Justin Hackman: Pat, thanks for your time today. Let’s rewind to July 2005 when your fighter, Jermain Taylor [pictured] took on Bernard Hopkins for the undisputed middleweight championship and won by split decision. I remember you told me at the time during an interview that Jermain had never lost a round up until the Hopkins fight. Looking back, do you wish that Jermain had indeed faced adversity for something to draw upon in his fight with Hopkins? Pat Burns: Well, he did face adversity (before the Hopkins fight). Remember, I did not protect him. If you look at who he fought, I got criticized because everyone thought I was matching him too tough... boy I got ripped for that. [Critics said] “It’s too soon,” “he doesn’t know what he’s doing” etc. But it’s real simple – if you got a horse that can run, you better let him run. And he could run. He could go. He had a world-class jab, a jab we don’t see very often. There were times in his early fights when he had to bite down and come back to win the rounds. In the Hopkins fight, I think we won the first six rounds, then we lost the next four rounds, and that was a test for him. He was in a position to lose that fight or get a draw, in which case Hopkins would’ve retained his titles. And Taylor fought hard, I mean, I feel like I was just as tired as he was because I had to will myself on him. He responded and came back and of course he won the twelfth round which won him the fight [by split decision] (Note: Taylor was given the twelfth round on one scorecard). And then of course in the rematch, he came back and spanked Hopkins the second time around, he won ten out of twelve rounds I think (Taylor won 7 rounds on all three official scorecards).
JH: And that was the last fight that you were with Taylor. Was there any bad blood there when you split?
PB: Nope, not between us, not between us at all. It was 100% racist. Jermain told me. Jermain succumbed to a lot of pressure and that didn’t work out too well for him. Jermain would call me and say, “Coach, I’m having issues, there’s this and there’s that…” and I’d say, “Jermain, you made your choices.” And that’s when he started telling me about how no trainer would show up to the gym, nobody would be at the gym, or they’d show up once a week to collect a paycheck in advance, etc. It was really bad. Jermain never had problems making weight with me at all. Then they moved him up to 168 pounds [for the rematch vs. Kelly Pavlik in 2008], and of course he got his ass kicked. Then later on, he came back with me and we won 5 more fights together including a world title (against Sam Soliman). My brother was a part of the team, my son, who was a collegiate baseball player at Virginia Tech, he was a part of the conditioning and running program for Jermain, and we had a professional team again. A great moment in Jermain’s comeback was when he got dropped early in the fight against Caleb Truax, got put right on his ass. And in between rounds, I told the great cutman Ray Rodgers, ‘Ray, put some ice on his ass. Jermain, you get hurt? Put some ice on his ass.’ Jermain chuckled a bit and said ‘Come on, Coach, it’s embarrassing.’ I looked at him, I told him to keep his hands up, chin down, and stay off your ass. And from that point he dominated the rest of the fight. Then from there, although he won a title again, his personal life went south.
JH: Before I get to that, I want to make sure I heard you right, did you say that your split with Jermain was racist?
PB: You did hear that correctly, yeah you did. And it wasn’t on Jermain’s part. I heard later down the road about the stories they were telling and the comments about how ‘we gotta get rid of this white mother f*cker.’ And all that type of stuff was said, and I asked Jermain, ‘well how did you feel about that?’ And he told me it was the worst feeling he’s ever had in his life because of what I had done for him. Jermain was just in a bad place with an enormous amount of pressure, and that’s just the way it was.
JH: Are you saying these comments were coming from Emanuel Steward?
PB: I’m not going to talk bad about someone that has passed away, without a chance to defend himself. It was his team. And it was a shame that it came to that. At that point, the money was serious, and they were doing whatever they could to get as much money as they could and it’s a shame that it was taken to that level, but that’s what it was.
JH: There are coaches in the sport that have the history and experience, but there’s no substitute for pure chemistry between fighter and trainer, and I feel like you and Jermain had that going.
PB: Yes we did, we did. And I still have that presence with him. Jermain got in some trouble, and I was there for him, I was in court with him, with the judge, everything. Because I know there is a great human being there. Jermain has suffered a tremendous amount of loss. Someone in his family had murdered his grandmother, then his brother died at 19 or 20 years old from a seizure. Then his mother died of cancer. The kid could not catch a break, and no one was there for him to help him get through that time. And all the people that were supposed to be his people, they did not stay loyal to him. They wanted nothing to do with him at that point. He’s got a big heart, he has just suffered so much. Then when he was making some really good money, you’re talking about a guy that came from horrible poverty, and he didn’t really know what to do with it. Everyone and their brother came out of the woodwork wanting a piece.
JH: As a fan, I saw that level of heart in Jermain. He seemed like an incredible talent and incredible individual. Then it broke my heart later to see some of the horrible videos online, going on racist rants, brandishing guns, and I remembered thinking, “This is not the same Jermain Taylor.”
PB: I was not a part of his life during that time. It was criminal what they did to this kid. He ended up getting in trouble, he started doing things he shouldn’t do. But behind it all, Jermain has a great heart. There’s nothing I won’t do for him. We were 31-0 together.
JH: It sounds like you have more than taken on the mentor role, it sounds like you’re more of a father figure to Jermain.
PB: If he was 18 and I was his father, I’d be whipping his ass, but he’s a grown man now.
JH: Are you training anyone at the moment?
PB: Only if someone wants to pay me a lot of money or a really good salary, I’ll do it, but not at the moment, no. I did make the Florida Hall of Fame. Just spending time with my family, my kids, they’re in their 20s and I’m just enjoying my life with my wife and everything is good.
JH: Closing thoughts, Pat?
PB: I help out [matchmaker and trainer] Chico Rivas, the president of amateur boxing here. I love the sport, I love Arkansas, and I love their people. There’s a lot of great people in boxing. There’s a lot of bad people too, but there’s a lot of great people in boxing.
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