John David Jackson Says Sergey Kovalev Needs To Improve Conditioning

By Thad Moore on March 27, 2017
John David Jackson Says Sergey Kovalev Needs To Improve Conditioning
“Kovalev said, 'I want a knockout.' I said let's not wreck your game plan.” (Photo: Courtesy)

In the pro ranks, Jackson was known for his outstanding defense, boxing skills, and making his opponents miss…

John David Jackson fought over 200 bouts as an amateur compiling an impressive record of 206-9. In the pro ranks, Jackson was known for his outstanding defense, boxing skills, and making his opponents miss.

Jackson would often confuse his combatants by his willingness to stand right in front of them and use head movement and quick footwork to stymie them. Jackson notes that other pugilists would often think that he was slowing down when he stopped moving, all the while frustrating them more with pinpoint misfires.

Jackson, who was the first WBO junior middleweight champion in history, felt that he always needed to be in the best possible shape as he wore down his opponents who would often try in vain at cutting the ring off. In his prime, his jab and activity level helped to keep him on top at 154 pounds for over four years. His six successful defenses included a victory over Tyrone Trice and a title winning effort against Lupe Aquino.

Jackson outgrew the division and moved up to middleweight. Nicknamed “Action” he would soon challenge WBA middleweight king, Reggie Johnson. Johnson made three successful defenses of his belt before defending against Jackson. In fact, Jackson would call Johnson the best opponent he faced during his ring career spanning the 1980’s and ‘90’s.

“[Reggie] was a mirror image of me. When I beat him, I knew I could, but we matched each other boxing-wise in almost every category. He was a southpaw who could box and I was too.”

Jackson scored a unanimous decision win to notch his second world title. His reign as middleweight champion was short-lived. The WBA stripped him of his crown for taking part in a non-title bout without their permission.

“I beat the WBA in court five times. They didn’t give me my title back, but I stood up against them. They had all this money and power and they took away my title unjustly. It was David against Goliath. I wasn’t afraid to fight against them.”

After this, Jackson never won another belt. He had two tries, both defeats at the hands of WBA middleweight titleholder Jorge Castro and at the end of his career a loss to IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins. Jackson retired with a record of 36-4, 20 KOs.

“My biggest regret is none of the big ones, the top fighters in the middleweight division would ever fight me. I would never blame the fighters. I blame the promoters. I wasn’t aligned with any promoter at the time.”

The junior middleweight and middleweight divisions were steeped in talent when Jackson fought. Gerald McClellan, Julian Jackson, Roy Jones, Hopkins, and Terry Norris (to name a few) were all active during Jackson’s career. Jackson is pleased to include a story that was shared by one of these champions.

“Gerald McClellan gave me one of the biggest compliments in my life when he was champion. We were both champions at the time and we sparred together. He said to me, ‘I would fight Bernard first, I would fight Roy first. I would fight John last because he would be the toughest guy to fight.’”

Jackson also sparred with former champion Julian Jackson.

“I sparred with Julian and didn’t see the power. He hit me with a clean shot. I said, ‘This is it.’ But I was very talented defensively. If I made you miss, I got off on it. In my day, if I fought 100 guys I would have beat 98 of them. I would have done very well with the top of the top fighters.”

Many people know “Action” today for his work as a trainer. He has assisted Bernard Hopkins, Jameel McCline, and Shane Mosley among others. However, he is most well known for training one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, Sergey Kovalev.

“I show him things to help prepare him. Other fighters think they may know everything, but he allows me to show him things to improve on, that I see. Sergey knows how to box. I let him know to deflect what your opponent is doing that night and use your ring smarts. He’s very savvy and definitely smart in his approach.”

Jackson says that boxing is on the job training and that Kovalev is very good defensively, doesn’t receive much ring damage, and is dedicated to the sport. He sees someone in “Krusher” who he is comfortable matching up against anyone else in the squared circle. Of course, the conversation veers to his last battle, a controversial unanimous decision loss to Andre Ward. With it, the WBA Super World light heavyweight and IBF and WBO World light heavyweight crowns changed hands. This scribe scored the bout 114-113 in favor of Kovalev.

“The fight itself was good, but there probably could have been more action. The outcome and the result wasn’t as good as it should have been. I think Sergey got robbed. I don’t blame Andre. He was the mere fighter (as) all he does is fight. It was in the judges hands. Sergey should not have put it in their hands.”

“If he had Andre hurt, he should’ve jumped on him more. In the later rounds, he should’ve dominated more. He gave that window of opportunity for Andre to question it. At worst, it was 8-4, at best it was 9-3. How they had it 114-113 (for Ward) was beyond me. Because of the controversy, it drums up more attention for the sport.”

As we continue to discuss the Ward battle, Jackson discusses how some of Kovalev’s strengths were implemented and under-utilized over the course of 12 rounds.

“That jab is so strong and so powerful. I don’t think he really realized it during the fight. This is something that a lot of fans don’t realize. When a boxer is as good as Ward is, when he feints another fighter, he gets them in trouble. When a good boxer is in there with him, he can’t do what he wants to do. I told Kovalev to use the jab and that threw Ward off. Boxers aren’t used to that.”

“If Sergey went to the body more, it would have made things a lot easier. He got away from going to the body and the chest. I just knew even though Ward is a very good fighter, the jab was going to give him trouble. Sergey has a tremendous jab.”

Jackson is happy to cite the Ward game plan was and how it was executed.

“The first third of the fight I wanted [Sergey] to establish his power. I wanted him to establish that dominating jab. Let’s put the other guy on the defensive. The middle of the fight was staying within the program. If there was something more that needs to be done, let’s do that. The final third Kovalev said, ‘I want a knockout.’ I said let’s not wreck your game plan for a knockout where you might run into something even though Sergey has a very good chin. I told him don’t get carried away where you get hit by a shot and you get caught. My fighter was winning. I got to relax a little bit.”

What can Kovalev do better in the future?

“Conditioning. I would recommend improving there.”

Jackson believes that he has plenty of years of ring wisdom to continue to offer as a trainer. He plans to continue working with Kovalev and other combatants that ask for his help. Jackson believes in the sport of boxing and looks to continue to make an impact working with fighters at all levels.

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  1. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:52am, 03/28/2017

    Conditioning? Maybe so but how about this….give it to him straight to wit: They’re looking for a way to get you beat because you Russians and Eastern Europeans are really fukin’ things up because aside from the lowest weight classes which we don’t really give a fuk about, boxing in the US of A should mirror the NBA Godammit!.... so…..understand that all close rounds go to your opponent and there’s no sitting on a lead because you’re “the other” and you must beaten!

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