Last Train to Palookaville

By Ted Sares on May 25, 2015
Last Train to Palookaville
In retrospect, Jermain Taylor seemed to have peaked against Bernard Hopkins in 2005.

It doesn’t take a judge, psychiatrist, or neurologist to know why Jermain Taylor behaves as he does…

“I’m on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell…
…And I’m goin’ down
All the way”
        —Highway to Hell by AC/DC

“There are telltale signs in the life of a fighter that should not go unnoticed.”—Diego Morilla

The fighters don’t purchase the tickets; in most cases the concussive impact of boxing does it for them, but in some cases the propensity might be inherent. Heck, from the very start, “Neon Leon” Spinks was speeding down a dead-end road. There are other examples of such self-destructiveness, but this is not about them. Nor is this about those who took the last train from saxophonist James Moody’s Overbrook because most of those lucky ones returned. There is no return from Palookaville.

Jermain Taylor

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

“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.”—Taylor, 2013

“The most memorable thing about Taylor-Soliman, however, was the completely vacant and borderline homicidal look on Taylor’s face when the two weighed in.”—Patrick Connor (Guardian)

“Nobody who saw Taylor go down in Berlin [against Arthur 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)

Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor returned after 26 lonely months away from the ring and two concussive late round knockout losses in a row (the last to Arthur Abraham) to face Jessie Nicklow on December 30, 2011. After the Abraham KO, Taylor reportedly asked people in his dressing room in what round the knockout occurred. Before that occurred, Jermain showed a proclivity for tiring in the late rounds and was shockingly battered by Kelly Pavlik in 2007, taken out in the last round by an aroused and rampaging Carl Froch in 2009, and then sedated in the final stanza by the damaging knockout at the heavy hands of Abraham six month later. In retrospect, Jermain seemed to have peaked against Bernard Hopkins in 2005.

In any event, to reach this point of getting a license, Taylor had passed a battery of neurological tests administered by reportedly some of the world’s top doctors from the Mayo Clinic to the Cleveland Clinic. With all of his tests normal and medical professionals saying that he was at no greater risk of injury than any other fighter, the Nevada State Athletic Commission—which supposedly has some of the most rigorous licensing standards in boxing—gave him a license.

However, when Taylor was granted a license unanimously, the respected Dr. Margaret Goodman, neurologist and former physician to the Nevada State Athletic Commission at the time of Taylor’s hearing, questioned the decision saying specifically: “I think it is unconscionable that Jermain [Taylor] 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.”

Renowned boxing doctor John Stiller, Chief Physician for the Maryland State Athletic Commission and Director of Neurology Service at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in 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.”

The Comeback (2011-2014)

Taylor beat Nicklow via a technical knockout in the eighth round. He then took on then-undefeated Caleb Truax (18-0-1) on April 25, 2012, and survived a knockdown in round nine to win a clear unanimous decision victory. He followed up by dispatching veteran Raul Munoz in two rounds and on December 14, 2013, Taylor TKO’d a shopworn J.C. Candelo. Clearly, his opponents had been carefully selected, but wins are wins.

Things were abruptly interrupted on August 26, 2014, when Jermain was taken into police custody and charged with two felonies after officers say he shot his cousin during an altercation in his Little Rock, Arkansas home. The 36-year-old Taylor was charged with first-degree battery and first-degree terroristic threatening, and faced up to 26 years in prison if convicted. Taylor pleaded innocent to the charges stemming from the August shooting.

Shortly after this incident and while he was out on bail, Taylor (33-4-1) fought Australian Sam “King” Soliman (44-11) for Soliman’s IBF middleweight title on October 4, 2014. After twelve hard rounds and knocking Soliman down four times after Sam had injured his knee badly midway through the fight, Taylor won a dominant unanimous decision. By regaining the belt he had lost to Kelly Pavlik back in 2007, Taylor amazingly and surprisingly became a two-time middleweight world champion, thus making good on his promise to wage a successful comeback, albeit against limited opposition.


A decade ago, J.T.’s post fight interviews were lucid, introspective and were marked with intelligent tactical analysis. Back then, he was—literally and figuratively—a model citizen along with his basketball playing wife, Erica. Their story was the stuff of the American Dream. This was the Taylor who held two wins over Bernard Hopkins. He was even named Arkansan of the Year. Said Jermain, “I love Arkansas…It’s the place I was born, it’s the place I’m going to raise my kids, it’s the place I want to die.”

Back to the present

“Everybody is saying this isn’t the Jermain Taylor they know. We’re trying to figure out who the heck it is.”—Taylor’s attorney

While warning signs were flashing all over the place (much like they were in the tragic case of Edwin Valero), Taylor was again arrested on January 19, 2015, without incident and a gun was recovered. He was jailed on five felony counts of aggravated assault, three felony counts of endangering the welfare of a minor and a misdemeanor count of drug possession after he was found to have a small bag of marijuana. Taylor remained in custody at the Pulaski County Regional Detention Facility in Little Rock in lieu of a $27,000 bond.

On February 6, 2015 Taylor was scheduled to defend his title against hard-luck Sergio Mora, but the fight was cancelled after Taylor suffered an injury and also after he had to answer for the alleged multiple felonies following the January 19 incident. The IBF subsequently stripped him of his title on February 6, due to his inability to defend during his ongoing legal and mental health issues.

A visibly troubled Taylor publicly posted a video on Facebook saying he wanted to get something off his chest. He said, “Arkansas, I got 24 hours to turn myself in…” and then went on to say, “I know y’all are disappointed in me. I’m sorry.” The video was quickly taken down.

Now, instead of celebrating the fruits of his comeback success, the former IBF middleweight champion possibly faces trial for shooting his cousin and has now been arrested for aggravated assault, endangering the welfare of a minor and marijuana possession. Taylor has been sent to a mental hospital for a physical and mental evaluation following a bond revocation hearing to see if he’s fit to proceed to trial and if he were competent at the time the alleged crime was committed. Taylor’s Aunt Vicky Parker says she believes this hearing is a step in the right direction, and that she thinks he needs to surround himself with positive influences.

Jermain also needs understanding, neuropsychological tests, mental evaluation, and therapy. What he does not need is serving time as a criminal nor be the brunt of jokes from keyboard warriors.

It doesn’t take a judge, psychiatrist, or neurologist to know why Jermain Taylor behaves as he does. This all begs the question: why were boxing authorities so slow in detecting the warning signs when so many others saw them in plain sight?

Let’s pray for Jermain Taylor’s recovery.

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 and strongman competitors in the world and is the 2014 EPF Nationals Champion in the Grand Masters Class.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

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James Moody - Last Train From Overbrook

AC/DC - Highway to Hell

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  1. Kid Blast 03:32pm, 05/28/2015

    Oh oh, more bad news for JT:

  2. Kid Blast 05:41am, 05/28/2015

    Thanks for your comments, mates. My computer has been down and all of a sudden it just came back,

    Biker, you nailed it.

  3. nicolas 11:45am, 05/27/2015

    What really
    got me about Taylor’s career is the boxing publics reactions to him over the years. they used to say how boring he was when he was champion. When he got knocked out by Pavlik, because he nearly knocked out Pavlik early, he had got some kind of respect despite the loss. Now they are complaining tat he should get out of boxing because of the blows to the head. I wish that he had somehow got defended early in his career, and it had been suggested that maybe this was the best way to fight due to possible future health concerns. What else can Mr Taylor do for a living.

  4. Pete The Sneak 10:37am, 05/27/2015

    “The crowds came to see a fighter who they remembered…..but was no longer there.”

    Biker dude, very eloquently put…Peace.

  5. Caryn A. Tate 08:38am, 05/27/2015

    Great article, Ted. Thanks.

  6. bikermike 05:35am, 05/27/2015

    As ever, Ted, a great article.
    Taylor is one of far too many Boxers who have sustained injuries..but choose to keep fighting.
    It;s a catch 22 situation…..a fighter gets recognition and success…and as time goes on….the injuries compile…..but his fame and marketability increase….
    Boxing is not known for athletes who have good sound financial planning….so….the temptations to continue aren’t just for the adulation….but because of the money…........regardless of corroded skills

    Look at Ali’s last fights…..or Robinsons’  The crowds came to see a fighter who they remembered…..but was no longer there

  7. Tex Hassler 01:52pm, 05/26/2015

    I will pray for his recovery. Taylor needs to get out of boxing now.

  8. Pete The Sneak 09:34am, 05/26/2015

    Another great read and introspective, thought provoking write up toro…I agree with L.L. Cool John… A blank poster of many a boxer can be put on a billboard saying “Road to Palookaville.” your picture here…While ‘Boxer Welfare’ is definitely an oxymoron, ‘Ex Boxers on Welfare’can possibly be a more appropriate statement…Peace.

  9. Kid Blast 05:19am, 05/26/2015

    Paul. You are spot on. Thanks Bill for your fine prop.

    Money dictates exactly what goes on in boxing and like any other business endeavor, anything that can increase the gap between costs and revenue (the margin) will be done including the neglect of the fighters.

    Boxer welfare is an oxymoron.

  10. Dollarbond 01:12am, 05/26/2015

    A masterpiece that should be read by all serious boxing people.

  11. Paul Magno 07:05pm, 05/25/2015

    Great Stuff, Ted…The tragedy is that the one sport that needs the tightest and sharpest regulation is the one with the poorest, sloppiest regulation…To me, this is issue no. 1 when it comes to the sport—how to defend fighters against themselves…It’s clear that some fighters are, literally, beaten into a dark place…We have to figure out how to stop this and how to regulate the sport without killing it…Sadly, though, this ain’t happening any time soon…

  12. Ted Sares 05:57pm, 05/25/2015

    Thanks John. Meldrick would fit the mold indeed. So very sad. My heart reaches out to these men but I wish there was more I could do except write about it. It tears me up at times.

  13. John aka L.L. Cool John 05:53pm, 05/25/2015

    Taylor’s name and certain details could be replaced by any number of boxers out there from Meldrick Taylor, Lupe Aquino, the late Johnny Tapia, et al. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the beast. Someone could easily make an argument to abolish this “sport.”
    Nice piece, Ted, on a very sad and depressing subject.