John David Jackson on the Chitlin Circuit

By Christian Giudice on November 17, 2014
John David Jackson on the Chitlin Circuit
“What's his motivation to keep going? It's not money. Is it that he has nothing else to do?”

“When I first started working with him, he didn’t move his head or jab his way inside. Now he moves his head and moves behind his jab…”

Last Thursday night, upcoming boxing promoter Jonathan K. Nazeer put on a fight card at Midnite Rodeo in Charlotte, NC. The most polished fighter of the evening, cruiserweight prospect, Steve Geffrard, 8-2 (6 KOs), earned a fifth-round TKO against an overmatched but game Shannon Miller. After the fight, Geffrard gushed about his improvement working with trainer, John David Jackson. A week prior, Jackson, who only once fought in North Carolina in the amateurs, proved to be the mastermind behind Sergey Kovalev’s eye-opening, one-sided victory over Bernard Hopkins. sat down with Jackson for an interview to discuss Hopkins’s future, and Kovalev’s triumph:

CG: What indication did you have that Bernard Hopkins had lost so much so quickly? When did you realize that he wasn’t playing possum or biding his time?

JDJ: I just knew. I knew Hopkins. I knew he was an old man facing a strong, younger fighter.

CG: At what point did you realize that Hopkins himself had recognized that he had miscalculated by facing Sergey?

JDJ: I was thinking that once Sergey introduced himself to Bernard (in the first round), he realized he bit off more than he could chew, and that he was in with the wrong guy at the wrong time to perform his magic.

CG: Sergey was extremely patient, and never rushed his attack. After that knockdown in the first round, what did you say to him when he came back to the corner?

JDJ: He came back and I told him to relax. Don’t get excited. Don’t go to his head. We wanted to beat him slowly. Sergey got off to a good start, and landed a good shot. We knew it would be a while, so we wanted to keep draining Bernard’s energy. We knew that Bernard was a cagey veteran. Sergey was the better puncher. People thought Sergey would be robotic, but he wasn’t. We had been sparring 12 (4-minute rounds). People were saying he hasn’t gone past eight rounds, but we trained for 12 rounds.

CG: Sergey was extremely patient throughout the bout, and never forced things. Going into those last couple rounds, did you tell Sergey to go back to his jab, stay out of harm’s way, or did you tell him to look for the knockout?

JDJ: I told him that if he wanted the knockout, then go get it. But I also told him to be careful, keep his hands up, and don’t be careless because Bernard knew he was down. I was glad he didn’t knock him out in that final round. Sergey was glad he didn’t knock him out out of respect for him.

CG: What were you thinking as Bernard looked so desperate in that final round? Did you ever imagine you would see him in that state?

JDJ: He won’t admit he was hurt, but he was. The referee gave Bernard a chance.

CG: When you went back to look at the tape, what impressed you most about Sergey’s performance?

JDJ: His ability to cut off the ring and how well he boxed. When I first started working with him, he didn’t move his head or jab his way inside. Now he moves his head and moves behind his jab.

CG: Are you happy you had the opportunity to face Bernard first? What do you think was going through the head of Adonis Stevenson’s camp as Sergey dominated Bernard in such a decisive fashion?

JDJ: We wanted Stevenson, but whatever happened—he didn’t honor his contract. Now it’s sweeter because Sergey can call his own shots. Stevenson has to come to us. They’re probably happy they didn’t fight us. Now, they have more time to devise a gameplan.

CG: After the fight did you talk to Bernard?

JDJ: I told him he’s had a wonderful career. But he doesn’t need to cheapen it by fighting guys he shouldn’t be in the ring with. There’s no reason for him to keep going. He’s already done more than most. So many fighters would love to have had the career that he’s had. What’s his motivation to keep going? It’s not money. It’s not belts. Is it that he has nothing else to do? He can take care of his baby—Golden Boy. He’s my friend. It’s a business. Sergey followed my gameplan, but I don’t look at it as revenge.

CG: What brings you to Charlotte, North Carolina?

JDJ: I am training cruiserweight Steve Geffrard. I call Charlotte the “chitlins” circuit because you fight in Charlotte to help build up your fighters.

CG: Was there anything about Sergey’s performance that Geffrard looked at and learned from?

JDJ: Steve sparred with Sergey, so he is already familiar with him.

Christian Giudice
Author: The Rise and Fall of Alexis Argüello
Author: Hands of Stone: The Life and Legend of Roberto Duran

Twitter Account:!/chrisgiudice
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