On Friday night Minnesota’s undefeated middleweight Caleb Truax makes the biggest jump of his professional boxing career against former world middleweight champion Jermain Taylor. Truax’s last fight, a narrow victory for the State title against Andy Kolle, has catapulted him into the chance to move into contender status if he can win. A victory will most likely set him in line to fight for a top ten ranking. The University of Minnesota graduate (BA, Sociology) has been a class act since turning professional in December, 2006 and has slowly emerged on the radar screen as an up-and-comer with major potential. But he will have to have an excellent fight and utilize a smart strategy with gritty determination to get through the tough Taylor who is looking to regain his championship status coming back from a long layoff last December. Taylor may be ripe for Truax and the stars may be aligned just right for the Minnesotan to advance into the arena he’s been moving towards from the beginning. A review of the two fighters reveals the strengths and weaknesses that will have to be addressed by the man who emerges on top in this fight.
For starters, Taylor has defeated some of the top champions of the last decade. He got the nod against the great middleweight and current light heavyweight Bernard Hopkins when he took the middleweight title from him and also won a close rematch. He defeated Winky Wright, a defensive genius who cleaned up the junior middleweight division before growing into middleweight, and he stopped Kasim Ouma. He has a good strong jab that sets him up to land hard combinations that include punishing body shots against his opponents, but two of his weaknesses were revealed in 2007 when he failed to capitalize on a vicious knockdown of Kelly Pavlic. When Pavlic bravely rose from the canvas and weathered Taylor’s storm, one of the main reasons he was able to do so was that Taylor failed at the time to throw one punch in his ruthless barrage to Pavlic’s body. Whenever you knock a fighter down and have him in trouble it is essential to not only land more shots to the head, but to combine those punches with body shots to further punish him and set up the clean punches to the head that he cannot see. Another tendency he has is to wing his punches, particularly the right hand, when he gets excited, thus exposing himself to his opponents’ arsenal. At such times he may tend to square up just a bit and lean slightly in, thus exposing himself to punches he does not see. The unseen punch that got him into trouble and lost his title via knockout to Pavlic in a punishing flurry that ended one of the best fights of the last decade is just such a case. Will Taylor get caught by Truax and drop a fight to the Minnesotan? That remains to be seen. But if his last fight is any indication, he may just be entering this contest without the kind of previous tune up necessary to defeat someone he’s chosen as a stepping stone on his comeback to greatness.
Truax is a punishing body puncher who keeps coming forward and can knock you out with his straight right hand or his solid left hook. His victory against Kolle was not a fight that tested his chin, and he’s not been seriously hurt yet in a fight. The chin may determine the degree of his success, but he can avoid the issue altogether if he can do three things. First, he has to take away Taylor’s excellent jab by neutralizing it with his own jab. Regardless of height, any boxer can out jab another with proper timing and defense coupled with his own execution of his lead weapon. He’ll have to catch Taylor’s jab with his own right hand, follow it back with his own left jab, and utilize effective head movement to avoid being controlled. In this way he must control the fight, but he has to do so with effective foot movement and serious body punching. He must change up his rhythm, which although already good sometimes falls into predictability while utilizing the same timing. He will need to establish his command early with fast combinations and throw an occasional feint while coming back with punches from either side as he avoids punishment by moving his head. He also must avoid getting inside and falling into smothering Taylor, setting his feet in just the right spot to reach him. He could win the fight by just backing Taylor up and overpowering him, but he’s more likely to be victorious by leaving a little room to attack him from angles with the kind of speed necessary to catch him off balance and hit him with what he does not see.
Minnesota will be cheering on her Osseo son as he makes the biggest move so far of his career in Biloxi, MI on Showtime TV. Here’s wishing Truax a good fight and a great night for Minnesota boxing.
By Mark Connor
© Copyright 2012, Mark Connor