By Craig Watt
Middleweight Shannan Taylor (49-7-3, 35 KOs) is one of Australia’s most colourful and controversial fighters with his personal story outside the boxing ring which is often seen as a bigger victory than his 59 fight boxing career that has lasted for 17 years. His life story will surely one day be the subject of a film or best selling novel as he has lived life on the edge and faced up to demons of drug addiction, before finding God in 2002 and turning his life around.
He started fighting men on the streets as a 15 year old in the suburbs of Sydney but focussed his efforts inside the ring and took the sport seriously, enjoying a 137 amateur fight career, losing a close and disputed decision to Kostya Tszyu when he was just 17 years of age. Since finding God in 2002 he seemed to turn his life around and has held his own in middleweight world title challenges with such fighters as Shane Mosely, Arthur Abraham and Anthony Mundine.The 37-year-old, known as the “Bulli Blaster” sees his life and boxing career in two chapters, the first being behind a drug addiction and the second with a new focus and God by his side, ready to test himself again with the best boxers in the world at 160 pounds. Boxing has always been the central theme to this life change and gave him a consistent focus when things around him were not so strong. Shannan took some time out today to talk to Fightnews.com about his colouful life, career and plans for the future.
Shannan – many people have stated that your story is one worthy of a book or film. Do you agree?
I know many people have said this and perhaps when I have retired and the full story has unfolded I will then tell the whole world about the adventures, some of which I am proud and some of which I am not so proud. I am thankful that I am now in a very good place as I have been in some very dark places and lost everything but boxing was always the thing that enabled me to keep my sanity.
Take us back to the early years and your first experiences in the ring.
I first jumped inside a boxing ring when I was nine years old and started sparring with some of the kids at the PCYC Gym in Sydney when I was twelve. In my early years though, I found myself in more fights on street corners than inside the ring and always held my own with the other guys and no one could live up to my power, especially with no gloves on. I realised early on that I did have power and boxing was a route for me to take to better my life. I am like many fighters all over the world where boxing is not just a sport but an outlet of aggression that if not managed could end up in jail. Some of my friends of this time are now behind bars and I am thankful my own life is in a much more positive position, although I have had my ups and downs.
You had a dazzling early career and were 29-0 when you faced Shane Mosely at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 2001. Were you amazed that the skinny kid from Wollongong, fighting on street corners had made it to the mecca of boxing in Las Vegas?
As my professional career developed I always knew I could be successful and in the early days I was not just beating good fighters but knocking them all out and my confidence was growing all the time. I knocked out Jake Rodruigez inside three rounds, Livingston Bramble in the first, Lonnie Beasley in the third, all these were former world champions and I was destroying them with power and knocking them out. I was beginning to make an impression in world boxing and was ranked in the top two by the WBC at 147 pounds for most of the period 2000 to 2001. When I hit the WBC#1 mandatory position at welterweight I was invited to the Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2000 on the under card of the Shane Mosley versus Oscar De La Hoya fight. I beat Charles Whittaker on points over ten rounds and Mosely won a close fight and that set me up for the bout in Vegas in March 2001.
Take me through the fight with Shane Mosley and your first defeat?
Firstly, I must say that there is no disgrace in having a loss on your record to the great Shane Mosley and although my trainer Jeff Fenech tried to dissuade me from taking the fight I knew I had to test myself with the best. The fight unfolded in the third round when the ten second bell went and this was at the time when it was quite a new thing and when the ten second bell went in the third I lost concentration, confusingly thinking the round was over and then whack – a huge right hand from Mosley and it hurt and dazed me badly. I fought on until the end of the sixth but I was badly shaken by the punch and to his credit and for the benefit of my long term career, my trainer Johnny Lewis pulled me out.
What happened after the Mosley fight?
These were the dark days for me and after losing and being paid so well the money quickly went on drugs and a rapid downward spiral in which I nearly lost it all. I was 29 at the time and had a 22 year old girlfriend who was wild and liked to party. I should have rested after the fight and took some time out but I went down the total wrong path and suffered accordingly, spending all my money on cocaine and parties with the wrong crowd. It was disappointing as I had got to 29-0 and just fought at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas and it doesn’t get much better than that. Sometimes too much money at the wrong time can be a negative influence in your life.
How did the drugs affect your boxing and results in the ring?
After the Mosely fight I was back in the ring inside four months and stopped Bert Bado in the first and I felt I was unbeatable again but he has a record of 11-12-1 going into the fight and just lulled me into a false sense of security. When I stepped up in class in the next two fights for the Commonwealth title I was stopped inside the distance by Julian Holland and Richard Williams in England, fighters that in my prime, before the drug issues I would have knocked out inside three rounds. I also tested positive for steroids in the Williams fight which was an attempt by me to cut corners in a difficult period.
At this point, was this when you turned to God for a solution or to help you?
I did have some difficult times after the Mosley fight and during 2002 things were very dark, I even contemplated suicide – I just didn’t want to be here any more. I smashed up my own house and was completely out of control. Then a mysterious priest landed on my doorstep called Mike, a South African. He appeared out of nowhere and seemed to be an angel from above – he convinced me to go to church and that was the start of the new beginning for me. I have now a faith in God and it has now taught me to think before I act and has put my life back in order. There are now no drugs in my life and my attention, focus and efforts are all to my family and boxing. I know I have done wrong in the past and I know I have pressed the self destruct button but I am now clean and loving the challenges boxing offers me.
In 2006 you were back at the top level of boxing and went to Germany to take on IBF champion Arthur Abraham who was 19-0 and highly regarded. How did you view that fight?
After the fight I gained a lot of confidence from Abraham’s trainer and coaching team who told me I gave him one of his toughest fights and he felt my power on a few occasions. He was a very precise fighter, a little slow but he has great power and I can assure you if he does fight Anthony Mundine, who I have also fought, he will wipe the floor with him. He will knock him out inside four rounds. You have to give me credit for going to Abraham’s back yard in Germany and having the balls to challenge him and I held my own going the full twelve rounds.
You fought Anthony Mundine earlier this year – how do you rate him?
This fight was frustrating for me as he didn’t seem to want to fight. There were 6,500 fans in the arena and he just didn’t want to fight and adopted a jab and move, jab and move approach. I can only think he was scared of my power and I tried everything for the fans to try and get a proper fight on. I hit him low just to try and make him angry and the crowd were begging for him to respond and go toe to toe. Personally I did not rate Mundine and he had no power and a weak chin. I do think he has a complex about taking a punch and when he gets in with the elite at 160 pounds such as Kelly Pavlik, Arthur Abraham and Felix Sturm he will get knocked out.
What is next for Shannan Taylor?
Well I was pencilled to fight Danny Green on August 5th in Wollongong and he pulled out last week to change direction and go for the IBO cruiserweight title and then take on Roy Jones, later in 2009. I am frustrated for this cancellation as he could have made $1.5m dollars for the bout which is a good pay day for him. He needs to move on from the Mundine re-match plan as he got flogged when he fought Mundine, absolutely flogged. I put up a better fight and landed more than Danny Green did. I am not convinced that the Roy Jones fight will take place later this year in Australia and perhaps a match can take place in the future. I sparred hundreds of rounds with Danny Green in his career and he knows I can knock him out.
What about a match with Daniel Geale who put on such a close fight with Anthony Mundine for the IBO title last month?
I would sign for this fight tomorrow and what a fight for the fans – it would be a great spectacle for the real aussie boxing fan. Daniel fought out of his skin against Mundine and impressed everyone, many people thinking he did enough to steal the verdict. A fight between us both would be an entertaining fight and would fill out any boxing arena in Australia. If the relevant people are reading then lets get the fight on.
Are you still due to go to South Africa and fight William Gare?
Yes. The plan is we will go out to fight William Gare for the WBF super-middleweight title, probably in October but if a fight with Daniel Geale could be inked, I would definitely take that option.
Overall, Shannan Taylor has succeeded both inside and outside the ring and remains a colorful boxing character that has excited Australian boxing arenas for 17 years. A match with the new kid on the block, Daniel Geale would represent another domestic marquee fight for the passionate boxing fans in Australia.