watching the boxing show followed by the EXC replay and if you have the cashflow I suggest you do the same. The first Pavlik/Taylor bout was a great watch and I don't expect tonight's to be anything less.

Check out the write-up by SC and make BadLeftHook a daily stop:

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Kelly Pavlik and Jermain Taylor's fight on September 29, 2007, was the stuff that legends are made of.

The champion, still with something to prove. A challenger made to rally around -- big punching, no-nonsense, hard-working steel city boy out of the midwest.

The middleweight division's rich history is loaded with great rivalries. Robinson and LaMotta, Benvenuti and Griffith.

Taylor and Pavlik won't join those guys, really. For one thing, Saturday night's rematch is at a catchweight of 166 pounds, two pounds below the super middleweight cap, six above the middleweight limit.

But with their first fight being an epic encounter that left us all wanting more, the rematch is as highly anticipated as it gets. In what will be a solid month of renewed rivalries (Pavlik-Taylor II, Vazquez-Marquez III, Marquez-Pacquiao II), this one may carry the most weight of all.

Unlike the other fights, Pavlik and Taylor won't be fighting small man prejudice from the mainstream media. The middleweights get heavy respect when big things happen. After all, we're talking about the division of Hagler-Hearns, the most celebrated three rounds of fighting ever, especially for a lot of the current boxing writers out there.

Their first fight had it all. Taylor came out, guns blazing, and floored the upstart challenger in the second round. Ask anyone -- Taylor should have ended the fight that round. Hell, ask Kelly Pavlik or his trainer, Jack Loew. They'll tell you the same thing. When asked after the fight by Larry Merchant what was running through his mind at that point, Pavlik said, "I was thinking, 'Shit, it's gonna be a long night.'"

Jermain Taylor may have learned his lesson, though in the press conferences, Pavlik doesn't think that's the case. Taylor thinks he's a better all-around fighter than Pavlik, although this time, Jermain hasn't outright dismissed Kelly as he did previously. He's fired Emanuel Steward, ending a professional relationship that did not work for either man. In his place won't be Pat Burns, the trainer that led Jermain to two wins over Bernard Hopkins, but instead Ozell Jones, Taylor's career father figure, a man who knows him as well as anyone on earth. Their relationship is similar to that of Pavlik and Loew. Saturday night's showdown will almost be a family affair in both corners.

It is a fight -- with risk of venturing into hyperbole -- that is stirring the echoes of the legends before them. Their first fight was tremendous, an action- and drama-packed slugfest that just had it all. A gutsy challenger, a champion with a chip on his shoulder, corner drama, a near-finish in round two, and a stunning comeback ending in round seven.

And, again, there are doubts. How will it go? We all picked Taylor here first time around, but most of us thought it would be a grueling affair. No one was disappointed to be wrong, because Pavlik is just outstanding to watch.

And the fight that revved the engine for boxing's sensational closing quarter of 2007 is the one that will kick the tires and light the fires for what should be a magnificent first quarter of '08.

Two days out, and it's tough to pick a winner. I don't think the size will play into much. Pavlik and Loew are right: All it's going to do on their side is make them even stronger. As for Taylor, I think the same thing should be assumed. And please, nobody forget that he almost knocked Kelly Pavlik flat out in round two. This was not an easy win for Pavlik. He did not streamroll Taylor.

Repeat? What Pavlik needs to do
Kelly Pavlik has to do what all new, celebrated champions need to do, first of all: Don't believe the hype. Don't start thinking you're unbeatable. When boxers do that, disaster strikes. Nobody is unbeatable.

Pavlik needs to stick with what works for him, and he will. Plug away, weather storms, and keep landing that murderous straight right. Jermain knows to respect his power this time around. He also knows that he does not want to stand and trade with Kelly.

Revenge? What Taylor needs to do
And Taylor knows he doesn't need to stand and trade with Pavlik. Everyone knows he has the faster hands. He should use them, as he did early in the fight. Taylor is no feather-fisted puncher. When he hits with determination and purpose, he can hurt anyone. He's a better athlete, quicker on his feet than Pavlik, and has the ability to duck and dodge the champion's punches if he so chooses. No one will argue that Pavlik has quick hands. He does have stone hands, and Taylor was all too willing to eat them the first time around.

If he wants to win, he can't do that again. The result will be the same. Trying to take Kelly Pavlik's punches for 12 rounds is a dangerous idea.

It's shaping up to be a classic rematch. Having expectations less than that would be doing the fight a disservice. They earned the right to have people expect their fight to be a Fight of the Year candidate.

Will they deliver? Who's to say? They've got my money, though, and that's one of the nicest things you can say about any fight.