Jeff Pearlman

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Meldrick Taylor

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Sometimes when I’m cutting and pasting articles I distract myself by watching YouTube clips of random people who pop into my head.

Today, that means Meldrick Taylor.

For those who don’t know, Taylor is one of the all-time great American fighters. He was a gold medalist in the 1984 Olympics, then went on to a pretty impressive pro career as a junior welterweight and welterweight. Most famously, on March 17, 1990 Taylor fought the undefeated Julio César Chávez, the WBC light welterweight champion. Taylor won the first nine rounds, started tiring in the 10th and hung on … hung on … hung on through the 12th. Then, when five seconds left, he was knocked to the floor. He rose on the six count, but Richard Steele, the referee, stopped the action, handing Chávez one of the most controversial victories in the history of prize fighting.

Taylor was devastated. He was also battered beyond recognition. His face was broken. He was urinating pure blood. He returned to fight again, and even topped the undefeated Aaron Davis for the WBA welterweight title on January 19, 1991. But, truly, he was never the same.

His career spiraled. His life spiraled.

The video below is from four years ago.

Taylor was interviewed while attending something called the “Champions of Tomorrow boxing event.”

It’s like seeing a former smoker with Stage 4 lung cancer endorsing Marlboro …

  • wil blake

    Wow. A colleague related similar sad outcomes for many boxers from that era. Ironically several of the USA Boxing 1984 Gold Medalists fought professionally (Main Events Promotions?) as “Tomorrow’s Champions.” And the smoking scenarios you describe occur in dark humor of films like Dead Again and Thank You For Smoking.

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Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life