Keeping Up With Julian Jackson
By Shawn M. Murphy
Recently I spoke with former three-time world boxing champion Julian Jackson. Jackson, who fought out of the US Virgin Islands, is often mentioned as one of the hardest punchers of all time. In 2003, Ring Magazine ranked Jackson as the twenty-fifth greatest puncher in boxing history. Jackson’s three world titles were won against In-Chul Baek in 1987, Herol Graham in 1990 and Agostino Cardamore in 1995. Jackson retired in 1998 after a knockout loss to Vernon Phillips, with a final record of 55-6 with 49 KO’S.
SM: Julian, when did you first start boxing?
Julian Jackson: I was about fourteen. A friend of mine got involved in it and I just followed him. I ended up loving it and the rest is history. I had a short amateur career, seventeen fights, won fifteen.
SM: On your way up to a title shot against Mike McCallum, who were some of the tougher opponents you faced?
Julian Jackson: I really don’t remember any opponents who were even close to equal or similar to McCallum. It was my biggest test by far.
(SM) Was it too big a step up in competition you think?
Julian Jackson: Well I was undefeated, I was being developed and I was lean. But if Mike Tyson was in Mike McCallums corner, I felt I would have knocked his head off also. (laughing) My confidence was high, but my inexperience was a factor and McCallum was able to beat me.
(SM) He was badly hurt in round one wasn’t he?
Julian Jackson: He went to one knee in the first round. I believe I lost the respect as far as he was concerned and I tried to take him out. But he was very experienced, a real technical fighter and he won the fight.
(SM) After a couple more wins you fought In-Chul Baek for the vacant WBA Light Middleweight title. Your thoughts?
Julian Jackson: That was a fight that I had hoped for, a great opportunity. He was a very formidable opponent and he was one of Korea’s best. I was told by Don King to look out for his right hand, to move and box. I realized that this kid was easy to hit and to set up. Everything was flowing and it was the easiest fight I had. I really didn’t get hit in that fight at all.
(SM) You vacated that title to move up and fight Herol Graham. Was your eyesight a question in that fight?
Julian Jackson: Well there were questions before, I had a detached retina. I had an operation and never hid it. I cancelled a fight before the Graham fight because of it. The operation was very successful. The only problem after that was that I was near-sighted. But in the ring there was no problem whatsoever. I rarely even use glasses today.
(SM) Graham was a tough fighter wasn’t he?
Julian Jackson: Yes, Graham was a very tricky and awkward fighter. He had good legs and I was moving up in his weight class. My power was really the measuring stick that evened things out. He was
a bigger fighter than I was and my power I think just made up for him being a true middleweight. He was beating me to the
punch. The referee Joe Cortez came to my corner and told me
that if I didn’t do something in this round he was going to stop
the fight. Just hearing that I knew I had to do something fast.
Herol Graham fell right into my trap and I was able to set him
up. I just caught him and that was the end of it.
(SM) Tell me about the first Gerald McClellan fight?
Julian Jackson: I’ll tell you what, McClellan was a bomber like myself and we both had good power. And the one who was gonna connect first was probably gonna win the fight. From round one on up until that punch I was winning. I think I got careless and just dropped my right hand. I didn’t see the punch. He caught me on the chin and that was that. My trainer was telling me that his legs were going and looking over in the corner I could see by the look on his face that he was tired. I got overconfident and got hit.
(SM) What about the second fight?
Julian Jackson: That fight was something that shouldn’t have happened. Why? Because I went in with an injury. My fifth vertebrae in my back was really badly injured. I was training in Puerto Rico and I
saw a specialist. He told me to cancel the fight. I took a week
off and started to get a little mobility back. I was still pretty
confident going into the fight. He hit me with a body shot. It
was just a lack of training due to the injury. That’s not an
excuse because McClellan was a tremendous puncher.
(SM) Your third world title was against Agostino Cardamore. How confident were you going into that fight?
Julian Jackson: I was still hungry as a fighter. I trained hard and I had been through so much. A lot of people said I should have retired by then but I knew in my heart I could do it. Everything was just flowing the way it should. He was a good boxer and I knew how to take advantage of that and I stopped him.
(SM) What happened in the Quincy Taylor fight when you lost that title?
Julian Jackson: Again injury. I went in with a torn rotator cuff. Actually it was not torn when I went in, but I tore it during the fight. Doctor’s warned me prior to the fight that this may happen. I took a chance and it was tremendously painful, I couldn’t punch normal. I could hardly use my left hand at all.
(SM) How did you decide it was time to retire?
Julian Jackson: Well, after the Taylor fight I won a few, I did good for a few fights. I thought I may be able to get another title shot. But before the Verno Phillips fight, in the dressing room, I knew it was gonna be my last. I just felt in my spirit that this would be it. I was real confident going into the that fight. I went in, lost, and just made up my mind then. The urge to come back was there but I never did.
(SM) In what fight were you at your absolute best?
Julian Jackson: I think it was the Milton Leaks fight in Connecticut. That was the fight that gave me the chance to fight In-Chul Baek. I was knocked down, got up and was able to stop him in the tenth round. It was a tough fight and I proved to myself that I was a force to be reckoned with. It took me to the next level.
(SM) Any fighters you would have liked to got a shot at but didn’t?
Julian Jackson: John Mugabi and James Toney. I also had a shot to fight a young Roy Jones in his early days and would have knocked him out. They felt I hit too hard and wouldn’t take it. I wanted to fight Sugar Ray Leonard but he chose Terry Norris instead. I also really wanted to fight Michael Nunn as well. A rematch with McCallum would have been great as well but he didn’t want it.
(SM) Any regrets about your career?
Julian Jackson: Only thing is just not getting the opportunity to make the kind of money I felt I was supposed to make. A lot of people loved my ability to go in and throw bombs but I felt I was not given my dues. I would not change anything as far as my style and the people around me except maybe who I would be promoted by.
(SM) So you think you should be in the International Boxing Hall of Fame?
Julian Jackson: I really do believe so. I really believe I have given it my all. Boxing has done so much for me and my community. Because of what I have done, I think it has given other athletes in the Virgin Islands the drive to go out and be their best. I’m still active in my community. My two sons qualified for the Beijing Olympics. They have natural talent. They will turn pro and my dream is to walk to the ring for a championship fight and be in their corner.
(SM) Since retiring from the ring what have you been up to?
Julian Jackson: I’ve been to college and I’ve been to the Seminary. I also am the Vice President of the Amateur Boxing Association here in the Virgin Islands. I’m also the coach for the National team. I have a non-profit organization and we go to schools and try to teach kids to do the right things. It’s been a tremendous road for me and I still have a lot of goals and dreams. I’m very blessed.
(SM) Julian anything else you want to mention?
Julian Jackson: I would just like to let the world know that if you have faith and believe in God and trust him that the sky is the limit. No matter how dark things may look for you or how insignificant you may feel, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve seen that light and I thought that winning a world title was when I arrived. But I realized that there are other lights as well. It’s so beautiful.