|John David Jackson: From 2 Division World Champion to Champion Trainer!
Interview by Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (June 16, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
When John David Jackson won the WBO 154
title in 1988 stopping former WBC champion Lupe Aquino there was
little fan fare. From 1988 to 1992 he wasn’t able to get the other
organizations champions to fight him. When in 1993 he moved up and
won the WBA Middleweight title from Reggie Johnson he thought all
that would change but it didn’t. He was the 1981 AAU champion
ending with a 206-9 simon-pure record. He was a member of Joe
Clough’s Tacoma Boy’s Club.
Now Jackson, the former two-division
world champion has been training boxers since his retirement in 1999
with little fanfare. “It doesn’t bother me for I am a low key
person. I don’t try to take away from the boxer’s what they have
achieved. The best trainer I ever had was George Benton. He once
told me I would make a really good trainer due to my patience, no ego
and I’m just like him,” said Jackson. Back in Philly Benton
brought in Pernell Whitaker whom he was training to spar with
Jackson. “I told George he (Whitaker) better not try to fight me.
When he did, I beat the hell out of him,” said Jackson.
This writer met Jackson when he first
came on the scene in Philadelphia turning professional in March of
1984. His team consisted of manager Bob Connelly, trainer George
Benton and matchmaker Gary Hegyi for his first 5 fights ending with
defeating Felipe Montellano, 4-1. “His son Jimmy (retired with an
16-0-2 record in 1982) was very jealous of the relationship Bob and I
had so he reluctantly released me,” said Jackson. He stayed in the
Philadelphia area for 4 or 5 years keeping Benton as his trainer. In
his first fight away from that team he defeated Gary Tibbs, 4-0-1, in
This writer informed Jackson I put him
in with Robert Thomas, 7-35-2, as unorthodox southpaw in his third
fight. He also fought him in his eighth fight. Thomas defeated
future IBF super middleweight champion Charles “The Hatchet”
Brewer twice and drew with Eric Harding (debut).
By the end of 1987 Jackson had defeated
Mike Castronova, 21-5, Milton Leaks, 12-2 and Tony Ojo, 17-7. “Leaks
had a herky-jerky style. Ojo was fine until the weigh-in when he
started cursing me. He went out in 3,” said Jackson.
In his sixteenth fight he was matched
with former WBA light middleweight champion Davey Moore, 16-4. It
was July of 1987, when Jackson defeated Moore, but it wouldn’t be
until December of 1988 that he would meet Lupe Aquino, 33-4-1, for
the newly formed WBO vacant title. Aquino was the former WBC
welterweight champion who in his 2 previous fights had defeated
former WBC welterweight champion Milt McCrory, 33-2-1 and Royan
Hammond, 16-0. Jackson’s inactivity was due to managerial problems
with his Detroit investors.
Jackson had Aquino down in the first
and retiring after the seventh in Detroit’s Cobo Arena to win the
WBO light middleweight title. “It was great winning the title but
you weren’t rated in any other organizations. They didn’t want
to fight for the new group’s title,” said Jackson. Manny Steward
would be with him for 3 fights starting with this one.
In Jackson’s first defense he took on
Steve Little, 16-10, who lived west of Philly, in Reading, PA, and
was a cousin to Meldrick Taylor. Little had a win over the former
WBA champion Pipino Cuevas with losses to Terry Norris, Rob “Bam
Bam” Hines and Davey Hilton. Little was stopped in the seventh
round. This same boxer would defeat Michael Nunn in 1994 for his WBA
super middleweight title. His next defense with Martin Camara ended
up in a NC 11 though Jackson was well ahead 110-95, 106-98 and
108-96. “He dove on me in the eleventh round and the French
commission said a fight cannot end that way. The WBO recognized it
as a defense and win for me,” said Jackson.
In October of 1990 Jackson traveled to
the UK and defeated Chris Pyatt, 30-2, of the UK who had his 11 bout
win streak stopped. It would be 9 months later when he defeated
Kronk’s Tyrone “The Butterfly” Trice, 38-3, in Atlantic City.
Trice had lost in 2 previous challenges for Simon Brown’s IBF
welterweight title. “We had previously sparred together once. He
was a puncher,” said Jackson.
In Jackson’s fifth title defense he
stopped San Francisco’s Pat Lawlor, 18-1, in the Bay City in June
of 1992. Lawlor had a win over Roberto Duran. At the end of 1992
Jackson traveled to Italy stopping the Italian champion Michele
Mastrodonato, 17-1, in the tenth. During his 4 year reign, Julian
Jackson (WBA), Terry Norris (WBC), Sumba Kalambay (WBA), Rob Hines
(IBF), Darrin Van Horn (IBF), Michael McCallum (WBA) and Gianfranco
Rosi (IBF) all held titles while Jackson did. “John and I sparred
a couple of times. He was a very good boxer. Buster Drayton had
lost his title the year before or we would have had 3 light
middleweight champs all fighting out of Philly at the same time,”
said Hines. Today Drayton is helping to reach out to youth in a
correctional facility in Philly. “John Jackson displayed a lot
that people didn’t think he had,” said Drayton. “After the
Mastrodonato fight I gave up my title to compete at 160 and was
promised a title shot with WBA champion Reggie Johnson, 34-2-1, if I
gave up my title,” said Jackson.
The WBA said if he gave up his title
they would rank him No. 5. “I knew I would never get a shot ranked
that low. I insisted on being No. 1. Johnson couldn’t figure how
Jackson came out of nowhere to be ranked No. 1. It would be October
of 1993 when they would meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Jorge
Castro would be on the card hoping to fight the winner. “The WBA
gave me 2 contracts. One for Johnson and one for Castro if I won,
but I only signed the one for Johnson,” said Jackson. He defeated
Johnson in a close fight 115-114 (twice) and 115-113.
“I spent 125k in court costs trying
to keep my title. My trainer/manager slapped Castro’s manager at
the press conference for calling me a thief” said Jackson. The
title was declared vacant and in August of 1994 Castro defeated
Johnson for the title. In the meantime Jackson defeated Jeff
Johnson, 16-7-1, when Johnson refused to come out of the corner
after 7. This was in May of 1994. In September he knocked out Danny
Garcia, 25-12, in 7 rounds. Both fights were in Atlantic City.
In December of 1994 Jackson and Castro
finally met for Castro’s WBA middleweight title in Mexico.
Jackson, then 32-0, was well ahead after 8 rounds by scores of 80-71,
80-72 and 79-74. “I had no idea I was ahead so in the ninth round
I decided to mix it up with Castro after out boxing him the entire
fight. I got hit with a punch I did not see coming,” said Jackson.
Castro won the title by the only way he could stopping Jackson in
Philly’s “Rockin” Rodney Moore
was on the undercard. “What an awesome fight Jackson was
displaying until the knockdown. He fought a great fight in Mexico
and I believe that if John had fought that fight somewhere else he
would have possibly became champ. John was a helluva good fighter
and Castro was a hard punching champ,” said Moore. The fight was
voted 1994 Fight of the Year by Ring Magazine.
Jackson had his first fight after the
Castro fight in April of 1995 at the US Air Arena, in Landover, MD,
defeating James “Hard Rock” Green, 22-8-1. There were 3 world
title bouts on that card including Bernard Hopkins defeating Sequndo
Mercado for the vacant IBF middleweight title in a rematch of their
draw. Jackson would take a pair of decisions before losing a
controversial decision to Abdullah Ramadan, 9-6, in Ft. Lauderdale,
FL. “I got dropped in the first round. I took rounds 3 through 10
and still lost,” said Jackson.
Just 4 months later Jackson was asked
to fight Hopkins for his 160 title in April of 1997. “I hadn’t
made that weight in almost 3 years. I asked to have it at a heavier
weight (would have been non-title). King told me it would be another
3 years before I would get a title fight if I didn’t fight Hopkins
then. I was 180 and worked down to 156 leaving myself drained. We
had sparred in the gym and I felt I got the best of Hopkins who is a
very good fighter. By the fourth round Hopkins had a smile on his
face knowing I had nothing left,” said Jackson. The bout was
stopped in round 7.
In February of 1998 Jackson now away
from King, did something he never thought he would do. “I was cash
poor. They offered me 150k so I took a rematch with Castro, 104-6-2,
in Argentina. (Jackson 168, Castro 173 ½) I didn’t see him get on
the scale but he looked much bigger than the last time we fought,”
said Jackson. Castro would score 2 knockdowns before stopping
Jackson for what was listed as the vacant WBA Fedelatin super
middleweight title which Castro officially was over weight for. The
fight went the distance of 10 rounds in favor of Castro by scores of
95-93, 96-94 and 99-98. It seems the knockdowns won Castro the fight.
“He hit me so hard in the first round I rolled over. In the
fourth he hit me with an uppercut and I tripped over my own feet for
the second knockdown,” said Jackson.
In September of 1999 at the age of 36
Jackson would have his last fight. “I couldn’t get fights after
the second Castro fight but for low money. They offered me 20k and I
wanted 50k. They came back with 30k and I took it,” said Jackson.
He would stop Dave Boone, 16-6, in Temecula, CA, in the second round.
Jackson’s final ring record was 36-4,
with 20 knockouts. He is living in Timber Pines, FL, and is known as
one of the finest trainers in boxing. His gym is called “Action
Jackson Boxing Academy”. He can be reached at John-David-Jackson@hotmail.com Between NJ and PA Jackson was 20-0. He is certainly one of the most
intelligent boxers this writer has interviewed. He is a very low-key
person who has trained many boxers including his old foe Bernard
Hopkins. “There are still some great trainers but no great
teachers. When I got started training boxers I picked the brains of
Quenzell McCall, Wesley Mouzon and Eddie Futch,” said Jackson.
Well, you couldn’t go wrong with those 3!
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