Middleweights Pavlik and Taylor hold conference for February rematch

NEW YORK – Two of the best boxers in the world were upstaged yesterday by an infant.

Laila Jayden Taylor was born Monday in Little Rock, Ark., the third child of former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor and his wife Erica. Taylor stayed home with wife and daughter rather than attend a news conference promoting his Feb. 16 rematch in Las Vegas with Kelly Pavlik.

The 8-pound, 9-ounce Laila was the talk of the proceedings at a Manhattan nightclub.

After accepting congratulations and even applause on Laila’s birth, Taylor said by phone that his appetite for the sport has been enhanced by the prospect of meeting Pavlik again.

“I look at boxing totally different now,” said Taylor, whose first loss in 29 professional bouts was a seventh-round knockout at the hands of the unbeaten Pavlik. “I have a whole new love for boxing now.

“I made a lot of mistakes in that fight,” he added of the Sept. 29 loss in Atlantic City, N.J. “I’m not making any excuses, but I’ll make up for it the next time.”

Taylor was a heavy favorite in the last fight after two decisions over Bernard Hopkins and wins over Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks. Even though Pavlik was 31-0 with 28 knockouts heading into their WBC and WBO title bout, he was not considered as strong a contender as some of Taylor’s previous victims.

When Taylor knocked down Pavlik in the second round, his favorite’s role seemed accurate.

But Pavlik not only got up, he carried the fight to Taylor until, in the seventh round, a massive right landed squarely on Taylor’s chin and knocked out the champ.

With a rematch clause in the contract for the September fight, Pavlik had little choice but to meet Taylor again. This time, however, it’s not a title match because of a 166-pound weight limit agreement in that clause.

Pavlik, who has become the biggest sports hero in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, and trainer Jack Loew wonder why Taylor would want to meet him at a higher weight. Pavlik is 25 to Taylor’s 29. Pavlik is taller and would seem a natural for super middleweight in the future.

“I’ll still go into the fight like a title is on the line,” Pavlik said. “That zero on my record has been there a long time and I want to keep it there.

“The extra weight means … you don’t have to put yourself through hell to make it. Your energy level will be much higher.”

Added Loew: “I’m puzzled by it, why anyone would let this kid come at you at 166 pounds? You’ll just get a bigger and stronger Kelly Pavlik at that weight.”

The first bout has won several fight of the year awards, and HBO Sports senior vice president Mark Taffet believes the Feb. 16 rematch will live up to the hype. HBO Pay-Per-View will televise it, and it comes one week before a heavyweight title fight between IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko and WBO titleholder Sultan Ibragimov.

“One of the highlights of 2007 was Jermain Taylor-Kelly Pavlik,” Taffet said. “Some called it one of the greatest middleweight fights in boxing history. It had everything, all the drama and passion you could want in the ring. When that fight was over, we were all exhausted.”

Could it happen again?

“If you thought the first fight was a good one,” said Ozell Nelson, Taylor’s trainer, “then come see the next one.”