LAS VEGAS (AP) – After taking away Bernard Hopkins’ undisputed middleweight title with a split decision, Jermain Taylor wants a rematch as much as Hopkins does.

For Taylor, who turns 27 in August, there are many other options. Yet he has no qualms about getting back into the ring with the 40-year-old Hopkins, who plans to fight only two more times – and now desperately wants one of those bouts to be for the belts he surrendered Saturday night.

“He deserves that rematch and the same thing is going to happen,” Taylor said. “It’s just going to be easier.”

It couldn’t be much more difficult. Taylor began well, but Hopkins came on in the middle rounds and dominated the late portions of the bout.

Had judge Duane Ford given the final round to Hopkins instead of Taylor, it would have been a draw; the other two judges scored the 12th for Hopkins.

“I didn’t win the fight like I wanted to win the fight,” said Taylor, the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist who is now 24-0 as a pro. “He’s a smart fighter. In the rematch, I’ve got to plan for that.”

With a clause in the contract guaranteeing a rematch, both boxers can begin planning pretty soon. Hopkins, whose record streak of 20 straight successful title defenses was snapped, is urging everyone to watch the tape from Saturday’s match. HBO will replay the bout this Saturday at 10:15 p.m. EDT.

“Technology today can give you the benefit of the doubt to go back and reflect,” Hopkins said.

“One thing about videotape is that it don’t lie.”

What Hopkins claims viewers will see is a dominant performance by him in the second half of the fight. Though Taylor admits Hopkins came on strongly, he scoffs at the notion that the veteran won.

“Bernard took his time, he came on late. I feel I did enough in those early rounds to win the fight,” Taylor said. “I should have cut the ring off a lot more, I should have thrown a lot more body shots. I’ll do those things more the next time. I learned a lot in the ring.”

The crowd, loaded with folks from Arkansas – Taylor is a Little Rock native – was in the challenger’s favor, especially early.

Chants of “JT, JT” drown out support for Hopkins until the closing rounds, when Hopkins’ followers came to life as their boxer did.

Oscar De La Hoya, who promoted the fight, mentioned Oct. 1 as a potential date for a rematch, but that seems a bit soon. Taylor needs time to heal from a cut on the top of the head caused by an accidental head butt. It bled for the second half of the fight and seemed to bother him at times.

In fact, it probably bothered him more than Hopkins did until the second half of the bout.

But when Hopkins got rolling, he did some damage – just not enough to overcome Taylor’s big lead.

“I don’t think that was a mistake,” Hopkins said of his slow start.

“You only got 12 rounds in a fight, and if Jermain Taylor won four rounds and I won from rounds six to 12, when one round could easily been a two-point round, do the math. I don’t believe Jermain Taylor won a round from six to 12. To make my point even stronger, I believe that is one of the two times he was back in no man’s land, hurt and bleeding.”

Hopkins, of course, has the most to gain from a rematch after his first loss in 12 years. The Philadelphian also believes his sport will profit from Hopkins-Taylor II.

“I’m not going to say decisions are good for boxing,” he said, “but rivalries are.”

AP-ES-07-17-05 1517EDT

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