John David Jackson Talks Kovalev-Ward II
John David Jackson is no stranger to making headlines, as a boxer and as the trainer to former champion Sergey Kovalev.
This past month, however, Jackson has made headlines so often that it surprised even him, as he and Kovalev prepare for the Ukrainian’s rematch with Andre Ward. Ward and his team have claimed that following the American’s 2016 victory over Kovalev, Jackson attempted to change teams and contacted Ward’s people about training him rather than Kovalev.
In an interview with FIGHT SPORTS the week of the rematch, Jackson said that Ward’s comments have not been a distraction to he or Kovalev.
"I’m glad that he did what he did," Jackson said. "All his facts are wrong. It actually worked out in our favor and brought me and Sergey closer together. So I’m thankful that they blurted out to me and made up a story about me going to them, when in actuality they reached out to me."
"It’s gamesmanship. They’re trying to get inside our teams’ heads.”
Jackson believes that Ward is resorting to mental warfare in part because of how the first fight between he and Kovalev transpired in November. Ward was victorious, winning on all three judges’ scorecards, but the decision was highly controversial. Many believed that night that Kovalev, who knocked down Ward in round 2 and appeared to control much of the fight, deserved to win.
Asked what Kovalev needs to change to avoid another gut-wrenching decision loss in a razor-close fight, Jackson says that it’s all about keeping up the pace throughout the twelve rounds.
"In a perfect world, a few more knockdowns on Kovalev’s side would secure the victory," he said. "There’s not much more Sergey has to do other than fight the second half like he fought the first half. More aggressive all the way through.
"He proved what I said all along — he’s the better boxer. Andre may be the more technically sound fighter, but when they fought the first time, Sergey proved in the first half of the fight that he’s the better boxer.”
When Jackson gives his strong opinions about boxing, he’s backed up by his own years of experience in the ring. From 1984 to 1999, Jackson put together a professional record of 36 wins and 4 losses. He battled the likes of Bernard Hopkins and Jorge Fernando Castro for world titles.
Surprisingly, when asked who the hardest hitter he ever faced was, Jackson looked all the way back to a 1986 bout with a relative unknown Johnny Banks Walker. "He hit me with an uppercut, and I must have seen 20 people in the ring that night. Luckily I cut him in the first round and they stopped the fight.”
As for how Kovalev’s power compares to the heavy-hitters he faced decades ago, Jackson says that Kovalev has the most special and dangerous kind of power: the kind you don’t expect him to have.
"His power is god-given. He’s not a specimen that you look and see him as a threat to you. Because he’s not that big, that muscular. When you look at him, you say ‘I’ll beat this guy.’ But once he hits you, woah. Most of his opponents, when they get him by him, they realize that what I told them in my pre-fight trash was honest. This guy can really hit.”
Jackson and Kovalev hope that power will be the deciding factor on Saturday night, when they look to hand Ward his first loss and avenge the November defeat that many believe they should’ve emerged victorious from.
Jackson’s fighting career may be done, but he still feels the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat alongside the fighter he walks to the ring with.
"I take it the same both ways, when I fought and as a trainer. When he loses, I lose. And I feel the loss because I too was once a fighter and I know what he’s going through.”
Sergey Kovalev rematches Andre Ward for the WBA, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight titles.