Lem Satterfield

Q&A: Trainer Burns discusses reunion with Taylor

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RingTV.com spoke with trainer Pat Burns about his reunion with former undisputed middleweight titleholder Jermain Taylor.

Burns guided Taylor (29-4-1, 18 knockouts) to a mark of 25-0, with 17 knockouts, before being replaced by Emanuel Steward in 2006, but the veteran trainer will be in Taylor’s corner for the former champ’s second comeback fight against unbeaten Caleb Truax (18-0-1, 10 KOs), of Osseo, Minn., on Saturday night.

Taylor’s unbeaten run under Burns included consecutive victories by split and unanimous decision over Bernard Hopkins in July and December of 2005, the first of which earned Taylor the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO middleweight belts.

Taylor left Burns for Steward after the bouts with Hopkins, and subsequently battled through a draw with former champion Winky Wright in June of 2006, followed by decision wins over former titleholders Kassim Ouma and Corey Spinks.

Taylor was 27-0-1 with 17 knockouts when he suffered his first loss — a seventh-round knockout by Kelly Pavlik in Sept. 2007 — and also lost his non-title rematch with Pavlik by unanimous decision.

After earning a decision over Jeff Lacy in his super middleweight debut in November 2008, Taylor suffered frightening 12th-round knockouts against both Carl Froch and Arthur Abraham, the latter prompting his withdrawal from Showtime’s Super Six tournament.

Taylor received a CT Scan and an MRI as well as other testing in the days after the loss to Abraham. He was diagnosed with a concussion, short-term memory loss and bleeding on the brain.

But Taylor was unanimously approved for a boxing license last September by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and Taylor ended a 26-month ring absence with an eighth-round stoppage of Baltimore’s Jessie Nicklow in December — his first fight back with Burns.

Burns shared his feelings about the breakup with Taylor, the fighter’s neurological concerns and their future together in this, the first of a two-part Q&A.

 

RingTV.com: Being the trainer who got Jermain to 25-0, what convinced you that it was the right decision for you to be back in his corner and for him to return to boxing?

Pat Burns: He had some pretty tough losses there, and I’ve always been a curator for him. I thought that he made some poor decisions after beating Bernard Hopkins.

But it was something where I had to make sure that he was physically okay, mentally okay and that there was no lingering problems.

It was something where I had to be totally convinced that he would be able to come in and to compete for a world title, not to just fight. But to be able to be in a world championship fight and to show the reflexes and the work ethic. Not only to be able to give punches but to take punches. I needed to be totally convinced of that before I would take him on again.

As a result of all of that, he went through a battery of numerous tests, numerous exams. Also, there was a mini-camp with me.

There, I was looking for the speed and the balance and the movement. There were three different neurological exams that he went through to make sure that he was okay.

So after all of that, I felt like I could put my head on my pillow at night and go to sleep knowing that he would be fine. That’s basically what it was.

RingTV.com: Given that 12 of Taylor’s previous 13 opponent prior to facing Nicklow were current or former world titleholders at the time that he faced them, do you believe that he has received credit for that over the course of his career?

PB: As Jermain’s trainer, I had the choice of who he fought on the way up all the way through to Bernard Hopkins, twice. I took a lot of hits and there was a lot of criticism in that the guy was too tough.

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They said Jermain wasn’t ready, etc., etc., etc. The truth of the matter is that so many people in sports, and not just boxing, but in sports in general are happy to go and fight for a world title.

Or to simply go and to play in the world series or the Super Bowl. That was never the intention of myself or of Jermain Taylor.

Our idea was to get to the world title and to win the world title, and the only way to do that is that you had to have some good, hard fights. Dog fights.

Not just boxing matches, but fights on the way up to mature and to learn from that. Our goal was Bernard Hopkins, and Bernard Hopkins will bite you, kick you.

Bernard Hopkins is the kind of guy who will knock you down, and then reach out his hand to pick you up so that he can beat your ass even more.

In order to fight a guy of that caliber that knows every trick — the clean tricks and the dirty ones — we wanted to bring Jermain along against some tough guys.

We had him facing guys who were 30-2-1 when Jermain was 15-0, and we got criticized for it, but that turned out to make Jermain a much better fighter.

So when the tests came, Jermain was able to get through a very tough and grueling fight with Bernard Hopkins. So Jermain is a throwback, and hopefully I’m considered a throwback, and it worked for Jermain.

He’s not been given the credit for guys he’s fought, in my opinion. There are a lot of things that I would have done after he won the world title over Bernard had I gotten the chance.

When he fought Bernard twice, you need to take a step back and maybe not fight three or four grizzly bears in a row. Your body can only take so much.

RingTV.com: How do you mean?

PB: I always surrounded him with veteran journeyman sparring partners and guys who would work really hard on everything. I tried to throw as many different things as I could at Jermain.

I tried to expose him to boxers, wrestlers, grabbers, low blowers and overhand punchers and guys who throw elbows and boxers and jabbers.

I tried to expose him to guys who were orthodox and southpaws. I tried to teach him as much as I possibly could. Jermain was better in the second Bernard Hopkins fight than he was in the first.

The first was very close, but I thought that we won the early rounds. I thought that Jermain did enough to win the first fight. The second fight, I thought that it was very clear that Jermain did a lot of growing.

I thought that he definitely looked a lot better, and I thought that he dominated the second fight. At that point, I thought that Jermain was just learning how to box.

I thought that he was just starting to learn how to fight. But of course, at that point, I was out as his trainer. So I felt like there was a lot of unfinished business and a lot of teaching that I was going to be able to do.

I thought that he was really going to become a great fighter, but unfortunately, I didn’t get to be a part of that. I wasn’t a part of that period thereafter where Jermain went through some of the very, very hard times of his career.

RingTV.com: Your thoughts on Jermain’s first career loss to Pavlik?

PB: Well, first of all, anybody out there that wants to judge Jermain Taylor based upon his performance against Kelly Pavlik is making a huge mistake.

If people look back at that fight and think that that’s the real Jermain Taylor, that’s a huge mistake. You have to look at what he did on the way up.

You have to look at the fact that Jermain fought beat one of the greatest middleweights and undisputed middleweight champions twice in Bernard Hopkins.

You have to look at the fact that he fought to a draw with Winky Wright. You have to look at the fact that he fought a lot of other guys before that night. Jermain Taylor just had a bad night against Kelly Pavlik.

It just seems like some people remember that night and don’t remember all of the other things. They’re not remembering all of the other persons that Jermain Taylor fought and beat up until that point.

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RingTV.com: Being that it was the first of three, devastating knockout losses for Jermain, what is your view on how that loss to Pavlik changed Jermain as a fighter?

PB: It was a hard fight. I didn’t watch the fight initially, but I watched it later. I was more mad about it or pissed about it, whatever you want to say.

A lot of the things that he encountered, like when he had Kelly hurt in the second round, there’s no way that he should have gone in there and attacked like that.

When Jermain had Kelly hurt, there was a certain situation that set that up. It was that powering jab and then that great right hand followed by that short left hook.

That was in a controlled situation, and we had worked on that quite a bit just to get the muscle memory. That’s something that you have to continually do.

I think that when he had Kelly hurt, I think that he just put the pedal to the metal and didn’t go to back to what got him hurt to begin with.

Jermain abandoned everything that we had been working on, and he tried to do it in a minute and a half, and it just didn’t work.

As a result, Jermain ended up not having anything left in the tank. So there are a lot of things. It’s his conditioning. It’s what he was doing in camp. It’s the game plan, like, “what happens if this happens.”

It’s, “if this happens, then what are we going to do in this situation?” There is continuous talk that has to go on and to me, it just simply was not there.

 

 


Photos by Tom Casino, Showtime

Lem Satterfield can be reached at lemuel.satterfield@gmail.com

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