Meldrick Taylor (born October 19, 1966) is a former Olympic gold medalist and world boxing champion in two weight classes.
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. His amateur career wound down when he earned a spot on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team at the age of 17, and claimed the gold medal in the lightweight division. Following his victory, he joined the professional ranks.
His early fights were against nondescript journeymen, but in his 12th fight, in October 1985, Taylor won a unanimous decision against fellow contender Harold Brazier and moved into the world rankings. Still, a title shot had to wait until September 3, 1988, when Taylor faced James "Buddy" McGirt for the IBF light-welterweight (140-pound) world 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 five more fights, setting up a unification bout with WBC light-welterweight champ Julio César Chávez on March 17, 1990 in Las Vegas. This fight drew huge media attention, as both men came in unbeaten (Taylor at 24-0-1 and Chávez at 68-0), 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, but 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 13 seconds left in the fight, Chávez floored Taylor. Taylor beat the 10-count and got back to his feet, but looked back at his corner rather than at referee Richard Steele. Steele waved the fight off with just two seconds left, awarding Chávez a win by TKO. The fight's outcome proved to affect the rest of Taylor's career, as he himself has admitted at several interviews after the bout.
The controversy surrounding the stoppage continues to this day, and 10 years later, Ring Magazine proclaimed it the "Fight of the Decade".
Taylor had lost his title, but not his desire. Feeling that having to make the 140-pound weight had weakened him against Chavez, Taylor moved up to full welterweight (147 pounds) and decisioned undefeated Aaron Davis for the WBA welterweight title on January 19, 1991. He issued a challenge to Chávez for a rematch at 147 pounds, but the latter wouldn't move up in weight for many years. Taylor won three more fights before answering a challenge from light-middleweight champion Terry Norris to fight for Norris' WBC title. Norris, a naturally bigger and stronger man, knocked Taylor out in the fourth round.
This marked the end of Taylor's career as a world-class fighter; he lost the welterweight crown to Crisanto Espana in his next fight on Halloween night in 1992. He got one more title shot, against Chávez on September 17, 1994 in Las Vegas, but, years removed from his prime, he was stopped by Chávez in the eighth round.
He fought off and on over the next eight years, winning some fights and losing others, before retiring in 2002 with a career record of 38 wins, eight losses and one draw.
Sadly, like so many boxers, Taylor's boxing career left him a sick man. He suffers from pugilistica dementia and brain damage.