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Badou Jack on the bad decisions he has endured, the 133-stitch cut he survived and the kids’ Foundation he fights for

Badou Jack
Badou Jack, in his own words, on getting his head split open, the misery of bad judging, boxing Oleksandr Usyk as an amateur and the foundation that drives him forward

“THE bad decisions, man, they kept coming. But I knew I had beaten Jean Pascal. I knew. And he knew he’d lost. He knew. I looked over at his corner after the final bell and Pascal’s head was down, his trainers’ heads were down. They knew, too. Everyone around me is jumping up and down and screaming. I turned to my promoter, Floyd Mayweather, and I said: They can’t do it to me again, can they? Are you crazy? You won that fight by a long way. But I wasn’t crazy. A split decision. Pascal, the guy who I knew – knew – I had beaten was named the winner.

But what can I do about it? I could rant and rave and swear. It ain’t gonna change the decision. So I ask myself what lessons I can learn from that. Perhaps I started too late, perhaps I left too much doubt.

If you lose, accept it. You may not believe it to be fair, you may know that you deserved to win, but spending time blaming everyone else, or making excuses, only means that you’re not focusing on getting better. I won’t blame a suit that I wore to the ring. I won’t say my opponent landed a lucky punch or had something in their gloves. Simply, deal with the facts. Learn from those facts, move on, and do better next time.

I cannot blame anyone. Instead I’ve been away and learned new things. Learned to start quicker. I break my opponents down, that has always been me, but perhaps I started to break them down too late.

This is the hurt business that we’re in. Punches hurt. Judges getting things wrong hurt even more. But if you don’t stay positive in this sport, you will get nowhere. I will never give up, whether I get cut, hurt, or robbed. That is always my mentality.

I fight for my own kids, and I fight to help kids for my foundation. I fight for kids who haven’t had a chance in life.

Because of that, because of my kids and because of all those kids, I’m still hungry. I am a young 37. My first amateur fight came when I was 18, I didn’t turn professional until I was 25. I’m not stupid, I know I’m not a young guy, but I know myself. I still have a couple of years left, particularly in the higher weight classes. My goal is to win another title at light-heavyweight then win one at cruiserweight. That is not unrealistic.

I am realistic, that is just me. I don’t like to talk trash, I stay respectful. I am trying to be real. I’m not saying I’m a nice guy, I can talk trash if I want to, but what’s the point? We have time to talk inside the ring, where it matters. Lots of people talk, then can’t talk in the ring. That makes them look stupid. I’d rather beat you up than talk s**t about you.

This hasn’t been easy. I went from Anthony Dirrell to George Groves to Lucian Bute to James DeGale to Nathan Cleverly to Adonis Stevenson to Marcus Browne to Jean Pascal. It’s been a long journey.

I fought Oleksandr Usyk in 2006 as an amateur at the European championships. We fought at 165lbs. He’s a very good fighter. The record books say he stopped me but he was up by 20 points, and that was that. He was running and running, he was tall and skinny but I could tell he was good fighter. The same bullshit amateur rules ended up costing him in the same tournament when he was ‘stopped’ by Matt Korobov in the semi-finals.
When I beat Dirrell [to win the WBC super-middleweight belt] in 2015 it was like a weight had been lifted. I spent weeks before that fight looking in the mirror every morning and greeting my reflection by saying, ‘And the new’. It was a relief when I heard those words in real life. I wanted more. I believed I proved myself to be the best super-middleweight in the world.

Nathan Cleverly called me out and that was my first fight at light-heavyweight. He throws a lot of punches and I knew I was going to have to work hard to counter that; I broke him down early and I was throwing 80-to-100 punches per round. Victory in round five.

After that, things happened that shouldn’t have. But I can look back now and say they happened for a reason. Adonis Stevenson, I thought I beat him, and they called it a draw. Everyone watching, aside from those judges, believe I won that fight. Then, Marcus Browne, and I get a headbutt that cuts my face open. Blood was everywhere and I couldn’t see. 133 stitches. But I can take that as a loss; I’m not saying he was better than Stevenson or anyone else I fought, but yes, that is my one loss because he deserved to win the decision. The blood, the headbutt, the fact I couldn’t see, they’re not excuses, they are some of the reasons why I lost. But they do not change the loss.

Badou Jack

It’s funny, people love me for the fight with Browne. Blood can do that. I told my corner not to stop the fight, I told the doctor not to stop the fight. I felt I could stop him, he was a frontrunner, the plan was the break him down but it was hard to see. All things being equal, he’s not on my level.
I still have a scar from that fight. It’s a pretty good one, it goes all the way down my forehead. It took about a month to heal up and I still put a Vitamin E gel on it every morning, I don’t need that opening up again.

Next was Jean Pascal and I really think I won that fight. He won two or three rounds and then he tests positive for steroids later. That bothers me. And of course the decisions bother me.

But it’s happened to me so many times, you almost get used to it. I felt I should have got the decision against James DeGale, but it’s a draw. Same with Stevenson. Then it happens again, but this time it’s not a draw, they say Pascal won. But even though it was at the back of my mind that it might happen, I felt it was so far ahead that they couldn’t do it again.

Why does it keep happening?

If you want to push me on that, okay. I don’t want to speak badly of anyone but I wasn’t supposed to win those fights. Look at those guys, they all have one thing in common. Aren’t they all advised by the same person? I can’t say that’s the reason, and it’s certainly not an excuse, but I’m human and it sure makes you wonder. Also, Julie Lederman, the experienced judge, she had me winning against Pascal. The other two judges were new to big fights, and they had him winning. Was that incompetence? I don’t know. But it wasn’t right.

So I didn’t win for three fights; two were robberies and the other was a freak accident. I won’t dwell on it. I don’t wake up in the morning angry about it. I’m talking about it now because I’m being asked to.

So it was odd when I found myself in an eight-rounder, my first in eight or nine years, against Blake McCernan last year. But that was a charity fight, I didn’t view it as a real challenge, it was for my foundation. My purse went to the refugee kids.

It was bizarre to be on the undercard of Mike Tyson versus Roy Jones. When Mike’s team approached me, and told me what was going on, I was surprised. They’re my favourite fighters but they’re over 50 years old and they’re gonna fight?

Floyd is of course another favourite fighter. He saw me in a sparring session in 2012 just before he went to prison. When he came out, he said he wanted to sign me. Since then, he’s always had my back. I fought on the biggest stage because of him. People just see him flashing money and they make presumptions about his character. But he does a lot for charities and for his community. He is influential in my life. When he talks, I listen.

But I am my own person. I want to be a better fighter. A better husband. A better father. I am always striving to the best person that I can be. To do that, you can’t focus on bad luck or sit around moaning about the past.

We started the Badou Jack Foundation four years ago. The mission is to give kids all over the world a fighting chance. We have worked in refugee camps and now we’re helping abused foster kids in the States. As a Muslim, I serve God and my fellow people. I have a platform as a boxer, as a champion, so I have a responsibility. It is my passion to help kids who need help.

It’s very sad to see how they live. The Syria refugee camp was really bad. I went there in 2019 and I saw them living in aluminium huts. In the winter, it’s so cold, some of them freeze to death. The families get $20-worth of food to live on for a month. That has to change.

I hear people moaning about lockdown. That they couldn’t leave their houses or go to restaurants. I looked at it a different way. I got to spend time with my family, with my children. I got to be a better person. Those of us who have homes, we’re the lucky ones.

I stayed focused. I couldn’t go to the gym so I created one in my garage; I bought heavy bags and equipment. Good job, too, because I would have been a heavyweight otherwise, and I’m too short for that.

For more information on the Badou Jack Foundation, go to www.badoujackfoundation.org.

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