Taylor in need of help to ever truly get up
Heat — 117 degrees of it — shimmied off the asphalt, and tourists tried to walk in the shade down the Las Vegas Strip, cuddling the $1 bottle of water purchased from vendors.
It was July 16, 2005, and the MGM Grand — a city within itself — was hosting the middleweight championship fight between world-renowned Bernard Hopkins, who had held the title for a dozen years, and an up-and-coming kid who was scrapping to make a name for himself.
Hopkins’ last loss had been 4,420 days previously. Jermain Taylor, then 26, was undefeated, but in the boxing world he was considered ripe to be Hopkins’ 47th win against two losses and a draw.
Taylor came out as the
aggressor and won most of the early rounds, but a head butt by Hopkins opened a cut in Taylor’s head that gushed blood and tested veteran cornerman Ray Rodgers’ many skills.
Hopkins, then 40, was behind when he turned the tables and went for the knockout of the young upstart, only to find the young fighter had defensive skills, too. But the wily veteran made up ground and it was too close to call going into the final round, when Pat Burns, Taylor’s co-trainer but the primary reason Taylor was 23-0, frantically pleaded for one more round from his fighter.
The middleweights went at it like heavyweights, and when the final bell rang, Taylor grasped a corner pole, cried and ran out of the ring. He was quickly corralled, swallowed his frustrations and returned for the final verdict.
Hopkins was circling the ring, waving his arms in joy when the words rang out: “… and the pride of Little Rock, Arkansas, and the new middleweight champion of the world …”
In hindsight, that may not have been the beginning of the end, but you could see it from there.
Taylor defended his title in a more decisive victory against Hopkins in December, then made a series of decisions that haunted his career until it finally ended in Biloxi, Miss., on Oct. 4, 2014.
Taylor fired Burns, and he put promoter Lou DiBella on a per-fight contract. Andrew Meadors — who had raised the money to send Taylor to the Olympics in 2000 where he won a bronze medal in the light middleweight division — was often the local voice of reason for the boxer, but he resigned, although he remains a loyal friend to Taylor.
Taylor’s career nose-dived to 3-4-1 after the second Hopkins fight, as he took several beatings. By the time he rehired Burns six years later, Taylor’s prime had passed.
Many have wondered whether Taylor had suffered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after a brutal knockout by Arthur Abraham in October 2009 left him medically unfit to fight for two years.
His personal life started slipping. His name was in the paper for temper outbursts, and despite all of her efforts his devoted, loving wife Erica — who worked tirelessly for her marriage and husband — left Taylor shortly after he shot his cousin in their home.
Since then, headlines have included Taylor firing a gun during a parade, other felony charges and numerous claims of assault. Sometimes it is hard to understand the fall.
This latest incident, in which a woman claims he bit her and wouldn’t let her call 911, is convoluted because Taylor called 911.
The world of professional pugilism has enough similar stories to fill a library. Sad stories. Bad stories.
A little more than two years ago, Taylor pleaded innocent due to mental disease in two cases. Maybe that is the reason the pride of Little Rock seems to have become Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor.
What he needs is help, and perhaps it starts with a CTE test, more mental evaluations and treatment, not so he can fight again but so he can live.