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John David Jackson: Action Man

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John David "Action" Jackson was one of the finest fighters in the middle divisions in the late 80's and throughout the first half of the 90's. He first won the WBO title (the first one!) as a light middleweight, before vacating it after 6 defenses to win the WBA middleweight one. However, that would be the end of his success and he found himself losing in what looked like a sure victory by a sudden turnaround knockout to Jorge Fernando Castro, in a legendary fight in 1994. After that, he quickly and sharply declined as a fighter, losing in his last title fight against a younger Bernard Hopkins by TKO 7. He would not fight long after that and retired with a record of 36 wins, 20 by ko and 4 losses, 2 by ko. Jackson was famous for his boxing skills, slickness and IQ, but was not much of a puncher. He did possess accumulative power however. Here is the story of "Action Jackson".


Jackson was born on May 17 1963 in Denver, Colorado. His height is a matter of dispute; according to boxrec, it is 5'9 but wikipedia has it 5'10 1/2. His reach is 71 inches. Jackson relocated to Tacoma in Washington state to start boxing as amateur, under trainer Joe Clough. He came to the quarter finals of the 1981 light middle Golden Gloves and was the finalist at the AUU tournament of the same year. He had a pretty long amateur career and ended it with a record of 206-9. He adopted the nickname "Action" as a pro after the movie character played by Carl Weathers in the 80's. He had his first pro fight on March 11 1984 and won it by KO 1. In his 15th fight, he won the Pennsylvania State super welter or junior middle title, by a TKO 6 against journeyman Sidney Outlaw. In his next fight, he defeated the former WBA champion Davey Moore by UD10, winning clearly on all scorecards. On December 8 1988, he was matched against Lupe Aquino, former WBC-champion, in what was the inaugural fight for the WBO title, at Cobo Arena in Detroit. Aquino had troubles with the law at the time, so his mind was not in the fight, therefore he was easily handled by Jackson, who put him down once in the first round and punished him for 7 rounds until he quit in the corner. On April 22 next year, he made his first defense against Steve Little and won by a TKO 8, after Little suffered a bad cut over his eye. His second defense would be controversial, as he went to Calvados in France to defend against Martin Camara, a French citizen, February 17 1990. Jackson was dominant for the first 10 rounds, but in the 11th, he was caught with a hard left-right combination and went down. He just beat the count at 9, but after he got up, the timekeeper signaled that he had been counted out. Camara's corner men then entered the ring in wild celebration, but the referee sent them all out, for he was of a different opinion. Jackson got extra time to recover as the ref discussed with other officials-in the end, the fight was declared a no-contest and the title declared vacant. However, lucky for Jackson, WBO disagreed and declared that Jackson was still the champion.


It was a big shock however that a fighter with a 13-11 record like Camara almost knocked a fighter like Jackson out and it was a foreshadowing of things to come. The French boxing federation even declared that no more WBO title fights will be taking place in France because of the craziness of the decision of the officials. Jackson then went on to defend for the third time in Leicester, England, where his opponent Chris Pyatt hailed from. Despite that, Jackson was dominant and even put Pyatt down with a short right in the 11th. He went on to win by a clear UD. That fight was in October and then next year on July 21, he made his fourth defense against former welterweight IBF challenger, Tyrone Trice-this time in Atlantic City. It was a very hot day and Jackson faded in the championship rounds, having outboxed Trice before that. He was caught and dropped in the 12th and last round with a straight right to the jaw, but he made it to the final bell and won comfortably on all scorecards. In 1992, he would make two more defenses, first by corner retirement in 9 against Pat Lawlor and then by a corner retirement in 10 against Michele Mastrodonato. No longer feeling able to make the weight, he then vacated the WBO belt sometime in 1993. He had his first fight at 160 (altho he weighed above that) in September that year and beat Charles LaCour by a TKO 3, before fighting for the WBA title against the champion Reggie Johnson on October 1, in Buenos Aires, of all places! Reggie Johnson was 34-2 and had previously given James Toney a very hard fight and beaten Steve Collins on points to win the title. As Jackson later said:"At the time I beat him for his WBA title, he was the best in the division. To beat him at his best was an accomplishment for me." It was also Johnson's fourth defense, but here he would lose by the close scores of 115-113 and 115-114. It was a close tactical affair and Jackson just did enough to snatch the decision and the title from "Sweet" Reggie.


However, he found himself stripped next year, after taking a non-title fight against Jeff Johnson and not notifying WBA or asking for their approval. He won that fight by a RTD 7 and then scored a KO 7 victory over a guy called Danny Garcia, in what was a super middleweight fight. He then got the chance to win his title back, against the man that now held it-Jorge Fernando Castro aka "Locomotora". Castro, although around the same height or possibly even a little shorter, hit considerably harder, had an iron chin and a good stamina and could of course therefore take incredible amounts of punishment. They faced off December 10 '94 in Monterrey, Mexico and Jackson soundly dominated the fight for 8 rounds, giving Castro a bad beating. When the ninth round began, there was no change-Jackson kept battering Castro, until about 2 minutes after, when Castro, leaning against the ropes, produced a miracle punch, a left hook which caught Jackson flush on the chin and put him down. He got up but was visibly hurt. Shortly after that, he was down twice more and was unable to make the count. The fight was named the FOTY by The Ring and the ninth round was the ROUND OF THE YEAR also. While Castro could celebrate his glorious comeback victory, Jackson's career lay in tatters. He came back next year and had 3 fights, first one at 168 and other two at 160, before fighting his old sparring partner Bernard Hopkins for his IBF middle title, April 19 1997 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Action Jackson simply looked old, a different man than in his last title fight. The first 3 rounds were boring and uneventful and then Hopkins picked up the pace and sent him through the ropes in the 6th. Jackson got up and made it out of the round, but was again sent thru the ropes in the 7th and stopped at 2 minutes 22 seconds. "He was the teacher, but there comes a time where the pupil must graduate. Today was that time", Hopkins said afterwards. Jackson was absent from the ring for the rest of that year, but on February 20 next year, he came back to fight Castro again. Castro was no longer the champion and was fighting at a higher weight, so the fight was for the vacant WBA Fedelatin super middle title, in Cipolletti, Argentina. Jackson was down in round 1 and 4 but had his moments and lost by a mostly close unanimous 10-round decision. He would have his last fight on September 25 '99, beating Dave Boone in a light heavyweight fight by a TKO 2. Thus, he at least went out on a good note.


In retirement, he became a respected trainer and among others trained Sergey Kovalev (until they fell out of course), Nate Campbell, Randall Bailey, Bernard Hopkins (for his fight against Antonio Tarver) and also Shane Mosley for his second fight against Winky Wright. Talent-wise, Jackson surely belongs in the hall of fame, but because of his devastating losses and a rather short prime as a world champion, he will likely never get into the IBHOF. He was surely one of the most clever and slick boxers of his era, but got a little unlucky a few times, one might say. I hope you enjoyed this presentation.



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