Badou Jack couldn’t picture a more ideal location to potentially become a three-division titlist.
The former super middleweight and light heavyweight titleholder is a slight underdog versus defending WBC cruiserweight beltholder Ilunga ‘Junior’ Makabu. The two collide this Sunday at Diriyah, Saudi Arabia, which will mark the fourth straight Middle East appearance for Jack, who has lived in Dubai on and off for more than five years.
“It’s like a new fan base,” Jack told BoxingScene.com. Saudi, Dubai, Abu Dhabi—there are a lot of big fights happening out here. I have a chance to become the first Muslim to win a world title in Saudi Arabia. it’s an honor to add to that growing tradition
It’s been a long journey for the 39-year-old Jack (27-3-3, 16KOs), a 2008 Olympian for his native Sweden who has fought in six different countries through 14 years as a pro. Both of his title winning efforts took place in the U.S.—an April 2015 majority decision win over Anthony Dirrell for the WBC super middleweight title and a fourth-round knockout of Nathan Cleverly in their August 2017 WBA light heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas.
It was around the time of the Cleverly fight when Jack—who lived and trained in Vegas at the time and fought for Mayweather Promotions—began transitioning to and from Dubai. He has made it his permanent home, with Sunday’s challenge of Makabu (29-2, 25KOs) a mere 105-minute flight.
“I’ve been back and forth since 2017,” explained Jack, who has won his last five starts. “It’s a Muslim country. It’s safe. A lot of things to do for the kids and the family. No school shootings. No police shootings, nothing like that. It’s also closer to my family in Sweden. It’s really in the middle of the universe.”
Jack enters the fight following a ten-round, split decision win over unbeaten Richard Rivera last August 201 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. His challenge of Makabu serves as the chief support of a Jake Paul-Tommy Fury eight-round fight, both of which air live on ESPN+ Pay-Per-View.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox