Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor accomplished his dream of becoming a world champion by defeating longtime 160-pound king Bernard Hopkins for the undisputed middleweight title July 16 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Hopkins was making the 21st defense of his title when he entered the ring against the undefeated 26-year-old from Little Rock, Arkansas. Taylor ended a championship reign that not even Oscar de la Hoya or Felix “Tito” Trinidad could stop. De la Hoya and Trinidad both lost by knockout to Hopkins, in 2004 and 2001, respectively. Taylor is on top of the world after dethroning Hopkins, and three weeks after the fight, he accepted an invitation to meet former President Bill Clinton, also of Little Rock, at his Harlem, New York offices.
Boxingtalk caught up with Taylor at a New York fight card two days after his meeting with President Clinton.
Most young boxers only dream of winning a professional world title when they start boxing. You’re now the undisputed middleweight champion and you did it by defeating Bernard Hopkins, an all-time great. Can you describe what that feels like?
"You know, I’m just like most boxers. I wanted to win that title all my life too and it happened man. It’s an amazing feeling."
Bernard Hopkins (who filed an appeal of the decision, which was subsequently denied) claims he was robbed. What do you have to say about that?
"I just have to say to him, if that’s the way you feel, then that’s the way you feel. Come do better in the rematch. If you want your belts back, then come take them."
Have you watched the fight on tape? How many rounds do you think you won by?
"I’ve watched the fight a hundred times and I had the fight scored just like they did and it was a great fight [Two of the judges had it scored 115-113 for Taylor while one judge, Jerry Roth, somehow scored it 116-112 for Hopkins]"
Do you feel you made any mistakes in the fight, and if so, what were they, and what are you not going to do in the rematch?
"I feel like I made a lot of mistakes. I chased him around the ring too much. I wasted a lot of energy in those early rounds throwing a lot of wild shots, but I’m going to come out in that next fight (the rematch may take place in December) and I’m going to be totally different."
Bernard came on strong in the late rounds after not doing much in the early going. Did he ever hurt you?
"If I was hurt, I would say I was hurt. He caught me with some good shots but he never hurt me. It was more fatigue than anything, but he was accurate with his punches. Don’t get me wrong. But as far as hurt, I’ve never been hurt."
There’s been a lot of talk about you possibly facing Winky Wright if you’re successful in a rematch against Hopkins. Besides Winky, is there anyone else you’re gunning for?
"I’ll fight whoever wants to fight. It doesn’t make a difference. I don’t care who it is. If they want to fight, I’m ready to fight."
Prior to facing Hopkins, you showed him a lot of respect. You praised him for what he had accomplished. After you beat Hopkins, he cried robbery and filed an appeal of the decision with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Do you respect him any less for not giving you credit for beating him in what was a close fight?
"I still respect him because he held the belts for so long and he was world champion over the course of 20 title defenses, but now, I’m losing respect for him because you know, he’s crying, I mean, a true champion would take it like a man and come back and win a rematch."
Jermain, you’re not a troublemaker. You addressed HBO’s Larry Merchant as “sir” in your post-fight interview with him. You’re a nice guy. What’s going to make the respectful Jermain Taylor boxing’s next superstar, being that you don’t garner publicity for doing crazy things? What’s going to make you the next superstar? How are you going to do it?
"I’m just being me. You know, I’m just being me, having fun in boxing. I love boxing and I don’t want boxing to be known as a negative sport, and that’s what Bernard is trying to portray it as. Boxing is a beautiful art, and he’s taking all the fun out of it."
In 50 words or less, describe Jermain Taylor.
"Jermain Taylor, the kind of guy who, if he tells you something, you can take his word. All-around fun guy. Never mad at anybody. Doesn’t have any enemies, just loves to fight."
Does winning the title, and taking it from all-time great Bernard Hopkins, make you a greater fighter, just from what transpired in the ring that night?
"It does. It does. I feel like it makes me a hell of a fighter because I beat the man who everybody lost to."
What is your family saying about your big victory over Hopkins?
"Everybody’s happy for me because the people who came up with you, they know the struggle.
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