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Jermain Taylor (1978–)
aka: Lecester Jermain Taylor

Lecester Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor began boxing at the age of thirteen and has risen through the amateur and professional ranks to become one of the best boxers in the sport today. He won a bronze medal for boxing in the 2000 Olympics and became the undisputed middleweight champion in 2005, holding that title for two years and then regaining it in 2014.

Jermain Taylor was born on August 11, 1978, in Little Rock (Pulaski County). Taylor’s father abandoned the family when Taylor was five years old, leaving his mother, Carlois, with Taylor and his three younger sisters. Taylor’s mother had to work long hours to support the family, leaving him to take care of his siblings.

Taylor entered a gymnasium for the first time at age thirteen, and he was soundly beaten in his first experience in the ring. Taylor persisted and began to build a bond with trainer Ozell Nelson, who remains Taylor’s trainer. (Pat Burns was Taylor’s chief trainer with Nelson’s assistance for the first twenty-five matches of his professional career, and Emmanuel Stewart was chief trainer for the next four matches, but since the start of 2007, Nelson has returned as the sole trainer for Taylor.) With Nelson behind him, Taylor trained harder and began to make an impression on a national level. In Little Rock, he attended McClellan High School but was not able to graduate because of his training and fighting schedule. Taylor has earned a GED.

Taylor eventually set his sights on the 2000 Olympic Games. On the way, he won two national Golden Glove titles, two PAL titles, the 1996 Under 19 National Championship, a second-place finish at the 1997 U.S. Championship, and a third-place finish at the 1998 U.S. Championship. Taylor’s first major amateur accomplishment was winning the bronze medal in the 1998 Goodwill Games. That achievement, however, was overshadowed by the murder of Taylor’s grandmother, Gussie Robinson, by her son, Ahmad Al-Genius (formerly Joe Samuel Brown), who had recently been released from prison after serving time for aggravated robbery and battery. At the funeral, Taylor placed his bronze medal in his grandmother’s coffin.

Taylor succeeded in his goal and earned a place on the 2000 U.S. Olympic boxing team, becoming the second Arkansas-born person to do so. Taylor also became the second Arkansan to bring home a bronze medal from the Olympics for boxing, following heavyweight John Tate’s bronze medal in the 1976 games. Shortly after the Olympics, Taylor signed a professional contract with former Home Box Office (HBO) executive turned promoter Lou Dibella. Dibella Entertainment signed several members of the 2000 Olympic class and quickly set up Taylor’s professional debut at Madison Square Garden on HBO’s Night of the Olympians. Despite a successful debut, it was the other Olympians on the card who gained the focus of the boxing press.

Taylor continued to fight for Dibella. After facing legitimate yet limited opposition while climbing the professional ranks, Taylor found himself showcased against two former world champions—Raul Marquez and William Joppy—in 2004. Taylor stopped Marquez in the ninth round on June 19 and won a unanimous twelve-round decision over Joppy in December. Following the fight with Joppy, Taylor pleaded with Larry Merchant, an acclaimed HBO broadcaster, for a chance at a world championship. After Taylor’s next bout, a third-round stoppage of then-undefeated prospect Daniel Edouard, Taylor was awarded his opportunity.

Facing middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins on July 16, 2005, Taylor built an early points lead but began to fade in the later rounds. Nonetheless, he captured the undisputed middleweight crown by a split decision.

After winning the middleweight championship, Taylor successfully defended the belt four times. In those four fights, Taylor defeated Hopkins by unanimous decision in their rematch, scored a twelve-round draw with number-one-rated Ronald “Winky” Wright, scored a unanimous decision over Kassim Ouma, and scored a twelve-round split decision in a bout against Cory Spinks. On September 29, 2007, however, Taylor lost the title to Kelly Pavlik in a seventh-round knock-out; Taylor also lost a rematch with Pavlik on February 16, 2008. Later in 2008, he began training for matches at the super middleweight division. (He had been fighting in the middleweight division.) On November 5, 2008, he won his first bout in this division. Taylor entered the Super Six World Boxing Classic in 2009 but, following a knock-out, took a two-year hiatus from the sport, returning to competitive boxing in December 2011.

Taylor married basketball player Erica Smith of Brinkley (Monroe County) in August 2003. They have three children and live in Maumelle (Pulaski County).

Besides boxing, Taylor is actively involved in the “Stamp Out Smoking” Healthy Arkansas campaign and is part-owner of a D1 Sports Training facility in Little Rock. Taylor has also spoken at several events regarding speech therapy for children who, like Taylor, suffer from speech impediments.

On August 26, 2014, Taylor was arrested for allegedly shooting a cousin following an altercation after his cousin and another man arrived at Taylor’s residence. On October 8, 2014, he regained his middleweight championship in a fight against Sam Soliman. He was formally charged for the August shooting on November 19, 2014.

For additional information:
Givens, Chris. “Lecester Jermain Taylor.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. November 27, 2005, pp. 1D, 6D.

Smith, Doug. “The Winner.” Arkansas Times, January 12, 2006, pp. 12–13.

“Taylor, Champion Again, Wants More.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 9, 2014, pp. 1C, 7C.

 

Jeff Young
Wilmar, Arkansas

Staff of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 11/20/2014

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