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Jermain Taylor to fight Sergio Mora

Eight years ago, then-undisputed middleweight champion Jermain Taylor was supposed to defend the title against Sergio Mora, who had made his name as the winner of "The Contender" reality series.

The fight was supposed to take place on May 19, 2007, at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee, but Mora shocked everyone by passing on the fight -- and a roughly $1 million payday -- because he did not want to fight there, believing its proximity (about two hours) to Taylor's hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas, would have somehow given Taylor an unfair advantage. Taylor eventually defended against former welterweight and junior middleweight titleholder Cory Spinks instead, and Mora was buried for years by criticism of his decision, one he later said he regretted.

Now, all these years later, they will finally meet as Taylor will make the first defense of his newly acquired middleweight belt against Mora on Feb. 6 in the main event on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."

Lou DiBella, who promotes both fighters, told ESPN.com on Saturday that the fight has been agreed to by both sides and that it will take place at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, the same venue where Taylor scored four knockdowns and won a unanimous decision against Australia's Sam Soliman on Oct. 8 to win back one of the belts he had once held.

According to the IBF, whose title Taylor holds, the signed contracts are due to the organization by Jan. 17. The IBF also said that Taylor is allowed to face Mora in an optional defense as long as it is completed by Feb. 8, with the Taylor-Mora winner obligated to next face mandatory challenger Hassan N'Dam (31-1, 18 KOs), a former titleholder.

"It's a quality fight and it gives Jermain a chance to defend his title before his mandatory defense is due," DiBella said. "And for Sergio Mora, it's the opportunity of a lifetime. He turned it down once many years ago when it was a much bigger fight and for a lot more money. But he passed on it then and I think it's one of the great regrets that he has had. He said if he ever got the opportunity again it's something he would want to do. This is a fight that both guys wanted."

Taylor will go into the fight facing serious legal problems -- as he did going into the fight with Soliman -- stemming from an incident that took place inside his home on Aug. 26, when he allegedly shot his cousin Tyrone DaWayne Hinton multiple times and also fired a gun (but missed) at another person during some sort of altercation.

Hinton survived and Taylor, out on bail, received permission from the court in order to travel to Florida to train for the fight with Soliman as well as to Biloxi for the bout. In November, Taylor was charged with first-degree battery and first-degree terroristic threatening and faces up to 26 years in prison if convicted.

The 36-year-old Taylor (33-4-1, 20 KOs) will train for the fight against Mora in Little Rock. Pat Burns, Taylor's trainer, told ESPN.com that Taylor has been doing strength and conditioning work and that he will arrive in Little Rock for the boxing part of the training camp Tuesday expecting Taylor to be focused on Mora as he was for the fight against Soliman, despite the legal issues.

"We know Mora is a tough fighter and we're going in there as if we were fighting Bernard Hopkins," Burns said of the legend Taylor defeated twice in 2005, including to win the undisputed title in their first fight. "You have to have that mindset or you'll get your ass kicked. Jermain will do his work. The rest is up to the courts. But we will be focused on the task in front of us and that is the fight. When it's time to focus on his legal situation he will.

"In terms of boxing, Jermain still has excellent speed, and speed kills, and his jab was tremendous against Soliman and his right hand looked good, his balance looked good and his defense looked good. Mora is a tough guy, but Jermain is still pretty darn sharp."

Taylor will be fighting for the sixth time since coming back in December 2011 amid the controversy of being re-licensed after a 26-month layoff following the brain bleed he suffered in a brutal 12th-round knockout loss to Arthur Abraham in Berlin in the opening stage of the Super Six World Boxing Classic in October 2009.

After Taylor decided to fight again, he passed a battery of neurological tests administered by some of the world's top doctors from the Mayo Clinic to the Cleveland Clinic. With all of his tests normal and medical professionals saying that he was at no greater risk of injury than any other fighter, the Nevada State Athletic Commission -- which has some of the most rigorous licensing standards in boxing -- gave him a license.

The Feb. 6 fight won't be the first time Taylor and Mora will face each other in the ring. Taylor won a 12-3 decision against Mora in the 156-pound division at the 2000 Olympic trials. Taylor went on to claim an Olympic bronze medal at the Sydney Games.

Although Mora (27-3-2, 9 KOs), 34, of Los Angeles, passed on facing Taylor in 2007, he went on to outpoint the late Vernon Forrest in June 2008 to win a junior middleweight world title, becoming the first fighter from "The Contender" to win a world title, although Forrest reclaimed the belt by outpointing a weight-drained Mora in the rematch three months later.

Mora, who recently signed with adviser Al Haymon, who has worked with Taylor for most of his career, has won four fights in a row.

"I think Sergio believes he has a great chance to win the fight and I thought Jermain fought very well against Soliman and has looked good in his recent fights, but the odds makers will have it closer now than they would have had it in the heyday of Jermain's career," DiBella said.

"Sergio left a lot of money and a huge opportunity on the table back then but things have come full circle."