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BADOU JACK SPEAKS AHEAD OF TOUGH FIGHT IN DUBAI

BADOU JACK SPEAKS AHEAD OF TOUGH FIGHT IN DUBAI

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Swede- Gambian boxer Badou Jack has arrived in Dubai ahead of his fight with Johnny Muller on November 26. In this interview with Esquire he talks about his preparations.

ESQUIRE: Welcome back to Dubai, champ. How’s training camp going?

Badou Jack: It’s going well. This month’s fight is the first time I’ve fought outside of the US in a decade. I believe that it’s important to train in the same – or a similar – place to where you’re fighting, because it removes unknown obstacles. Like, for example, if I was training in Las Vegas and flying to Dubai for the fight, it would take me a week to readjust to the time difference. I have a lot of good connections in the UAE, so training camp is fun.

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ESQ: We called you ‘champ’ before. Are you comfortable wearing that nickname?

BJ: There’s an element of pride that comes with it, because I think people use it as a sign of respect – so I appreciate that. But aside from the boxing stuff, I don’t see myself as any better than anyone else.

ESQ: You are already a two-weight world champion, but in your upcoming fight you are competing in yet another weight class – Cruiserweight. What is your preferred weight to fight at?

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BJ: Probably the one I’m fighting at now, because I hate having to cut 30lbs before a weigh-in. My last fight in June, I was fighting at Light Heavyweight, whereas now I’m moving up to Cruiserweight – which is about 10-12kg difference.  What that means is that I can eat more, put some more weight on and I don’t have to deplete myself – it feels better, but it also means that the guys I’m fighting will be bigger and stronger.

ESQ: That’s always the trade-off…

BJ: Yeah, exactly. Putting on 10kg means it isn’t as easy to move and be as fast as I’m used to being so that’s why we have training camps to work on that. But at least I don’t have to be on a super strict diet and try to lose 30lbs and take away muscle. I feel pretty comfortable right now.

ESQ: How difficult is it to shed 30lbs?

BJ: It takes a long time. In MMA you see fighters dropping 20lbs the day before a weigh-in, but in boxing that doesn’t really work. They can get away with it because ultimately, we fight for 12 rounds where as they do five. Also, in MMA you have more options in terms of fighting styles – if you’re tired, you can take them down and wrestle on the mat, with boxing it’s all in the hands and you’ve got to be quick and avoid taking punishment. 

ESQ: When did you know you wanted boxing to be a career?

BJ: I started amateur boxing in 2001, and went to the Olympics in 2008. It was about two years before the Olympics that I decided that I wanted to turn pro after the Games. I did it in small steps.

ESQ: Your current professional record is 24 wins, three draws and three losses. How do you deal with the losses?

BJ: My losses all came quite early in my career. My first one, I was caught cold with a big punch in the first round by a journeyman fighter [Derek Edwards]. It was the first time I’d ever been dropped in my whole life. I jumped up, but my legs just wouldn’t work. It was a lucky punch, and it really woke me up in terms of being a better fighter. Two fights later I became a world champion, beating the best guys in the world. The second loss, I was headbutted by accident, but it busted my face open really bad, and I had to fight with blood pouring into both of my eyes. I still have the scar on my face today. I honestly feel that I should only have one official loss. I was robbed with all three draws and two of the losses are contentious. I should be a five-time world champion, instead of two.

ESQ: Is boxing having a good moment?

BJ: Yeah. People like Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua are making things exciting at the heavyweight level, and when that is doing well, boxing tends to do well. Those guys are making so much more money now than fighters did back in the day! You can see this because there are people like Mike Tyson coming back to do exhibition fights at 55-years-old so that they can get a big payday.

ESQ: How do you feel about the rise of more exhibition fights? We’ve recently seen YouTubers fighting on boxing cards. Do you see them as taking opportunities away from professional boxers, or are they a good way to get more eyeballs on the sport? 

BJ: I mean, both. I was supposed to fight on a card where the main event was Floyd Mayweather and Logan Paul. Now, Logan Paul is not a boxer. But he has a huge YouTube following and it brings in business. I think there’s a lesson for boxers to take away from that, and that is they need to learn how to promote themselves better on things like social media. Ultimately, people like watching boxing, but what they like even more is watching people they know box. If boxers don’t work on building up their profiles, then that opens the doors to non-professional fighters to join the card. Celebrity boxing exhibitions can be fun, but ultimately they are entertainment, not sport.

ESQ: When you are preparing for a fight, how much of it is about ensuring that you are ready rather than preparing for a specific opponent.

BJ: You can only control what you’re doing. So it’s up to you to get yourself in the best condition, and then let the trainers worry about the tactics.

ESQ: During a fight, how difficult is it to take on information from your trainer in between rounds? I mean, you’re heart rate is probably jacked, you’re hurting and tired and then someone is giving you specific tactical information to digest…

BJ: Normally, the head coach is the only one who is supposed to speak, but there are times when everybody in the corner is talking all at the same time and you’re right, it is hard to take on board information when things are chaotic. My new trainer is very calm, and that is a great quality to have.  

ESQ: The scar on your forehead, was that from the headbutt you mentioned?

JB: Yeah. It’s been called the worst cut in the history of boxing! He [Marcus Brown] caught me with it in the fifth or sixth round, but I ended up going the whole 12 rounds. The cut man we had couldn’t close it up, and because it was in the middle of my forehead it was pouring blood into both eyes. The doctor had a look at it a couple of times, but didn’t stop the fight.

ESQ: Looking back on your career to date, do any of your knockout victories stand out?

JB: In 2013, I knocked down a Mexican fighter [Rogelio “Porky” Medina] three times in the same round. That was one of my best fights.

ESQ: Sometimes does it feel like your career has flown by?

JB: Yeah, it has been long, but not too long. I first fought for the world title in 2015, so at a World Class level, it’s only been six years – I still feel like I have a lot left. I live a clean life, I have good defense and there is plenty in the tank. I want that third world title.  

Badou Jack faces Johnny Muller at D4G Fight Night at Moto Space, Dubai, on November 26, 2021.  

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