Interview: Julian Jackson

By Ray Wheatley – World of Boxing

Former 1987 WBA light middleweight and 1990 WBC middleweight champion Julian “The Hawk” Jackson (55-6, 49 KOs) spoke to Peter Maniatis about his legendary fights with Mike McCallum, In Chul Baek, Terry Norris, Gerald McClellan, Herol Graham and Dennis Milton. He also gave his thoughts on Hall of Fame promoter Don King.

Jackson was unbeaten in 29 fights and had won 27 via KO or TKO when he received a world title opportunity against Mike McCallum which was unsuccessful in 1986 but the following year he stopped South Korean KO artist In Chul Baek to capture the WBA light middleweight championship.

“My victory over In Chul Baek was a turning point in my life and my boxing career. I had lost my world title fight against Mike McCallum in my first shot that didn’t go well for me. I felt McCallum’s experience had a lot to do with that loss. I am not going to make any excuses but I really felt that fight was going to be mine and it turned out not being that. It did have a negative effect on me but the tide turned.

“I was given another opportunity because of what took place in that fight. The fight with In Chull Baek is what made me who I am and I believe God gave me the opportunity to get another chance at the world title. My trainer said this might be your last shot at the title and I heard that very clearly.

“There were some things in my life that I was going through so my life changed when I won the world title. I made a commitment to God at that time in my life when I fought In Chul Baek and I told Don King – ‘This is going to be my easiest fight.’ He thought I was crazy because In Chul Baek was one of the hardest hitters from South Korea. They told me to move away from his right hand but I went in there and finished the fight in three rounds. It was unbelievable.”

(Mike McCallum TKO2 Julian Jackson in WBA light middleweight title bout August 23, 1986)
(Julian Jackson TKO3 In Chul Baek to capture WBA light middleweight title November 21, 1987)

Buster Drayton and Francisco De Jesus were stopped in three and eight rounds respectively when they challenged Jackson for the WBA world title before Terry Norris would also challenge unsuccessfully.

“When I beat Terry Norris I remember his trainer Abel Sanchez, who I worked with some time afterwards. He said, ‘You didn’t have to hit him a second time – the first punch knocked him out.’ I said, ‘I had to make sure because that is Terry Norris and he is a good fighter and I wanted to make sure he stayed down.’

“My punching ability I believe came from being born with it. Some fighters are born with certain talent and I was born to punch. It worked out for me. I could box a little but I could punch better than I could box. It helped me out. Most of my fights never went past three rounds.”

(Julian Jackson TKO2 Terry Norris to retain WBA light middleweight title July 30, 1989)

The Torrequebrada Casino in Benalmadena, Andalucia, Spain was the venue and promoted by Barry Hearn where Julian Jackson would challenge Englishman Herol Graham for the vacant WBC middleweight crown.

“Herol Graham who I stopped was similar to Terry Norris because he was one of the best in his division. He was coming from England and was awkward being a southpaw. I had moved up to the middleweight division. If I wanted a million-dollar payday, I had to move up to the middleweights. We were supposed to fight in England but it happened in Spain because of technicalities pertaining to me having a detached retina.

“The fight was in Spain and he was one of the most awkward fighters I have met. I realized in order to beat him I had to be smart. He thought he had me when he caught me with a good punch and my left eye began to swell. The referee (Joe Cortez ) said I will have to stop this fight if something doesn’t happen. I remember that happened in the third round and I switched to southpaw and he came straight at me and there was an opportunity and I saw it and I threw a right hook – believe it or not and I caught him right on the chin and he went to sleep. I thank God that none of the fighters I knocked out have no serious injuries.”

(Julian Jackson KO4 Herol Graham to capture vacant WBC middleweight crown November 24,1990)

Don King promoted Julian Jackson’s next defense of the WBC title at the Mirage Casino in Las Vegas ten months later in 1991 against Dennis Milton with Mills Lane working as the third man in the ring.

“The Magic Man Dennis Milton who I boxed in Las Vegas and he had a lot of talk. I really thought I would have seen a lot more from him. He really pepped me up with the talk and I am not much of a talker. I am more of an action man. All the talk really paid off for me and I was ready to face him and deliver the punches. He was looking for the right hand but I set him up with the left hook.”

(Julian Jackson KO 1 Dennis Milton to retain WBC middleweight crown September 21, 1991)

After defending the championship successfully against Ron Collins and Thomas Tate in 1992, Jackson would be in against dangerous contender Gerald McClellan at the Thomas and Mack Centre in Las Vegas promoted by Don King in 1993.

“Gerald McClennan was a tremendous fighter. He was huge – he reminded me of In Chul Baek who was a big guy too. I really thought I was going to knock out McClennan also. He caught me I remember in the first fight. They were very concerned because he was having problems with his feet. I was digging him to the body and he was getting to that point but I dropped my hands and he caught me. He is also a tremendous puncher. (McClennan would also defeat Jackson in 1994) I visit him in the hospital. Praise God he is still alive. We became very good friends.

(Gerald McClellan TKO 4 Julian Jackson to capture WBC middleweight title bout on May 8, 1993) (Gerald McClellan KO1 Julian Jackson to defend WBC middleweight crown May 7, 1994)

Hall of Fame promoter Don King promoted ten of Jackson’s thirteen world title bouts with his biggest payday being $850,000.

“Don King was a shrewd businessman. I really wanted to get my million dollar payday. I think I deserved it and somehow things didn’t happen in that sense. I fought for a contract for $850,000 but I never got the opportunity to fight for a million dollars. I thought I deserved that but it never happened. I was from the Virgin Islands but Julio Chavez was from Mexico and had millions of fans following him…I think the fans loved to see Julian Jackson because they always saw action. I respected Don King then and I do now.”

* * *

After retiring from boxing, Jackson joined the ministry and still lives in his birthplace of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. He has continued his involvement in the local boxing field as a trainer and coach, and his three sons Julius, Julian Jackson Jr. and John Jackson have all competed professionally since 2009.

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  • Jackson’s comments on his natural God given KO punching talents should be taken seriously by up and coming young trainers. A young talented average puncher can not be made to be a great KO puncher. If a boxer does not have a decent punch he does not belong in the professional game. If you have Jackson’s punch along with the heart and chin required the world is yours.

    • Learning how to punch technically right will give most any fighter a decent punch. Not sure what ‘decent punch’ means but there has been some very good boxers, considered light punchers, able to make a successful career in the professional game.

      • Light punchers can be great pros in lighter weights but def not as HW. A skilled light puncher will not survive the uncoordinated sloppy chicken legged nuclear bombs of Deontay Wilder. Chris Byrd was an exception to that rule but he was a serious overachiever.

  • Jackson was so much fun to watch! He had that spooky KO power that would KO fighters on the turn of a dime. I give respect to Jackson as he was a mini-powerhouse made into a body built for boxing. Even going back to watch his past fights on You Tube is a treat!

  • I’ll always remember Joe Cortez in the Graham fight counting Graham out despite the fact that he was COMPLETELY gone. There was no one home at all and there’s Cortez counting ten.
    Jackson was just a ghoulish, nasty puncher and skillful as well.

      • Haha yeah yeah I know. I never said best fighter, just favourite. Watching his career rising in UK as a kid was the coolest thing ever. Made me a fan of the sport for life

  • A devastating puncher with a suspect chin who fought great competition! What else could you ask for? The outcome was always in question! Kept me on the edge of my seat every time.

    • Ahhh Verno Phillips, another excellent fighter who had about a half dozen losses early in his career facing tough competition. Honed his craft the right way and became a world champion. I wonder how many of these undefeated “contenders” could have hung in there with him. The good old days.

  • I was in the corner of Ismael “Mongoose” Negron when he got stopped by Julian in the first round at The Mirage for the WBC Middleweight belt. Negron was a very tough, rugged guy, but he had no memory whatsoever of being ko’d. That is how hard Julian could clout!

    • I remember Negron’s ring walk to Mama Said Knock You Out. He never got started, once Jackson’s vaunted power reared its head.

  • Tremendous power Jackson had, which Roy Jones wanted no part of. I like that he’s respectful of his opponents and the sport. This is so refreshing to see.

  • Jackson was probably the single hardest puncher, pound for pound, I’ve seen in all my years of watching boxing. Want to see an expample, check out his KO of Wayne Powell…..

  • A fighter could never let is guard down against Jackson; just ask Terry Norris. Not to knock todays fighters, but I think Jackson fought in the last era of great fighters in the middleweight domain. The titles changed hands often because there were so many good fighters and they consistently fought each other in all out, toe to toe wars. Todays fighters tend to be more cautious as to who they fight and how they fight in the ring. They’ve adopted a more conservative, counter punching style. Who can blame them? It makes for longevity in their career and life after boxing. Perhaps you can call it evolution.

  • He had many highlight reel knockouts where he would motion his fist toward the canvas as his opponent fell, as in the Buster Drayton match. Everyone was running chicken during ” Hawk Time!”

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