Kelly Pavlik got up from off the canvas to dethrone Jermain Taylor in a thrilling battle of unbeaten middleweights Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J.
Pavlik (32-0, 29 knockouts)hurt Taylor with a right handmidway through the seventh round. Taylor (27-1-1, 17 KOs)staggered back into the corner, with Pavlik following up with a flurry punctuated by a left hook that saw Taylor slowly sink to the canvas, prompting referee Steve Smoger to call off the fight at Boardwalk Hall.
Pavlik becomes the undisputed champion at the 160-pound middleweight limit.
Taylor had gone 2-0-1 in fights with Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright, two of the sport's finest pure boxers in recent years. But the Little Rock, Ark., native had not gotten his full due from boxing observers due to the closeness of those fights, along with disappointing performances against the smaller men Kasim Ouma and Cory Spinks.
Taylor seemed to sense he had to something to prove, coming out to take the first round with a higher activity rate, though Pavlik landed a pair of right hands.
Taylor caught his opponent from Youngstown, Ohio with a right hand early in the second and pounced, sending Pavlik to the canvas.
Pavlik was badly hurt but got up, reeling around the ring as Taylor hammered him with several punches. Taylor neglected to go to Pavlik's body, however, costing himself a shot at an early stoppage win.
Pavlik rebounded to take the third, even dazing Taylor briefly with a right hand. Taylor seized control again over the next three rounds with his jab, while Pavlik had trouble breathing from a nose left bloodied by thepunishment he had suffered in the second round.
The end came suddenly just past the midway mark of the seventh, with Taylor not being able to reply after Pavlik landed his big right hand.
Smoger stopped the fight without issuing a count to Taylor, a curious decision given that in April he allowed Pavlik victim Edison Miranda to get up off the canvas multiple times before stopping that contest.
Russian giant Valuev defeats Quebec's Bergeron
Nikolai Valuev won a unanimous decision on Saturday over Canadian heavyweight boxer Jean-François Bergeron in the Russian's first fight since losing the WBA heavyweight title.
Bergeron faced one of the toughest tests of his career by taking on the seven-foot, 320-pound Valuev, and based on the reaction of the 4,000 spectators in Oldenburg, Germany, he performed better than the judges' scores indicated.
The crowd jeered when the judges ruled a one-sided decision — 118-111, 118-111 and 117-111 — in favour of Valuev and cheered the Canadian.
"I would call it a draw, but if I had to fine-tune my call I might give Bergeron the win," said Henry Maske, the German former light heavyweight champion.
"That's always the problem when you don't have a knockout and have a decision," Valuev said. "Maybe some of it had to do with him being the smaller guy."
Bergeron took his share of shots, but he consistently landed his left hand to the head of the Valuev and brought him to his knees with a powerful hook in the second round.
"I'm not in agreement with the decision," Bergeron said. "But it's hard to beat Valuev here in Germany. He caught me a few times but I think I was good, too.
"Valuev is a very good fighter, very strong," he said. "But I also proved I'm a world-class fighter. It was a moral victory for me. I hope I can come back to Germany and get a rematch."
It was Valuev's first return to the ring since his loss — a first in 47 bouts — to Ruslan Chagaev in April.
Valuev (47-1, 34 knockouts) also lost the World Boxing Association title he won from John Ruiz and successfully defended against Owen Beck, Monte Barrett and Jameel McCline.
Bergeron (27-1, 19 KOs) lost for just the first time in his 10-year career. The fifth-ranked Valuev was by far the best opponent on his resumé after primarily facing journeymen such as Robert Hawkins and Darroll Wilson.
The St-Jêrome, Que., native tipped the scales 91 pounds lighter than Valuev at Friday's weigh-in at Oldenburg. Both fighters are 34.
Bergeron competed for Canada at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, but did not win a medal.
After a first three weeks of the month that saw fights involving Fernando Vargas, Vitali Klitschko and Juan Manuel Marquez postponed due to injury, the fights capped off a busy Saturday in the sport.
Light heavyweight Clinton Woods (41-3-1) retained his International Boxing Federation title in Sheffield, England, beating Julio Gonzalez (41-4) for the second time. Scores in the 12-round fight were 117-111, 115-113 and 116-112.
World Boxing Council light heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson (25-0, 17 KOs) scored an easy fourth-round stoppage over Epifanio Mendoza (28-5-1, 24 KOs) in Sacramento, Calif.
Mendoza was a substitute for Montreal's Adrian Diaconu, who had to pull out earlier in the month due to a hand injury.