By: Oliver McManus
At 4.33 in the morning last Tuesday I was on the phone to Luke Jackson with the Australian in the midst of preparing for a bout with Carl Frampton, at Windsor Park, on August 18th for the interim WBO Featherweight World Championship.
A prestigious amateur talent, Jackson was one of six Australian medallists at their home Commonwealth games in 2006 alongside the likes of Leonardo Zappavigna and Jarrod Fletcher. With the goal of making an Olympic games the Tasmanian featherweight had to wait until London 2012 before he could achieve that initial goalpost and having shared a room with Jeff Horn, his company could be no more befitting ahead of this Summer showdown in Belfast – if anyone knows how to pull off an upset then it’s Horn.
Photo Credit: Luke Jackson Twitter Account
That’s enough of me rambling along, let’s just get straight into the interview –
How’s Australia, how is training going?
Well we’ve got six weeks to go and I’m in Sydney training with Billy Hussein, been in camp for two weeks now and obviously I’m always in the gym, relatively fight, so we started running a bit harder 10 weeks out and now, eight weeks out we’re focussing completely on our boxing training and sparring. We’re in good shape, we’ve got plenty of time and it’s all going to plan.
In terms of training are you looking at any specific areas?
Yeah, look, we’re just trying to improve everything that I’m good at and make it a lot more well-rounded. This is, obviously, a very hard fight but it’s something that we’re willing and able to do, we’re preparing accordingly and we’ve got a couple of different game plans that we’re working on so if the first one doesn’t work as well as we hope then we’ll mix it up and go with our second or third plan. I trust Billy Hussein and what he tells me to do in the gym – I just do it.
On the night under the lights I’ll just do the same again.
You’re stepping into Windsor Park, 18,000 Frampton fans, will that affect you mentally in any way?
At the end of the day it’s only going to be Carl in there, in the ring, and yeah the fans are going to be screaming but whether they’d be screaming for him or screaming for me, it’s still going to be loud and he’ll have that effect on him too – the pressure – it’s going to be the same atmosphere for both of us and I’ll just listen to Billy, I don’t really care what the rest of the crowd does.
That’s my attitude, they can’t fight for Carl and they can’t fight for me either, I’m sure he’ll enjoy having them all there for him but I don’t really care, I’m not focussed on that, I just want to win the fight.
What do you think separates you from Carl?
Well I think he’s achieved everything he’s wanted to do, achieved the goal of becoming a world champion, I haven’t. I think he’s on the decline since the Leo Santa Cruz fight, I think that was his best moment in the first fight. His motivation maybe isn’t what it used to be, I’m not sure, but I’m still chasing my dream and I think that will show on August 18th.
Many people have called you an underdog, does that label bother you?
I couldn’t care Ollie, I’ll be honest with you, I couldn’t care. I’ve been an underdog all my life, I’m not even meant to be in this position but I am and I’ve worked hard to get here so people who say I’m an underdog and completely write me off are people who don’t really know anything. I understand there are some experts, so-called experts, calling me the underdog and I admit that Carl is an awesome fighter, two-weight world champion, he deserves to be the favourite and it would be ridiculous if he wasn’t.
But do I think I can beat him? 100%, 100%. Do I think he’s the same fighter as he used to be? No I don’t and hopefully I’m right in what I say and, listen, I can sit here and say whatever I want but I’ve got to get in the ring and back it up, Carl is a hell of a fighter, he got a little bit upset because I didn’t think he was a great fighter.
And I don’t think he’s a great fighter but that’s my opinion, take it or leave it, I don’t really care if it upset him. I’m still going to punch him in the head so it doesn’t matter what I say to upset the guy, I respect him as a man and I respect him as a fighter. Hopefully after the fight we can shake hands and have a beer together.
When it came to that press conference, did you say he wasn’t great to deliberately get under his skin?
Never, never, I’ve never been like that, I just meant what I said and he didn’t really like it. I don’t know why, I thought it was a compliment, I think he’s a very good fighter across the board, I think he does a lot of things very well and I thought that was a compliment. I don’t think he’s a great fighter but I could be wrong, I’ve been wrong many time before, but it doesn’t make me a bad person simply for saying what I think.
You only picked up boxing aged 18, 19, what was it that inspired you?
My life was a little bit chaotic and I needed something to keep me focussed and that was boxing. I was involved with the wrong crew, did some things I shouldn’t, and I liked the idea of boxing so I went with that and the rest is history.
When you started, then, was it a genuine expectation to turn professional?
Well my first goal when I started boxing was to see another country, that was my first goal, and then I went from that to wanting to see another country and then wanting to make the Olympic games and I didn’t really think about turning professional and then… well, I did.
Yeah because you got a bronze at the 2006 Commonwealth Games but didn’t turn pro until 2013, why was it so long?
I wanted to make the Olympics and I missed out on 2008 so I had to wait a long time to make that next team.
Since you have turned pro have you found that the amateur experience has made it a little easier?
Of course, things like me travelling to Ireland and fighting in someone’s backyard well, I’m used to that because I did that a lot as an amateur and the only difference is its more rounds and smaller gloves. I’ve thought guys just as good as Carl when I was an amateur so I don’t think I’ll be out of my depth, at all, my team has done a great job of getting me settled and I haven’t been in with as great as opposition as Carl has but I, equally, haven’t taken any punishment.
Carl’s been in a few hard fights and hopefully I can take advantage on the night.
I want to ask you a bit about weight cutting, obviously we saw what happened with Danny O’Connor, so just talk to me about that…
I’ll be honest making weight is never easy, it’s never easy, but it’s a part of our job and not many people will understand it but it’s a hard part, it’s expected of us though and no-one makes us do it, it’s a long process and we leave it to the last minute most of the time. I haven’t missed weight yet, I’ve had 113 amateur fights and 16 as a pro and I haven’t missed the weight yet but, yeah, it’s hard.
Danny O’Connor it’s very unfortunate and I wish him well but hopefully I’m never in that position.
I’ve never been a boxer Luke and I get that it’s all about maximizing your weight advantage when you’re in the ring but is there another reason why people don’t often fight one class above?
Because they (in the weight caterogry above) are too big, that’s the only reason, we’re looking to have the biggest advantage possible and if I went into the ring at 65, 64 or 63 then I’d be at a massive disadvantage to these guys because they can rehydrate much more.
Undefeated as a professional, what would you say is your best performance?
I don’t think I’ve actually had any fights where I was that great to be honest, I’ve never boxed to the best of my ability and hopefully Carl can bring that out in me and I’m looking forward to the test. I don’t think I’ve had any bad performances but I’ve not had any great ones either. I know I’ve got it in me and I’ve not fought to my full potential yet and that’s just my honest opinion.
Hopefully it can happen on August 18th because if I box the way I know I can then I’ll beat Carl Frampton, I know that.
Will you look better when you fight better opponents, then?
Yeah, yeah, I think so, I hate to keep bringing it up but I’ve fought some of the best amateurs in the world and I’ve beaten them so I just haven’t had the right guys in front of me as a professional so far and that’s not necessarily my fault, things happen, and I’m really looking forward to being the best I can be against Carl Frampton and at the end of the day I’m working hard, putting everything into it, and I’m going over there to upset the party.
When things get tough, what is it that motivates you?
I mean I’ve been doing this for 16 years mate and I always here a couple of mates who started off with me saying that I was never the most talented or anything but I stuck it out and I turned up every day, worked hard and kept going when everyone else didn’t and that’s the reason I’m here now because I put the hard work in from the beginning and I’m continuing that hard work.
I won’t lie, if I win this fight then the money will be a massive incentive for me and I want the money out of this game.
If we assume that you get past Carl Frampton have you get any opponents you would like afterwards?
If I beat Carl and it’s a good fight then I’d be happy with a rematch if he wants it or I wouldn’t mind Josh Warrington or Oscar Valdez.
Would you want them in Australia?
I don’t really care where I fight as long as the money is good.
Have you got a specific vision of how August 18th will go?
I don’t know, I’ve got a plan that I’ll walk him onto a right hand and stop him. I keep having visions that he’s going to walk onto a big right hand that’ll hurt and then I’ll got the job done but I know I can box for 12 rounds and beat him on points. I’m confident that if I hit him clean then he’ll go, he’s not invincible and I’ve seen him get dropped, we’ve all seen it, I’ve seen him hurt but he’s never seen me dropped or hurt so that’s another thing to give me confidence – I haven’t been on the deck and I’m hoping to put him on his arse if he comes in reckless.
Do you think there is a danger of him, perhaps, under-estimating you?
If he does that then he’ll get a rude shock when he walks onto a couple of my shots with the little 8oz gloves on, let him do that and let him underestimate and he’ll see what it’s all about. Like I said, we’ve still got to get in there and fight, a lot is still to happen, I’m focussed on working hard and getting the job done.