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By Mark Vester

Middleweight champion Jermain Taylor (25-0-1, 17 KOs) is not only gaining the respect of the boxing public, he is also getting respect among some of the best fighters in the history of the middleweight division.

The San Antonio Express-News, last Spring, former multi-division champion Tommy Hearns watched Taylor working with trainer Emanuel Steward in the famous Kronk Gym in Detroit, and expressed his feelings on Taylor.

"He would have been a problem for any of us," Hearns whispered to his former trainer, Emanuel Steward. The word "us" meant the likes of Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran, some of the best middleweights to ever grace the division.

Taylor returns to the ring against former champion Kassim Ouma (25-2-1, 15 KOs) on December 9 in his hometown of Arkansas. HBO will televise.

Steward feels that Taylor is finally starting to mature as a fighter and further said that the young 28-year-old fighter could possibly become one of greatest middleweights ever. He did admit that Taylor took "too big of a jump" in class, when he went from fighting opponents that had no chance to beat him, to world class competition like Winky Wright and Bernard Hopkins.

"He went from fighting 'B' level talent to top-level fighters. It was too big of a jump. The more time I spend with him," Steward said, "the more I realize how much talent he has that has never been tapped. He has the talent to become one of the great middleweights ever."
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