LAS VEGAS — One look at his father, Steve, convinced Shannan Taylor that he didn't want to follow in Steve's footsteps--footsteps that led into the coal mines of New South Wales, Australia.
One look at Steve's elbows, which are plastic.
One look at Steve's right hand, which he can't turn over.
One look at Steve's arm, through which run jagged scars.
Steve nearly was crushed by a mining car, an accident that also left an imprint on the impressionable mind of his son, who was 8 at the time.
So Shannan found another path in life, one that also could be dangerous, but far more rewarding. He became a boxer.
That path has led him to the neon streets of this town, where tonight, as a little-regarded 20-1 underdog, he'll get the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to defeat Shane Mosley, one of the top fighters in the world.
Taylor's unbeaten record (28-0-1, 18 knockouts) is diminished by the quality of the opposition, but he is given a puncher's chance against the blinding speed and deadly fists of the World Boxing Council welterweight champion in tonight's title fight at Caesars Palace.
Each fighter weighed in at 147 pounds Friday.
Growing up in the town of Bulli, Taylor began boxing in a gym at 9 1/2. Although his father didn't know anything about the sport, he embraced it for his son.
"He had me out running and training at the age of 10," Shannan said. "I didn't know what else I could do with my life because I kept falling asleep in class."
Agreed Steve, "He certainly wasn't doing anything in school. He wanted to be a sportsman and this is the sport he chose."
In the ring, it was the opponents whose eyes were closed by the younger Taylor. As an amateur, he won six Australian titles and three Oceania championships.
Any doubts about his skill level were erased by the time he was 17. That year, fighting for a European championship, he faced a transplanted Australian named Kostya Tszyu. Taylor lost a split decision to the future super-lightweight champion but won the right to be considered a force in his sport.
That force has been waning, however, in the last year. Last February, facing Gary Murray in Wollongong, Australia, Taylor was bitten on the chest. Taylor became so enraged that he hit Murray with a punch so furious, it resulted in a broken hand.
But even that didn't slow him down.
"I needed to fight," he said. "I needed the money."
Refusing to take time off to allow the hand to heal, Taylor struggled to victories by decision over Sean Sullivan in April and Charles Whittaker in June.
The June fight came on the undercard of Mosley's match against Oscar De La Hoya at Staples Center, the match that gave Mosley his title. While it was a glorious night for Mosley, it was a miserable night for Taylor.
His hand hurt and he was feuding with his trainer, Bill Corbett. Taylor was angry that charges of counterfeiting and firearms violations against Corbett back home had been dropped while the case had resulted in a jail term for Taylor's friend, Peter Medes.
"I couldn't even bear to look at him," Taylor said of Corbett. "I fought like a dog that night."
Taylor has had one fight since, an eighth-round TKO over Nick Rupa in August.
Now, with his hand healed and a new trainer, former world champion Jeff Fenech, Taylor says he's ready to match his power against Mosley's superior skills.
Mosley (36-0, 33 knockouts), while demonstrating the obligatory gestures of respect for Taylor, sees tonight's fight as a steppingstone to his next blockbuster pay-per-view bout. Mosley's only fight since defeating De La Hoya was a sixth-round TKO victory last November over Antonio Diaz.
With De La Hoya planning to move up to 154 pounds and a dearth of other big names at 147, Mosley may have to follow De La Hoya to get his next big fight. The rematch could come in September.
But first, there is Taylor.
"If they told me I would win the title and then die in a month," Taylor said, "I would die happy."
Also on tonight's card, heavyweight Lance Whitaker (22-1, 18 knockouts) of Granada Hills, ranked ninth by the WBC, will fight a 10-round match against Oleg Maskaev (20-3, 15) of Uzbekistan, rated 10th by both the International Boxing Federation and the World Boxing Assn. With John Ruiz' victory over Evander Holyfield last week shaking up the heavyweight picture, tonight's match will put the winner in title contention.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
* What: WBC welterweight championship
* Who: Shane Mosley vs. Shannan Taylor
* Where: Caesars Palace, Las Vegas
* Television: HBO, 7 p.m.