|Boxing Trainer of the Year
By Dog House Boxing (Dec 28, 2014)
|John David Jackson the 2014 Trainer of the Year
|By Jason Pribila: The holidays are always a fun time of the year for boxing writers.
The fight schedule, for the most part is on hiatus from the middle of
December until the middle of January. The time void of live action
allows writers and fans to look back at the previous year in the ring,
as well as, looking forward with optimism of what matches could be made
in the coming year.
This year, I’ve been asked to announce the trainer of the year.
Many years, this award is usually given to the man who is in the corner
of that year’s “Fighter of the year”. Other years, writers are accused
of deferring to the known names of the most popular trainers:
Mayweather, Garcia, or Roach. This year, I am proud to announce that
the Secondsout Team voted John David Jackson the 2014 Trainer of the
Like many other trainers, Jackson began his career as a fighter. He
fought as a professional form 1984 thru 1999. He was undefeated after
his first 32 fights. He captured titles at junior middleweight and
middleweight. In 1997, he was knocked out by Bernard Hopkins; a man he
would later train, and eventually in 2014 train his prized pupil Sergei
Kovalev to defeat.
While many fight fans may have only noticed Jackson’s work as a
trainer as they have followed Kovalev’s rise, Jackson has been well
respected in the fight game for many years. Nate Campbell was the
first fighter he led to a World Championship, when Campbell upset the
“Baby Bull” Juan Diaz.
Jackson first caught my eye with the work he did with “Sugar” Shane
Mosley. After again defeating Oscar De la Hoya, Mosley found himself
in the ring against the most-avoided man at the time, Ronald “Winky”
Wright. Not only did Mosley seem lost in the ring, but he found zero
guidance from his trainer – father Jack, who was too emotionally
invested in the fight to keep track of what round he just witnessed.
Mosley hired Jackson for the Wright rematch, and although he came up
short, he was much more competitive in the ring and on the score cards.
Jackson’s last fight with Mosley they faced Fernando Vargas in a turf
war. Jackson found a way to get Mosely to abandon throwing one punch
at a time, and instead go back to the combination punching that led him
to the top of the pound for pound rankings.
Jackson next found himself working with Naazim Richardson in Bernard
Hopkins’ corner from 2006 – 2010, including Hopkins upset of Antonio
Tarver, which took place in the same ring that he would face Kovalev.
“That time with Bernard allowed me to watch and see how he trains and
see what he does,” Jackson explained on HBOs 24/7. During the
promotion, Bernard again claimed that his longevity in the sport proved
that he was an alien.
Jackson disagreed, “You’re an old man. You’re a human being and an
old man.” Jackson continued, “We have to treat him like an old man.”
When fight week finally arrived, I was shocked by how many boxing
experts were picking Hopkins to win the fight by decision. They
questioned Kovalev’s previous opponents. The looked at previous
opponents that Hopkins was able to disarm. They pointed to the fact
that Kovalev has never gone beyond 8 rounds.
While I was surprised that many were picking Hopkins, I understood
their reasoning. It had nothing to do with Kovalev, but rather the fact
that many of us were ringside when Hopkins pitched a shut-out against
Kelly Pavlik in 2008.
I, like many, felt that Pavlik was on such a roll that he would
eventually catch and hurt Hopkins. However, my feelings changed
dramatically at the weigh-in the day before the fight. An arena at
Caesar’s Casino was reserved to accommodate the many fans from
Youngstown, OH who were in town by the bus load to cheer on Pavlik.
When Hopkins walked on stage, he pushed his forehead into Pavlik’s nose,
pushing it straight down. Suddenly, I forgot about age, record, and
their results against common opponent, Jermain Taylor. Instead, I saw a
man hardened from his time on the streets of Philadelphia and
Graterford Prison head to nose against a kid from Ohio with a receding
hair-line. Hopkins was mentally in control.
Hopkins has made a career of getting inside the head of his
opponents. If there was one person equipped to prepare Kovalev for the
mind-games, it was John David Jackson.
When the two posed for pictures after the weigh-in, Kovalev smiled
ear to ear, moving his head side to side, dodging Hopkins taunts and the
Graterford-stare. It was clear that Bernard failed to gain a mental
Jackson’s game plan was spot-on for his biggest fight as a trainer.
He preached to Kovalev, “You have to be the aggressor. You have to be
the one who sets the pace.”
Jackson continued, “You cannot let Bernard to set the pace. Once
you let him set the pace and he lures you in, 4-5 rounds have went by,
and he’s doing his thing.”
Kovalev did as instructed. Rather than just plodding after Hopkins,
he continually threw one punch at a time to his foes body. When the
opportunity presented itself, he landed a right hook that sent Hopkins
to the canvas.
Following the knockdown, Hopkins came even stingier than normal with
his punch output. Kovalev remained patient. He did not chase a
knockout, but rather landed enough single shots to deter Hopkins from
thinking he was in control of the fight.
Kovalev hurt Hopkins at the end of rounds four, six, and eight. He
had fought at such a measured pace that he never showed any signs of
fatigue despite going deeper into a fight than he never had before.
And when Hopkins tried to play to the crowd by sticking out his chin
in the final round, Kovalev unleashed a barrage of punches beating
Hopkins from pillar to post. Somehow, the legend survived, however;
the torch had been passed.
2015 will present new challenges for both fighter and trainer.
Jackson will be able to again draw from his own experience as a fighter
as well as what he observed from Hopkins. His next lesson will be to
teach Kovalev the differences between being the hunter vs being the
hunted. He’ll preach about the importance of legacy, ensuring that
Kovalev remains hungry despite the additional zeroes on his paycheck.
Jackson will also find that his success will cut into his free time.
Athletes want to copy what those at top have done, so no doubt there
will be more fighters showing up at Jackson’s gym. As long as he finds
fighters willing to listen to him, we could expect to see his name on
ballots for years to come.
Jason Pribila is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers
Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments
at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on twitter.com @PribsBoxing.
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