Saving Jermain Taylor from Himself

By Ted Sares on August 28, 2015
Saving Jermain Taylor from Himself
Today’s Jermain Taylor is currently incarcerated without bail at the Pulaski County jail.

“It’s time for Jermain Taylor to say when, no matter how many tests he’s passed. Boxing is about to get him. This is a fight that he cannot win…”

“I read that Martin Luther King said, ‘A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.’ I was like, dang. You know, I would die for boxing. I know that’s dumb. You’ll say, ‘You got your kids—your family. I know. But still, you died fighting.’ Jermain Taylor is a boxer.”—Jermaine Taylor

“Nobody who saw Taylor go down in Berlin [against Abraham]. his third knockout in five fights, needed an MRI to know he should retire while he could still speak coherently.”—Carmen R. Thompson (ESPN the Magazine)

“Those in boxing should encourage legends and has-beens to retire, not offer them business to carry on.”—Luke Bidwell

“I’ve seen a guy who I was with at the Olympics training camp, and he can’t even talk now.”—Taylor

Like many others (Danny William quickly comes to mind), Jermain Taylor says he has “nothing else to do.” He has now fought several times since being knocked unconscious by Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham in 2009. In fact, he has gone undefeated since 2009 and, after a long layoff, has enjoyed somewhat of rejuvenation as he amazingly reclaimed the world championship in 2014 when he defeated a hobbled Sam Soliman for the IBF 160-pound title. Before the Soliman bout, he beat Caleb Truax but suffered a hard knockdown in round nine. In a disturbing post-fight interview with Steve Farhood, Taylor said bizarre things about the knockdown while a clueless Sam Watson laughed. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cq1HERwhbRo

However, things outside of the ring quickly unraveled suggesting that “Bad Intentions” was and is a badly troubled person. Jermain was stripped of that title earlier in the year after failing to defend against mandatory Sergio Mora

The 26-Month Layoff

During a long and ominous 26-month layoff, Taylor underwent a series of tests and then wisely went to Nevada, the strictest commission in the nation when it comes to licensing fighters, and was given a green light to fight in Nevada, though he now can be licensed in any other state. Said Dr. Timothy J. Trainor, the Nevada Commission’s consulting research physician at the time:

“As you are aware, Mr. Taylor has a history of a subdural hematoma following a boxing match in Germany in October 2009. As a result of this prior history, Mr. Taylor has undergone extensive additional testing including multiple MRI and MRA scans, neuropsychological testing, evaluation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and evaluation at the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health here in Las Vegas. He has been examined by both neurologists and neurosurgeons. All of these evaluations have demonstrated him to be medically fit to compete in boxing, not discounting the risk of head and brain injuries that all unarmed combatants take….” See: http://espn.go.com/boxing/story/_/id/7040703/jermain-taylor-receives-boxing-license-nevada-state-athletic-commission

Countering Opinion

Dr. Margaret Goodman, the highly respected neurologist and former physician to the Nevada State Athletic Commission at the time of Taylor’s hearing countered, “I think it is unconscionable that Jermain was relicensed. It is not about whether his brain has healed or how he looked in the gym. Jermain has shown a predisposition to cerebral hemorrhage, and irrespective of whether or not he bled, he has shown he cannot adequately handle a punch.”

Dr. Goodman added, “I’m of the philosophy that if a fighter has suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, they should never fight again…So to put them in harm’s way again, whether they fought one more time or five more times, is just playing Russian roulette with their life.” (RingTV.com)

Renowned boxing doctor John Stiller, Chief Physician of the Maryland State Athletic Commission and Director of Neurology Service at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, DC, also drives home the point of zero tolerance.

“If a boxer sustains a subdural hematoma (SDH) while boxing, he/she should NEVER be licensed to box again. The argument that if the boxer recovers ‘completely’ in that he/she passes all exams/tests, then that boxer is no more likely to have another SDH than any other boxer ignores the possibility of an increased susceptibility. This should be obvious in that the boxer already sustained an SDH after passing all exams/tests. If the boxer is fortunate to recover from an SDH, he/she should be grateful and not tempt fate.”

Sadly, however, Nevada has changed its policy and will now license a boxer who has suffered a SDH while boxing as long as he or she passes all requirements for licensing. The statement that was made by a physician for the commission was essentially that if the boxer passed all the tests he/she would be no more likely to sustain an SDH than any other licensed boxer. The individual who made that statement has no convincing or probative data to support it. A more honest statement would be they simply don’t know if the individual would be at increased risk.

Says Kevin Iole, “It’s time for Jermain Taylor to say when, no matter how many tests he’s passed. Boxing is about to get him. This is a fight that he cannot win.” (Yahoo Sports, December 13, 2013)

And shame on the Nevada Commission for increasing the risk. How many times must it be asserted that brain injuries (whether bleeding as in the case of Jermain or scarring as in the case of Katsidis) should preclude a boxer from ever fighting again? Joe Mesi and Edwin Valero both got out before this toxic combination went to work. Joe was recalcitrant but got out with his wits intact; Valero committed suicide.

Fast Forward

“We plan on boxing again, if that tells you something.”—Hubert Alexander, Taylor’s attorney

Jermain Taylor’s latest reported altercation(s) outside of the ring no longer fit under the category of warning signs; the warnings seem to have materialized into facts though this will be adjudicated in court.

Other boxers have flashed warnings, but the signs were ignored. Floyd Mayweather Jr. even had to do a short stint, but that experience seemed to be the interdiction needed to stop his steering wheel from veering toward the curb. In short, the warning signs in Floyd’s case were heeded.

The warnings in the case of Edwin Valero could not be more manifest. Sadly, they were ignored. Where was his entourage when his addiction spun him out of control? Where was his family? Why wasn’t he kept in rehab long enough to rehab him? Where were the authorities? What happened to Valero was an incomprehensible fast moving series of events.

In his incisive ESPN article titled “Boxing must learn from Valero case,” dated April 22, 2010, Diego Morilla concludes, “Valero’s name—forever stained—will always bear a question mark next to it. And as long as we refuse to acknowledge it and fail to make the effort to find answers and solutions, the possibility of a new and similar tragedy will continue to cast its shadow upon the world of boxing.”

When the news about a fighter’s legal, personal and domestic problems begin to equal his ring exploits, that’s when things can go downhill rapidly and no one is immune.

Today’s Jermain Taylor manifestly is not the same Jermain Taylor who received numerous accolades throughout his illustrious amateur career, nor is it the person who became undisputed middleweight championship and beat legendary Bernard Hopkins twice. Jermain had it all; he was 27-0-1 but then he showed a proclivity for tiring in the late rounds. He was shockingly battered by a prime Kelly Pavlik in 2007, taken out in the last round by a rallying and rampaging Carl Froch in 2009, and then sedated in the final stanza by a frightening knockout at the heavy hands of Arthur Abraham. After the Abraham KO, Taylor reportedly asked people in his dressing room in what round the knockout occurred.

Today’s Jermain Taylor appeared in court this week for an evaluation of his mental state in different ongoing legal cases against the fighter. In the first case, Taylor is accused of shooting his cousin outside Taylor’s Arkansas residence last August. The second case stems from Taylor opening fire and threatening a family after a Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Little Rock, Arkansas in January. And the third case is related to Taylor beating up a patient at his rehabilitation center. Photographs of the alleged victim’s battered face are alarming.

Today’s Jermain Taylor is currently incarcerated without bail at the Pulaski County jail. His assessment should be completed on September 14.

Going forward, the emphasis should be on getting Jermain well again but this should not, in my view, include granting him a license to box. As for Taylor’s lawyer, he would do well to ensure that JT is screened via a metal detector before coming to his office.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”—Martin Luther King Jr.

Ted Sares is a member of the Ring 4 Boxing Hall of Fame (New England) and a member of Ring 10 (New York). He is one of the oldest active powerlifters in the world and competes full power raw in the Grand Master Class.

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  1. KB 12:53pm, 09/02/2015

    Thanks so much Jacquie. One thing I know for certain is that this article is in the right medical hands and has gotten good visibility among people who will be attending the big conference in new Orleans soon.

    Any promoter who attempts to get a booking for JT should be held accountable for what happens.

  2. Jacquie Richardson 11:15am, 09/02/2015

    Ted, a story that needs to be told.  We tried to reach out to Taylor’s attorney’s, to Lou DiBella, etc., but no responses.  I think the judge needs to hear the testimony of all of the neurologists you listed.  There IS hope, but its a long haul.  Finally, after 18 years, Alex Ramos is doing great.  He’s happy.  He did NOT have a subdural hematoma, but he nearly died at least eight of his nine lives while we were helping him.  There are amazing medications out there, but, they only work if the patient wants it to.  It will be a long time before Jermain gets to that point.  Probably will NOT work while in jail or prison, and only if his treatment is mandatory (and with time) will Jermain understand how sick he is and he gotta be TIRED of it!

  3. KB 10:30am, 09/01/2015

    Where is it?

  4. Dollarbond 10:26am, 09/01/2015

    I’ll have to have you at my club so you can play a real track.

  5. KB 10:27am, 08/29/2015

    For those who wish to write to the Arkansas Commission, here is the email:

    .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

     

  6. KB 10:17am, 08/29/2015

    Bill, I played Wentworth in Jackson, NH and did pretty well, Had major issues with my second shots until I switched to my 3 iron. My drives were monsters. Played 9 at 5 over. Tough course.

  7. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:54am, 08/29/2015

    Mismatches are the mother’s milk of boxing and especially undercards….and the NYSAC for one doesn’t seem to have a problem with them either… Amanda Serrano 24-1 with 18 KOs !!! gets to beat up on Angel Gladney 8-11 on Zab Judah’s upcoming get well set up bout and for what?!

  8. Old Yank 04:25am, 08/29/2015

    bikermike—Social ills often create an environment where only one way out of our inner cities exists—the brass ring of sports—any sport but most often basketball or boxing. And once it becomes their life, when glory days fade these young men become lost. Bankruptcy and despair follow. In boxing (unlike basketball), when the skills slip, some greedy promoter is willing to step up and trade off a “name”. In this case that name is Taylor. But there is an important distinction here—one Ted latches on to with razor accuracy—there is a difference between a slipped fighter hanging on to long and a hobbled fighter risking his life in ways that far exceed the normal risks of the sport. So we grumble over the fighters who hang on to long, but we should be pissed off at the commissions that allow a fighters to literally take unnecessary risks with their lives. So what is Taylor to do if he can’t fight? The only responsible answers is “STAY ALIVE”. After that, let him flip burgers at Mickey-D’s if necessary, but keeping him alive is beyond his reasoning ability—so it is up to the commissions to reason for him.

  9. Bob 02:24am, 08/29/2015

    As horrific a case as this is,  my guess is the worst is yet to come. It would seem that Jermain will either spend many years in prison or in a mental health facility. Ten years ago, he seemed like one of the few boxers who might leave the game with a happy ending.  Very thoughtful story, but tough to digest.

  10. Dollarbond 10:02pm, 08/28/2015

    How’d you hit them Ted?

  11. Dollarbond 10:00pm, 08/28/2015

    Great research job per usual, Ted.

  12. KB 02:07pm, 08/28/2015

    Thanks Tex. I hope the people in Arkansas read it.

  13. Tex Hassler 01:48pm, 08/28/2015

    You do not have to be a doctor or an expert to know that Taylor is damaged and needs to leave boxing permanently. It is hard for fighters to quit because many of them do not know how to do any thing else. I have read a number of articles on Taylor and this one is First Class.

  14. kb 01:36pm, 08/28/2015

    Dr. Margaret Goodman and Dr. John Stiller are two of my favorite boxing people and contacts and I have learned a lot from them. Patrick Pannella, and Ray Monsell

  15. KB 12:59pm, 08/28/2015

    Thanks kindly for your comments folks. Just returned from the links.

    Boxing reform has always been my underlying theme but unfortunately, it’s not a popular one. Most fans would rather read about Mayorga slapping the fat ass of Mosley’s girl friend, Trina. It’s what it is.

  16. bikermike 10:57am, 08/28/2015

    All the signs are there….outside the ring.

    Nice read Ted….I hope a lot of people…and officials read it !!

  17. bikermike 10:54am, 08/28/2015

    WELL SAID Old Yank.

    Not just enough to keep him from Professional Boxing…but he’s got to have an option…..

    What would he do with himself…he’s got to eat !!

  18. Big Wally 10:29am, 08/28/2015

    Brilliant! Great article Ted

  19. Old Yank 09:05am, 08/28/2015

    Everyone connected to boxing has a responsibility to protect the health of a fighter—especially the fighter himself. Protecting health and protecting life is an important distinction and it is to you great credit Ted, that you repeat this refrain as often as you do. Thanks!

  20. Beau Williford 08:18am, 08/28/2015

    Very well written and insightful argument !!!

  21. jill diamond 07:51am, 08/28/2015

    Thank you for this article. I’ve had this discussion with many boxers. It’s very difficult for any one to give up their livelihood, let alone one that can carry so many positive possibilities; however, we need to educate boxers better about the obvious risks and protect them, as we would with any human being. As the quote says, “When all else is lost, the future still remains.” They must have a future beyond boxing.

  22. peter 07:18am, 08/28/2015

    A sad story which I fear will only get sadder.

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