By Thomas Gerbasi
John Jackson could have been the kid in school who told his classmates “my dad can beat up your dad,” and he would be right. But the son of former junior middleweight and middleweight world champion Julian “The Hawk” Jackson didn’t need to brag.
“Actually, people in school used to be like ‘John, you better not get in trouble because your dad’s gonna knock you out,’” laughed the 24-year-old, who nonetheless got a pretty intense introduction to the family business as a youngster.
“Growing up we used to watch our dad’s fights, and sometimes he would take us to the fights,” he recalled. “We lived in Vegas for five years and that was great. We went to some of the training camps and we met Mike Tyson and Julio Cesar Chavez. We had an amazing upbringing and childhood around boxing and we just fell in love with it. I guess it’s in the blood.”
Along with his older brother Julius, John became enamored enough of the sport that they laced on the boxing gloves (another sibling, Julian Jr. also fought briefly), giving up their leather baseball mitts in order to pursue another form of home run hitting, even though they were pretty good on the diamond as well.
“They used to call me ‘The Terminator,’” said Jackson of his baseball days. “We all did a tryout for scouts for high school, and the highest you can get is five stars, and my older brother got five stars and me and my brother got four stars. All the coaches were fighting for us. We were really good in baseball.”
Turns out John and Julius were even better in the ring. Earning spots on the 2008 Olympic team representing the Virgin Islands, the brothers gained a lot of notoriety fast, with expectations that they become as good as their father immediately putting them under an immense amount of pressure.
“As an amateur it was a little tough, but we learned how to cope with it,” said John, who went 1-1 in the Beijing Games. “My dad will always be my dad, he’ll always be the great Julian Jackson, and it’s time for us to make a name for ourselves. We’ll probably never fill the shoes he put down, but all we can do is do our best and just reach for the top and try to be successful in the sport.”
That humility, an affable personality, and one punch stopping power is going to go a long way in making sure that the youngest Jackson becomes a star in his own right. Turning pro in 2009, John has compiled a stellar 15-1 (14 KOs) record heading into his ESPN Friday Night Fights co-main event against Minnesota’s unbeaten Cerresso Fort, and the buzz is growing louder when it comes to the Saint Thomas product.
“I just see the hard work paying off,” he said. “I see myself climbing the charts and the sky’s the limit. But my focus right now is just Cerresso Fort. I’m not overlooking him, and I’m just focusing on him and our game plan, and I’m ready to explode and move up.”
Winner of two straight since the first loss of his pro career against fellow junior middleweight prospect Willie Nelson last September, Jackson looks back on his lone setback as a learning experience, regardless of the end result.
“Win or lose, I would have learned a lot from that fight,” he said. “That fight was my greatest fight to date and I love those types of fights – it’s challenging, it’s a war, and it can go either war. Of course I felt I won the fight, just how he feels he won the fight, but just looking over everything and how the fight was, I learned a tremendous amount from that fight. I can’t wait to meet him again. I wish him the best and I’m gonna keep doing my thing too.”
He’ll be doing it at the Tropicana in Atlantic City in front of a national television audience. Not a bad gig for the promising up and comer, whose last appearance in New Jersey saw him take just 56 seconds to take out Alexis Pena. It was his 12th finish in three rounds or less, almost reminiscent of his dad, eh?
“I still don’t really think I have that type of power like my dad, to be honest,” he said. “My dad used to put cats to sleep. It’s not even on the button and they’re out. A lot of people compare us, but I’m still shooting for that goal. I have natural strength and power, but I want to develop that same thing that he had and I’m still working on it and striving to get better.”