Tay­lor in need of help to ever truly get up

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - WALLY HALL Read Wally Hall’s SPORTS BLOG Wal­ly­likeitis.com

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.

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