Badou Jack Has Got His Swagger Back

The former two-division champ says he feels as good as ever headed into Saturday night’s 175-pound showdown versus light heavyweight titlist Jean Pascal, live on SHOWTIME.

When last seen in the ring, Badou Jack was wearing a mask of blood, courtesy of a deep gash in his forehead from an accidental headbutt with his opponent Marcus Browne.

That bloodletting took place last January in Jack’s hometown of Las Vegas, where the Swedish-born light heavyweight nicknamed “The Ripper” suffered a somewhat unexpected thrashing at the hands (and head) of Browne.

With it went his hopes of regaining a title for the first time since his TKO victory against the UK’s Nathan Cleverly in August 2017. Browne was Jack’s seventh consecutive title fight and first at 175 pounds after moving up from 168, where he had defended his super middleweight belts three times after taking the title from Anthony Dirrell in 2015.

Most men with such a championship pedigree would return home licking their wounds after a bad loss, consumed with trying to right the things that went wrong.

But Badou Jack is not most men. He’s a man of conviction and faith, and while boxing is a big part of his life, his livelihood, there is much more to Jack than meets the eye.

Not long after the loss and once he was cleared by a doctor, Jack and the organization he created, the Badou Jack Foundation, were off to Jordan in the war-torn Middle East, where they visited children in refugee camps.

“We have a big project in Jordan. We have two refugee camps – one, we work with a Syrian refugee camp, one of the biggest in the world, I think, and there’s a lot of homeless and orphans, everything you could think of; they come from war,” Jack, who has two young children of his own: Malaniyah, 3½, and Malik, 1½, said by phone recently. “And a Palestinian refugee camp, where we have our own education center.

“We work with some orphanages in Gambia (Africa) also, where my dad is from. Together with my supplement company (Ripper Nutrition), we provide all the kids in the camps with meal replacement shakes that provide the nutrients they need. Since it’s my company, everything goes straight to the kids.”

Jack’s international work, though it takes up much of his non-boxing time, puts a smile on the face of Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, which has developed the fighter since Floyd Mayweather Jr. spotted him at a sparring session in 2013 and signed him.

“The foundation work that he’s done has just been incredible,” Ellerbe says. “He’s a man of strong faith and he’s always looking for ways to help kids from other nations. He’s a promoter’s dream.”

These days, Jack is back in boxing mode, finishing up another training camp as he prepares for his eighth consecutive title fight, this Saturday, December 28, against rejuvenated Canadian slugger and WBA World Light Heavyweight Champ Jean Pascal. The scheduled 12-round title bout at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena is the co-feature to the Gervonta Davis-Yuriorkis Gamboa WBA world lightweight title fight. The Premier Boxing Champions fight card will be aired on SHOWTIME Championship Boxing beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.

It’s the first title fight in The ATL since Evander Holyfield, an Atlanta native, defeated Vaughn Bean at the Georgia Dome to retain two heavyweight belts on Sept. 16, 1998.

“I’m excited. I have a lot of friends there,” says Jack (22-2-3, 13 KOs). “From what I heard, it might be a sold-out event. Like they say, (Atlanta) is like the black Hollywood, so yeah, I’m excited.”

At 36, you might think Jack’s career is on the downhill slide, and his less-than-impressive showing against Browne in January did nothing to assuage those sentiments. Ellerbe says it simply wasn’t Jack’s night.

Mentally I’m better than I’ve ever been. Former Two-Division World Champion - Badou Jack

“Everything happens for a reason,” Ellerbe says. “I don’t want to take anything away from Marcus Browne. He’s a great young champion and he’ll be a champion again. Badou Jack came up short that night and there are no excuses.”

In August, Browne suffered his first professional loss against none other than Pascal at Barclays Center in New York.

While many view the 37-year-old Pascal as a fading champion who has been mostly unable to defeat A-list opponents, neither Jack nor Ellerbe look at the Haitian-born Canadian as anything but a dangerous slugger who has fought many of the biggest names in the division.

“I know Pascal well, he’s a rugged, tough guy. I don’t expect an easy fight, but I also believe in my skills,” Jack says. “I believe I’m going to win the fight.”

Jack, who’s accumulated only 171 rounds in his 13-year pro career, feels younger than his age because, despite being in slugfest after slugfest against championship-quality competition, he’s escaped much physical damage.

“I haven’t been super active so I feel fresh, I feel good,” he says. “I got hurt one time – in 2014, I got caught cold in my first loss (a first-round TKO by Derek Edwards). Other than that, I’ve never been hurt.”

Resilience has long been a hallmark of Jack’s career. He’s always been able to bounce back after bad losses or tough fights and has always held his own against big punchers.

“It was a war with James DeGale (a majority draw in 2017), but I came back and looked way better in my next fight with Cleverly. (Adonis) Stevenson was one of the biggest punchers in boxing, and he only hit me with one or two good shots and that was to the body. So, no, I don’t think I’ve taken that much punishment.”

Jack’s majority draw against Stevenson in May 2018 – which to this day he believes he won – took place the fight before Stevenson was critically injured on Dec. 1 after being knocked out by Oleksandr Gvozdyk and was later put into an induced coma. He did not awaken from it for three weeks and is currently rehabbing the injury and recovering nicely. But Jack was shaken by the injury.

“I was thinking about him every night after that happened,” Jack says. “I started training camp (for Browne) right when he ended up in a coma, and that bothered me a lot. Thank God he’s OK. We met up in Mexico at the WBC convention and they did a little tribute for him, and it was great to see him. So I keep in contact with him and his family all the time.”

When it was pointed out that his record is 1-1-1 since moving up to light heavyweight, Jack countered: “As far as the 1-1-1 record, Stevenson, to me, that was a win. It was in his hometown and it was a draw, so I should be 2-1.”

But that was then. Now, says Ellerbe, “Badou has a glow about him, just like the old Badou. He looks super-fast in the ring and everything is what we would want to see.”

So how much longer can Jack continue to fight at a championship level? There was a time when 36 might have been his answer.

“Mentally I’m better than I’ve ever been,” he says. “I’m hungrier and I feel like I did the first time I fought for the title . . . This camp I’m doing great numbers as far as throwing punches and running and everything. So we’ll see.

“I’m not going to fight past 40, but you never know. I feel great.”

For a closer look at Jack vs Pascal, check out our fight night page.

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