Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor’s phone rings and rings before a recording prompts: “You’ve reached Jermain, two-time middleweight champion of the world. About to be three-time middleweight champion of the world again.”
The 37-year-old will need that swagger on his road back to reclaiming what once was his: the title of being the top pound-for-pound prizefighter in the world.
On Monday, “The Pride of Little Rock, Arkansas” copped a guilty plea for attacking a family at last year’s Martin Luther King Day Parade in Little Rock— firing several shots before it was over—all because a five-year-old boy dropped his championship belt.
On that Jan. 19 parade, according to the police report, Taylor “threatened two adults and three small children” after the title belts were apparently mishandled. The pistol drawn, Taylor apparently disregarded the parents’ plea to simmer down. “Fuck those kids!” he shouted, police say.
Thelton Smith, the father of the boy who the boxer blamed for dropping one of his heavy belts said that it was actually the champ who had the butterfingers.
“Jermaine dropped his own belt,” Thelton Smith told The Daily Beast on what really happened that day. He and his wife Toya said the boxer was inebriated.
His wife Toya Smith assured her son didn’t let go.
“He was 40 pounds and [he] actually held that belt, he never dropped it,” she said.
Also hailing from Little Rock, Thelton Smith was a big fan of Taylor.
“I admired him as a boxer,” Smith said as he approached Taylor for an autograph. Without a pen or picture, Smith relied on his tablet device and recorded him mugging with his family.
His five-year-old son Thelton Smith Jr. handled one of Taylor’s belts while Smith’s daughter Heavon played with Taylor’s daughter Kennedy nearby.
The two dads then retreated to a car to listen to one of Smith’s rap tracks called “Kool Aid”, he said. Smith, 42, raps under the name Scooby Doo.
“He told me ‘Put it on right now,’” and they listened and Smith said the boxer thanked him for sharing his music with him. “I said ‘Thanks Jermain for letting me take you around to hear it’” Smith said. Taylor apparently reciprocated saying "‘Okay bud, I appreciate you.’”
And somewhere after the niceties, Taylor snapped.
“Next thing you know there’s a gun and [Taylor] says ‘Y’all can’t leave and I’m going to shoot the car up,’" Smith recounted.
His wife Toya darted toward Taylor as he had the gun pointed at her husband.
“He had the gun to his temple,” Toya Smith said. “He was about to pull the trigger and I ran to him and moved the gun.
“I knew he was going to shoot and I pushed it away and that’s why the shots went up in the sky.”
According to the police report “Taylor fired three shots in the air,” after pointing the pistol at the Smith family.
Cops arrived and according Taylor tried to flee before eventually they caught up with the slugger.
What happened next seems to have been even worse, because the Smiths split town. They claim there was a hit on Thelton and that they were forced to flee Little Rock like refugees, leaving most of their belongings and possessions.
“We had to hide out from him,” Toya said, the family was forced to start over and relocated out of Arkansas altogether. “We had to move a couple times because we were getting messages from people saying ‘They have a hit on you’ family and friends would tell us ‘they’re offering this amount,’” she said. Toya Smith admits the threats never came from Taylor directly. But they didn’t take any chances.
In fact, after the parade Thelton crashed in the family’s car with only his phone.
And their kids are now damaged.
“My two year-old daughter’s hair has fallen out,” the 40-year-old mother of six told us. “Her hair won’t even grow back. Maybe it will grow back someday.”
And when the family went to the Dollar General store the kids gravitated to the toy gun section. “My daughter came out screaming just from seeing the gun” she said. “She didn’t know it was fake.”
The Smith family may have been redeemed with yesterday’s guilty plea but they said they’ve never received an apology or acknowledgment from Taylor’s camp.
“We’re working-class people,” Toya Smith said. “We don’t have mansions or any help from anybody and no apologies from him. Just because we didn’t lose limbs or our lives doesn’t mean we’re not hurting.”
She acknowledged her entire family will need years of counseling and may never get over what happened to them on that fateful run-in with the boxer.
“He totally forgot I was a citizen,” Thelton Smith said. “He wanted to put me in the ring with him. That day I became his opponent.”
After the incident Taylor became a wanted man. But the boxer took his time and indulged in a good soak in the bathtub before surrendering himself to authorities.
“Arkansas says I got 24 hours to turn myself in,” he said. “I got to get a little shit off my chest.”
To his fans Taylor explained he was just a human being. “I’m sorry if I let anybody down or hurt anybody—I make mistakes too,” he said.
Then he tangentially started in on the Martin Luther King Parade organizers for failing to fit the kids with candy.
“I think y’all need to do better with the parade,” he said. “So if you’re disappointed with me, I’m disappointed in you too.”
He showed very little regard for the victims he menaced. “Fuck them,” he said as he laughed. “That boy had no business fucking with us.”
The incident came off the heals of bloody dustup back on Aug. 26, 2014, where the gladiator shot and almost killed his cousin. That incident was also squared away in court Tuesday with Taylor pleading guilty to a low felony of battery from multiple aggravated assault charges.
On that bloody day Taylor was supposed to be training at the family’s local gym, but instead he was playing hookie at home, his cousin Tyrone Hinton told The Daily Beast.
Hinton said he’d played a father figure role for Taylor (Taylor’s dad abandoned him) and who also came up on the hardscrabble streets on the west side of Little Rock. He helped him get initiated into Bloods clique, the Tree Top Pirus (Taylor’s moniker was “TJ”) and from the ripe age of five had him fending off any comers.
“I made him fight when he was 5-years-old,” Hinton, now 42, recalled. “I made all his cousins put their hands up and fight each other.”
It paid off.
Taylor was on top of the world at that moment.
“I’m the new world champion Jermain Taylor. Thank you so much.”
He beat Hopkins again in a rematch.
“I still got a lot of work to do. But I did win it and I’m taking my belts back to Little Rock Arkansas,” he said.
But he’d soon falter and his stellar record would notch four losses to his 34 wins.
And his cousin, who essentially raised the fighter, didn't want to see him go down on the canvas again.
Hinton kept calling Taylor leaving messages.
“I was like ‘Man, when are you going to come in and train.’” And Taylor would call back and tell him ‘I’m coming. I’m coming.’ But by 5 p.m. the gym doors closed and Hinton was fed up.
“I didn’t want to see him get knocked out again,” he said.
Hinton and his 19-year-old son hopped in their truck and drove to Taylor’s mansion and breached the large gate where he met a rabid dog barking, the fighter stepped out dressed in “a bathrobe.”
“I said, ‘Goddamnit you got to do this shit right. I’m getting tired of this bullshit,’” Hinton said.
Taylor’s children started chuckling at their dad being verbally undressed. “He got pissed because his kids started laughing,” Hinton said.
Taylor quizzed his cousin, asking him ‘Was I high?’ and when he replied ‘No!’ Hinton said he first challenged the champ to a fight. “I was like ‘We can fight this shit out.’"
“Instead of fighting me he went to get the pistol,” Hinton said.
And that’s when Hinton claims Taylor “popped off.”
“He comes out with a pistol and I said, ‘What the fuck?’” Hinton said. “He told me ‘N---- I’ll kill you and you’re motherfucking son.’”
Hinton son’s ran off and almost instantly Taylor made good on his threat.
With his .38 pistol he fired and struck Hinton five times.
“He hit me the first time and I was in shock,” Hinton said. “I was like, ‘Damn, this motherfucker shot me.’ I was running to get away.”
But there he laid.
The 911 call made by Taylor’s wife moments after revealed that vicious side of the boxer who was clearly ready to draw last blood.
“I shot one of them,” he said in the background during the recording phone call, referring to Hinton as an “intruder”. “Better come get him before I kill him.”
Hinton says he still has several bullets lodged in his right leg and his hip fractured.
“I got two bullets in my [right] leg, right above my knee,” he said. “I have to live with that for the rest of my life.”
He can’t work and is struggling to support his kids since his hip replacement surgery. “He fractured my hip and I had to learn how to walk again, man,” he said.
Once mending in the hospital Hinton remembered his cousin showing contrition and even offering financial support. Hinton, a.k.a Ty Hindu, outranked Taylor as a Blood. “He called me in the hospital asking saying ’Cuz, Can I ask you for forgiveness. I didn’t want to kill you. I was just intimidated by you.’”
According to a International Boxing Federation (IBF) spokeswoman, Taylor’s legal woes meant that “his title was vacated” and if he were to make his comeback “he would basically have to start from square one.”
It will be a long slog with a detour to an Arkansas prison.
And he’ll have to stick to his jab and quit going for his gun whenever he’s nonplussed.
A guilty plea to discharging his weapon avoided what would have been a taxing trial and assured his release to go train in Florida until his April 19 sentencing date.
On Tuesday, after Taylor took the guilty plea in court the two family members embraced, Hinton said.
“We hugged and I told him ‘I forgive you.’”
The Smiths have set up a Deposit A Gift page for anyone wishing to pledge support.