On This Day: The gifted Meldrick Taylor was born in 1966

Matt Bevan looks back on a career ultimately defined by a split-second call

ON October 19, 1966 Olympic gold medallist and two-weight world champion Meldrick “The Kid” Taylor was born in Philadelphia.

TAYLOR first rose to prominence back in 1984, when he was a member of the outstanding American Olympic team that won nine of the 12 gold medals on offer, with Taylor winning the featherweight title at the age of just 17. His achievement is extremely impressive and is still the record for the youngest boxer to win an Olympic gold medal.

HE turned professional later that same year, when he made his debut on the same card as five of his teammates in Madison Square Garden. Also starring that night were Evander Holyfield, Mark Breland, Tyrell Biggs, Virgil Hill and Pernell Whitaker.

TAYLOR’S performance was the most impressive though, as he knocked down Luke Lecce three times in the first round to get the stoppage win, a month after his 18th birthday.

HE built steadily until 1988, when he took on IBF light-welterweight champion James “Buddy” McGirt in Atlantic City, stopping him in the 12th round, following a virtuoso performance to become world champion.

TAYLOR defended his belt twice, and scored two non-title wins, before he agreed to take on fellow unbeaten WBC champion, Julio Cesar Chavez in March 1990, who was 68-0 at the time, in Las Vegas in a show titled “Thunder and Lightning”.

THE fight with Chavez is one of the most controversial in boxing history and was widely regarded as 1990’s premier scrap. Taylor led by wide margins on two of the three scorecards going into the 12th and final round. But Chavez went to him, aggressively attacking and Taylor traded with him, but he was dropped with 17 seconds to go. The Philadelphian beat the count, but referee Richard Steele waved it off with two seconds to go to give Chavez the victory. Opinion was split on whether Taylor should have been allowed to continue, and probably claim victory, was split.

TAYLOR recovered from his first loss as a professional to take the WBA welterweight title from Aaron Davis, holding it for two years before taking on the bigger Terry Norris for the WBC light-middleweight belt in 1992.

“THE KID” was stopped in the fourth round, before losing his welterweight title in his next fight, on Halloween, to Crisanto Espana. By then, and still only in his 20s, it was clear he was finished. His last title shot, largely unwelcome by insiders who feared for Taylor’s health, was a rematch with Chavez in 1994 when he was stopped in eight.

TAYLOR continued to fight until 2002, when he was refused a licence by the New Jersey Board and refused to submit to neurological testing in other states. Taylor eventually retired with a professional record 38-8-1, with 20 knockout victories.

HIS health appeared to deteriorate quickly in retirement. He authored the clumsy autobiography titled Two Seconds From Glory, but shocked and disturbed views of HBO’s “Legendary Nights” when his speech was slurred and difficult to understand. The affects of fighting too long are sadly clear to see.

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