Jermain Taylor and cutman Ray Rodgers to be inducted into Arkansas Sports Hall Of Fame

By Jeff Young


Jermain Taylor and cutman Ray Rodgers to be inducted into Arkansas Sports Hall Of Fame

Big John Tate snubbed once again

On Friday, February 23, 20077 Jermain Taylor will be inducted into the Hall of Fame along with his cutman Ray Rodgers, who should have went in a long time ago.  A few years ago I wrote a piece for Boxingtalk about the late heavyweight title holder "Big" John Tate. This man fits the bill as a person who deserves to be placed into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, but has yet to be placed there, and honestly I doubt he has ever even been brought up.

Let me say this before going any further, this is not a knock to Jermain Taylor, so do not get all mad sending e-mails that say all I ever say about Jermain is negative things, it is not true and technically this story really is not about Jermain. 

Lets get to the business at hand, John Tate. Tate was born in Arkansas, but boxed out of Tennessee. This does not disqualify him from being in the Hall. There are many inductees that are from the state and went elsewhere, and some not from the state at all but made an impact here. Even though he boxed out of Tennessee, he is still from Arkansas. He was also an amateur standout and won a bronze medal at the 1976 Olympic Games. Despite popular belief that Taylor is the first to capture an Olympic Medal from Arkansas, it is actually John Tate that accomplished this feat. So as far as Hall of Fame contention goes, that is one plus in Tate's direction.

OK, lets look at this. According to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame Website, the Hall was created because some one had this idea "We owe something to these Arkansas people who have gone to the top of their careers, but are now about to be forgotten. Let's form an Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame."

Well as far as forgotten, you can not be more forgotten in this state than John Tate.

Here is another blurb from the Hall of Fame website about the objective of the Hall of Fame. 'The objective was to be "The selection, recognition, and acknowledgment of those persons who, through outstanding achievement and accomplishments in any form of endeavor, have brought honor, prestige, and fame to the state of Arkansas.' Also included in this was the criteria for selection. "Selection would be based on athletic accomplishment, character and leadership, national significance of honoree, conduct during years following active participation in athletics, prestige to the Hall of Fame, representation of women, balance between old-timers and present generation, national publicity, honor and credit brought to the home state, and representation of all sports over the years."

Lets look at some of these as well. John Tate won an Olympic medal, high accomplishment. He was also the WBA Heavyweight Champion of the world. Another major accomplishment in his sport. Now this may not have brought fame to the state, but to have the heavyweight champion being from your state is prestige in my opinion. Here is something else as well. John Tate was a black man that inspired a country in a desperate time.

You see in South Africa, where Tate's world title fight took place, the black population was under apartheid rule and was extremely discriminated against in all forms. Tate, had gathered a following in his elimination bout against Kallie Knoetze, a white South African, in which Tate won by eighth round knockout. This feat made the blacks take notice that a back man did not have to be held back by their oppressors. Follow this by another victory by Tate over Gerrie Coetzee, another white South African, to capture the WBA Heavyweight Champion. These two victories were a very big deal to the black population of South Africa. I would dare to say that is a huge plus on the side of significance.

Here is the catch, John Tate lost his championship in his very next fight against Mike Weaver in a fight he has won every minute of every round to be brutally knocked out in the final minute of the fight. Everyone associated with Tate said he was never the same man after that. Even though he fought on, Tate developed a drug habit, was sentenced to jail for assault and petty theft. All of these things were thought to be a part of his downward spiral at the hands of Mike Weaver. These maybe knocks on character and leadership as well as conduct during years following active participation in athletics, but if these conditions were caused by depression (a disease), or because of unknown injuries sustained in his boxing career, should it be held against him, besides there are other points to go against these so called rules and regulations for selection.

For example there are at least three members of the Hall that have what would be considered character flaws, especially in the Bible Belt. For instance basketball coach Eddie Sutton is a self admitted alcoholic and was released from Oklahoma State University for a drunken driving incident last season, John Daly is an admitted gambling addict and has had problems with alcohol as well, and then you have Darrell Walker who assaulted another person on the golf course with a golf club.

We also have this years inductee Jermain Taylor, who at this moment has a pending lawsuit against him for "inappropriate behavior" involving two women at a comedy show last year. Both women are seeking 75,000 dollars. I am not saying there is anything to these accusations by these women, but the allegations are there. Taylor's selection also goes against conduct during years following active participation in athletics.

Now, I am not trying to wish anything bad on Taylor, but look at this. If Jermain Taylor ever does the things that Tate did and was accused of (Tate admitted the assault but never admitted to robbing anyone) then how would that affect Taylor's status in the Hall of Fame? Would they take the honor away? So then why should Tate be held accountable for his actions in this circumstance, because if you did not know, John Tate died in an auto accident caused by a massive stroke that was a direct cause of a brain tumor.

Honestly I do not have a problem with Taylor going into the Hall of Fame, but I think it should wait until the end of his career. I mean putting him in at this time does not make any sense. At this point if you are going to put Taylor in you have to place Dominick Guinn and Terry Smith in as well.

With the induction of Taylor and Rodgers, the boxing portion of the Hall of Fame will grow to five members, count them five. You have Taylor, Rodgers, Sonny Ingram (based on his amateur career I assume), Ragon Kinney (I assume this is also for his amateur career), and former welterweight champion Thomas Freeman (held welterweight title in the 30's).  I am all for more Arkansas boxers getting into the hall, but two cannot be added unless things are looked at differently. On is Tate and the other is former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston.

I mentioned these two to a prominent member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. For John Tate all I got was that he was not that familiar with him, but did say well he fought out of Tennessee. For Sonny Liston, that is a whole different story that kind of went with the words prison, murder, and he will never get in the hall as long as I have anything to do with it. This was followed with the classic "We do not want people like that in our Hall of Fame."

All I have to say is feel however you want against Liston, I wish he was in but I can see that will not happen. It is unfortunate. Lets not let the same thing happen to Big John Tate. He deserves better. He deserves his place alongside these other five members. So just like Jason and Randy Sklar and there mission to get Jose Oquendo into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I am making it my personal pursuit to get Big John Tate into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame.


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