Meldrick Taylor (born October 19, 1966) is an American former professional boxer who competed from 1984 to 2002. He is a two-weight world champion, having held the IBF junior welterweight title from 1988 to 1990, and the WBA welterweight title from 1991 to 1992. As an amateur, Taylor won a gold medal in the featherweight division at the 1984 Summer Olympics.
Taylor, one of many boxing champions hailing from the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, learned his craft in the gyms of his hometown and posted a 99-4 record as an amateur fighter. In 1984, Taylor earned a spot on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team at the age of 17, and claimed the gold medal in the featherweight division. Following his victory, he joined the professional ranks.
His early fights were against nondescript journeymen, but in his 12th fight, in May 1986, Taylor won a unanimous decision against fellow contender Harold Brazier and moved into the world rankings. On September 3, 1988, Taylor faced James (Buddy) McGirt for the IBF light welterweight title. He defeated McGirt by a technical knockout (TKO) in the 12th and final round to begin his first title reign.
Over the next 18 months, Taylor won four more fights, setting up a unification bout with the WBC light welterweight champion Julio César Chávez on March 17, 1990 in Las Vegas. Chavez had an aura of invincibility, he was considered the best fighter pound for pound in the world and also one of the most dangerous fighters in the sport. This fight drew huge media attention, as both men came in unbeaten (Taylor at 24-0-1 and Chávez at 66-0), and regarded as two of the best boxers in the world, regardless of weight class. Their fight was one of the most famous and controversial bouts in boxing history.
Taylor took control of the action early and began to build up a lead on the scorecards. However, Chávez proved to be a heavier puncher, and was slowly wearing Taylor down even as he lost rounds. Going to the 12th and final round, Taylor led by wide margins on two of the three scorecards, and his corner famously told him that he needed to win that round. Because of this, Taylor chose to continue fighting at close quarters with the hard-hitting Mexican champion. Chávez, realizing time was running out, came at Taylor aggressively in the last round. With 17 seconds left in the fight, Chávez floored Taylor. Taylor beat the 10-count and got back to his feet at six. Referee Richard Steele twice asked Taylor, “Are you ok?” Taylor did not respond and only looked at his corner. Steele waved the fight off with just two seconds left, awarding Chávez a win by TKO.
The controversy surrounding the stoppage continues to this day, and 10 years later, The Ring proclaimed it the “Fight of the Decade”.
Many boxing fans believe that Taylor was essentially ‘ruined’ as a fighter because of this bout—due in part to the tremendous punishment taken at the hands of Chavez, including several fractures and some kidney damage (according to the HBO “Legendary Nights” episode mentioned before, he was taken to the hospital immediately after the Chavez bout—reportedly urinating blood.)