BILOXI, United States (AFP) – Former undisputed world champion Jermain Taylor captured the International Boxing Federation middleweight title Wednesday with a unanimous decision over Australian Sam Soliman, who finished 12 rounds despite a right leg injury.
Taylor hung up his gloves for two years after suffering bleeding in the brain and losing four of five fights over two years before returning to the ring in 2011. But his comeback has been controversial for health issues and legal ones.
Taylor is out of jail on bail after being charged with two felonies after allegedly shooting and wounding his cousin during an August dispute.
But he achieved the crowning moment of his ring return when judges awarded the 36-year-old American the verdict by scores of 116-111, 115-109 and 116-109.
“I heard it before. Now I’m hearing it again,” Taylor said of the ring announcement of his new title.
Taylor, who improved to 33-4 with one draw and 5-0 in his comeback run, claimed the undisputed middleweight title in 2005 after defeating Bernard Hopkins, but retired in 2009.
Soliman, who turns 41 next month, took command in the early rounds but was forced to his right knee by a Taylor jab in the seventh and then favoured the leg to the end of the fight.
Former dock worker Soliman, who fell to 44-12, suffered a torn right knee ligament in a 2007 loss to fellow Aussie Anthony Mundine. Soliman had won nine fights in a row since a 2008 loss to Mundine.
“It wasn’t an injury that came back because of bad luck. It was because of Jermain,” Soliman said.
“If he wasn’t as good a fighter as he was, he wouldn’t have come up with the goods.”
Limping in the ring at times but always able to perform well enough to pass muster, a gritty Soliman stayed in to the end even as the referee and ringside doctor each questioned if he could continue.
“He’s a warrior,” Taylor said. “He did the same thought I would have. He kept fighting.”
Soliman suffered a torn right knee ligament in a 2007 loss to fellow Aussie Anthony Mundine. Soliman had won nine fights in a row since a 2008 loss to Mundine.
“I’m not going to take up table tennis just yet,” Soliman said when asked if he might retire.
Soliman had won the crown with a unanimous decision over Felix Sturm last May.
The Melbourne fighter had defeated Sturm in 2013 but that verdict was changed to no contest after Soliman tested positive for the banned stimulant methylsnephrine, leading to a nine-month ban.
Taylor sent Soliman down in the eighth and the Aussie fell again before a right hand to his chin sent him falling backward, unable to keep weight on his right leg.
Soliman fell again in the ninth in evading a powerful right hand from Taylor, who sent Soliman to the canvas a final time with a left jab at the end of the 11th round.