Book Review: David Jaco, Spontaneous Palooka

By Robert Mladinich on April 26, 2012
Book Review: David Jaco, Spontaneous Palooka
Dave Jaco regales readers of his book with wild tales, both in and out of the ring (Mladinich)

More important than his very entertaining boxing stories is Jaco’s depth of character as a human being, especially as a father…

During a career that lasted from 1981 to 1994, heavyweight David Jaco traversed the globe fighting a veritable who’s who of champions and contenders. Although best known for losing to Mike Tyson, George Foreman, Buster Douglas, Tony Tucker, Tommy Morrison, Oliver McCall and Mike Weaver, he TKO’d Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, who was 9-0-1 at the time, in April 1985.

Fighting in so many states that he lost count, as well as in China, Brazil, Denmark, Hungary, England, Germany, South Africa and Canada, the now 57-year-old Jaco compiled a deceptive record of 24-25-1 (19 KOs).

The extremely likeable Jaco is a great raconteur, whether it is in person or in his just published book, “Spontaneous Palooka and Mr. Mom: The Story of a Man’s Love for His Children and Prizefighting.”

Jaco regales the readers with wild tales, both in and out of the ring. More important than his very entertaining boxing stories is Jaco’s depth of character as a human being, especially as a father.

Having grown up in Toledo, Ohio, he began working at Interlaken Steel, which had employed locals for decades, right after high school. After getting laid off in 1979, Jaco, who by then had a wife and two sons, Aaron and Adam, was in dire straits.

In order to earn much-needed money, he began competing in Toughman contests, where his vaunted right hand made him such a fearsome opponent that no one would fight him. With very little amateur experience, he turned pro and quickly won 10 fights without a loss before being stopped by Carl “The Truth” Williams in June 1983.

“Williams was in the prime of his life, and I was still learning,” said Jaco. “I shouldn’t have been fighting him, but I didn’t know any better.” 

After winning and losing several more fights, including the stoppage of Ruddock, Jaco was matched with Tyson in Albany, New York, in January 1986.

“I got up from a knockdown and the ref was waving the fight over,” said Jaco. “I reminded him of the three knockdown rule. He said I just used all my knockdowns up. I thought I only went down twice.”

Despite being stopped in the first round by Iron Mike, the $5,000 Jaco earned changed his life forever. He took his money to Florida, where he battled valiantly for custody of his two sons who were living with his troubled ex-wife. After much courtroom wrangling, he was able to finally become the father he believes he was always meant to be. 

“I immediately tracked down my kids and took them for a few months,” said Jaco, who still lives in Florida, where he is remarried and the father of four beautiful daughters. “I was feeding them and taking them to the beach to play football and swim. I was being their father, which was more important to me than anything.”

Both of Jaco’s sons from his first wife are fighting professionally. Aaron, who was stopped in two rounds by Kelly Pavlik in March, is 15-3 (5 KOs), while Adam, a super middleweight, is 9-5-1 (4 KOs). 

The elder Jaco’s exploits are all chronicled in his wonderful and whimsical new book, which is as enjoyable as hanging out with him as he tells one great story after another. He is extremely honest about both his skills and limitations, as well as his travels and travails in the roughest of vocations. There is also no shortage of bawdy tales from around the world, as well as behind the scenes shenanigans from his more notable fights. 

To know Jaco, who was once profiled on ABC’s “Prime Time Live,” as a “Palooka” is to love him. He is always smiling, extremely positive, quick with a joke, and as honest and earnest as the day is long.

Anyone even remotely interested in the colorful characters and ribald tales that are part of the boxing game will love this book. 

Jaco makes no apologies for boxing, and he doesn’t try to present himself as something or someone that he is not. What he was, but what he might be too modest to admit, was a young man with limitless potential who under different circumstances could have had an altogether different career.

But what was most important to him was, and continues to be, is his allegiance to the people he loves. Despite living a life more ordinary men might envy, at his core Jaco is a family man with a big appetite for life’s simpler pleasures, mainly living well by laughing a lot and counting his blessings.

By the time you get done with this highly entertaining read, you’ll be hoping that the sequel comes out soon. You’ll also come away with as much respect for Jaco as he deservedly has for himself.

Recalling a notable 1989 bout, Jaco says, “They called me on a Monday night and had me fight Tommy Morrison on a Tuesday on ESPN. I was a palooka, one of those guys who basically goes in there looking for a big payday. I made thousands when I fought, but I didn’t consider myself a palooka. I was a decent fighter.”

As well as a wonderful husband and father, and a very decent man. 

To order “Spontaneous Palooka,” log onto or send $13 per book to: David Jaco, 7619 49th Ave East, Bradenton, Florida 34203.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Razor Ruddock Vs. Dave Jaco FULL FIGHT

Mike Tyson Vs. David Jaco HD

Tommy Morrison vs David Jaco

Aaron Jaco,Pro Boxer & Owner of Uppercut, Sarasota, Florida

Athlete of the Week: Adam Jaco

Kelly Pavlik vs Aaron Jaco

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  1. Brian Sweet 06:19am, 07/23/2017

    I had the good fortune to see every Toledo Toughman Fight That Dave fought. I did not know who he was but I was an instant fan after I witnessed his first win. I can recall him taking the ring wearing a long robe (blue with white trim if my memory serves me right). The back of the robe read “Gentleman Jake”. After he disrobed, I made the comment to my buddies that “This skinny guy is going to get destroyed by this huge muscular Biker Brut”. After only a few minutes it became apparent that Gentleman Jake had some both raw and formal skills (hands and footwork). He carved up every huge guy that he faced with skills and guts. In every match he got in trouble for a few seconds but he would slip, bob and weave and then punch his way out of trouble and ultimately knock his bigger opponent out. It was totally exciting and a pleasure to watch. It seemed like he had the raw skills to go pro but I would have never have dreamed that he would fight Tyson. Not many guys got up off of the canvass from a Tyson knock down let alone three times like Gentleman Jake did. I ran into him at a local bar only a few months after he won the grueling Toughman contest. I approached him. He was very approachable and genuine. I thanked him for his exciting fighting style and his raw guts. He told me that “winning that Toughman tournament was all heart”.  He sure showed it in the ring. Thanks, Gentleman Jake. Congratulations on a great professional career.

  2. Mac Mean 04:20pm, 04/29/2012

    I know Dave from the streets of Sarasota, he’s a true gentleman but you dont wanna piss him off. Thank god ive only seen him in one street fight and it only lasted 5 seconds after Dave bitch slapped a big redneck in the parking lot of an apartment complex. I know I dont ever wanna face a guy like Dave Jaco

  3. Bill O'Connor 12:30pm, 04/29/2012

    I’ve known Dave for over 10 years and he is funny and stand up guy. You get what you see with Dave and that’s his honesty and humor. I remember watching the Razor and Dave J. fights years ago and couldn’t believe Razor was beaten that bad by a fighter I never heard of. Dave fought anyone and it was all for good reasons. I hope the boxing world could appreciate the fearlessness that Dave had when today’s fighters “hand pick” their fighter to benefit themselves.

  4. Bob 08:22am, 04/27/2012

    Watch the You Tube clip of Dave beating Ruddock that is attached to this article and you will see what a game and solid fighter Dave was.

  5. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 05:52am, 04/27/2012

    “I was a decent fighter”...heck yea you were…if you can stop Razor Ruddock you’re more than a decent fighter. If you had someone in your corner watching over you and looking out for you….you “coulda been a contender”. When I think of palookas I summon up Joe Palooka, my hero from the comic strips in years gone by….he was quite a fighter!

  6. mikecasey 11:37pm, 04/26/2012

    Sounds like a cracking read. I remember Dave well. I don’t think there was anywhere he didn’t fight at some point! Good luck to him. Boxing should be grateful for his kind.

  7. pete 03:54pm, 04/26/2012

    I read the book and enjoyed it. A gutsy fighter who took out a tough opponent in Razor Rudduck.

  8. the threasher 02:34pm, 04/26/2012

    I have read his signed book, and it is a superb read—straight from the heart. David is 100% genuine in a world with far too many phonies.

  9. Nick from Tampa 01:49pm, 04/26/2012

    Great to see a story on such a good guy.  Dave had a lot of balls and was not afraid of anyone. Glad to see him get his due.

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