Jermain Taylor unanimously outpointed Kassim Ouma on Saturday night to retain his middleweight title, controlling the fight throughout despite a cut that appeared to bother him in the later rounds.
“I came out tonight and wanted a knockout really bad,” said Taylor, a Little Rock native. “I am in great shape, but I had to take out a loan in those last two rounds.”
Taylor (26-0-1) was fighting in his home state for the first time since becoming champion in 2005, and there was little suspense at the end – open scoring was used at the fight and showed Taylor with a big lead after eight rounds.
Ouma, a native of Uganda, had been all smiles during the week. He seemed to relish the chance to fight Taylor on the champion’s turf – he even raised his arms triumphantly after some of the later rounds despite being way behind on points.
Ouma’s fascinating story includes being kidnapped by the National Resistance Army in Uganda when he was a boy and being forced to fight in the civil war. His promoter sarcastically referred to him as “Little Kassim Ouma” this week – but the former junior middleweight champion hung in there against Taylor.
“He came out and fought all 12 rounds,” Taylor said. “He’s a little guy but he’s a tough guy.”
Taylor weighed in at 159 1/2 on Friday, and Ouma was at 158 3/4 – although that did little justice to the challenger’s size disadvantage. Taylor is expected to move up to super middleweight at some point.
Taylor became the middleweight champion in July 2005 by beating Bernard Hopkins in Las Vegas, then beat Hopkins there again that December. Taylor escaped with a draw against Winky Wright in July in Memphis, Tenn., to keep his undisputed title.
After three straight decisions, Taylor hoped for a knockout in front of his home fans – to his own detriment.
“I came out trying for the knockout and threw a lot of wild punches,” Taylor said. “That is something you’re not supposed to do in boxing.”
The judges scored the fight 118-110, 117-111 and 115-113 for Taylor.
The crowd serenaded the 28-year-old Taylor with rousing chants of “JT! JT!” throughout the fight – and also added a few of Arkansas’ famed “Pig Sooie” cheers. Taylor started well, knocking the 27-year-old Ouma (25-3-1) off-balance with a right uppercut in the first round, but Ouma lived up to his reputation as an aggressive fighter. He ran right at Taylor several times, although Taylor seldom stayed on the ropes for long.
A cut near Taylor’s left eye appeared around the fifth round, and he seemed bothered by it at times, occasionally lifting a hand to the eye.
“It was an accidental head butt in the third or fourth round,” cutman Ray Rodgers said. “It was a real deep cut.”
Taylor came to the news conference after the fight wearing sunglasses, presumably to hide his eye injury.
“He didn’t get the knockout,” Ouma said. “I am still here. Look at me, then look at him.”
But Taylor landed most of the big punches, and toward the end, Ouma’s only chance was an unlikely knockout. Taylor won the first six rounds on all three judges’ cards and the first nine on two cards.
Ouma threw 701 punches to Taylor’s 597, but Taylor had a clear edge in punches landed, 244-177.
Attendance for the rare title fight in Arkansas was 10,119 thanks to a good walk-up turnout.
Thanks to FoxSports.com for the coverage.