Every good fighter can’t be a megastar.
Most won’t get close.
Some of the ones who don’t get there are every bit as valuable to the sport in their time. They’re the character of the sport, the ones who make it worth staying a fan between the biggest events. One of those fighters in this generation is nearing forty with an unexpected title shot this Sunday (ESPN+, 2 PM EST).
39-year old Badou Jack (27-3-3, 16 KO) will challenge 35-year old Ilunga Makabu (29-2, 25 KO) on the undercard of Jake Paul-Tommy Fury. Consider it the quality control on the card, red meat for fans of high-level boxing on a card built around a unique attraction.
It will be Jack’s biggest opportunity since losing two in a row to Marcus Browne and Jean Pascal. The former saw Jack finish the fight with one of the nastiest, bloodiest cuts in recent memory. Jack’s forehead looked like someone hit it with a meat cleaver, leaving him wearing a crimson mask that would have made a Ric Flair-Dusty Rhodes cage match in the 80s look positively G-rated.
The latter, a split decision, saw Jack rise from the floor in the fourth to score his own knockdown in the final round and come up just short on the cards.
Just short on the cards has been a big thing in the career of Jack. Draws against James DeGale and Adonis Stevenson stopped him from being a unified super middleweight titlist and the lineal light heavyweight king, respectively.
No one has ever been able to say Jack came up just short on effort.
Every one of those fights, win, lose, or draw, was memorable in its own way. The career arc for Jack has been memorable in general. He’s a great example of how often some might scream that an early loss “exposes” a fighter only to find out later that all it exposed was what we already know.
Derek Edwards got to Jack in the first round in 2014.
No one else has stopped him since.
Jack rebounded from that loss to hand Anthony Dirrell his first defeat for the WBC super middleweight belt in 2015. It was a solid upset at the time. Over the years since, Jack added wins over George Groves, Nathan Cleverly, and Lucian Bute. The last of those was initially another draw for Jack, but a failed PED test saw the result reversed to Jack as a disqualification win.
Jack was a regular on Showtime for years but the Pascal loss saw his career continue off-broadway. It may surprise some to realize Jack has won five in a row since moving to cruiserweight. This weekend won’t be his first undercard under a big name attraction. Jack also appeared on the undercard of the Mike Tyson-Roy Jones exhibition bonanza.
What this will be this weekend though is something else. This isn’t continuing to work in a new division. It’s a chance to add another belt in a second weight class after falling short at light heavyweight. It’s Badou Jack, certainly in the twilight of his career, with a chance to write an ending to an undersung but vital career.
Boxing fans sometimes don’t take enough time to appreciate careers like these. Many might not see it this weekend. For those not inclined to tune into a Jake Paul show, it’s understandable. That isn’t for everyone and so be it.
But Badou Jack has been for everyone who was a paying customer over the years.
He’s come off the floor for them.
He’s bled for them.
No matter what happens against Makabu, the assumption should be that Jack will give everything he has. It’s been the way he does things and boxing has been the better with him around.
Can we just get a list of foods the WBC won’t allow an exception for at this point? Does this mean Cool Hand Luke didn’t just eat fifty eggs? Farces are supposed to be funny…Subriel Matias-Jeremias Ponce is going to be another log on a raging fire at Jr. welterweight. Josh Taylor remains the lineal king but giving up some belts could end up making the division more interesting in 2023…Luis Nery might not ever beat the winner of Stephen Fulton-Naoya Inoue but he made challenging that winner more interesting last week…Guillermo Rigondeaux returns at bantamweight this weekend and, considering his age and recent form, one hopes he doesn’t get himself hurt against younger, faster foes.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org