John Jackson: A Beautiful Display Despite a Loss

John Jackson and Jermell Charlo engaged in battle
John Jackson and Jermell Charlo engaged in battle at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, May 21, 2016

Saturday May 21, 2016, Showtime featured a triple-header with three titles in the super welterweight division at stake. The opening bout featured a pairing of boxer-punchers: Houston native Jermell Charlo (28-0 13KO’s) taking on Virgin Islands native John Jackson (20-3 15KO’s). When the bout was first made, it was intriguing as both fighters are technically sound, with respectable power, (the edge in this category clearly goes to Jackson as he has inherited some of his dad’s renowned power) and a strong desire to win. For Charlo, it was the desire to step out of the shadow of his identical twin brother, IBF Super Welterweight Champion, Jermall Charlo. For Jackson it was about representing his hometown of St. Thomas Virgin Islands and the Jackson brand and name made famous by his father Julian Jackson. As intriguing as the fight was on paper, it was equally surprising in the ring.

Before I delve into an analysis of what transpired, I want to clearly state that there is no such thing as a flawless fighter or someone fighting a perfect fight. Mistakes will be made in the most brutal of chess matches – the fight game. What is clearly seen during a fight are the two combatants in the ring exchanging punches and trying to secure victory. What is often missed, overlooked and disregarded is the grueling preparation it takes to get to that point.  Now on to the fight.

The Game Plan: What Went Right for John

The 340 Boxing team designed a great game plan and in-fight strategy and John was executing it beautifully. Noted for being an aggressive fighter with fight-changing power, Charlo was completely befuddled when John came out and boxed. Jackson used great ring generalship, lateral movement, effective timing, combination punching and a great mix of power shots to keep Charlo confused and perplexed. John’s ability to effectively use lateral movement enabled him to dictate the pace of the fight and keep Charlo off rhythm and off balance.

John was also setting some great traps and was catching Charlo coming in. John’s backing up forced Charlo to rush in or reach and that provided the opportunity for John to stop suddenly, fire and then move again. This was a great strategy and Charlo did not seem to have an answer for it.

What Went Wrong for John

John did not do many things wrong in this fight. Though he was boxing beautifully, there are some things that he could have incorporated into his strategy and I will expand more on that a little later. The key thing that John did wrong in this fight is something that has been seen in some of his previous fights and can be corrected in the gym – he started dropping his hands. Ironically though, his hands were up at the time of the KO sequence. However, dropping his hands served as an invitation to his opponent to come in and attack; it gave him a clean look at the target and tempted him to exploit it. Sitting at ringside, I noticed in the fifth round that John started to drop his hands to the mid torso area. He was comfortable and in command of the fight and most of the time when he did this, he was out of range. However, Charlo is not a slow fighter and has the ability to close the gap pretty quickly.

While not as devastating, the fight ending sequence in this fight, was seen two weeks ago when Canelo stopped Amir Khan. In both cases, the one-two brought the end of the fight. Canelo used a throw-away jab to get Khan to drop his hands to block the punch, which opened the door for the straight right hand to land. Charlo used a short jab and chopping overhand right to stun John. The right landed on the left eye/temple area of John and immediately dazed him and affected his equilibrium. This was evidenced by the stiffening of his right leg and the awkward way in which he slowly turned away that compelled Charlo to attack with the left hook to a defenseless Jackson.  Referee Tony Weeks was left with no choice but to jump in and stop the fight. During that sequence did John do anything wrong? No. He was attempting to land a left hook of his own but Charlo’s two punches hit their target before John’s did. Exchanges are risky for both fighters as both are exposed at that point. Unfortunately, Charlo got there first and it led to the fight being stopped.

What John Can Incorporate Going Forward

It is always 20/20 in hindsight and I am in no way attempting to be the Monday morning quarterback. However, there are some things that I would have liked to have seen incorporated into John’s in-fight strategy on fight night.

  1. John had superb defense during the fight. Yes he has a habit of dropping his hands (which is attributable to his comfort level in the fight and something that must be corrected in the gym). However, he made Charlo miss, miss often and miss wildly; but he did not make him pay. There were opportunities for John to counter when Charlo missed and was open, exposed and out of position.
  2. Another thing I would like to have seen more of was the jab. Not one jab, but to double and triple the jab. Additionally, jabbing while moving. John had exceptional lateral movement. How great would it have been to fire off a couple of jabs as he was moving?
  3. Turn Charlo. There was some concern about Charlo’s left hook, and rightfully so. At this level, no one throws slow punches or soft punches. The punches are all fast and hurt. However, there was an opening for John to fire some shots, return his guard and quickly step to his own right, on an angle and force Charlo to have to turn to his left and reset. John would have been stepping away from Charlo’s dominant and strongest hand –  the right, getting Charlo out of position and being in position to land secondary shots as Charlo had to reset. Ideally, you want to be moving or stepping as you are throwing your shots. Trust me, it is not easy to do, but John has the skills and abilities to do it.

Where does he Go From Here?

Onward and upward. Yes he came up short in this fight, but it was a fight where he was boxing well, leading on the scorecards and looking good doing it. He is humble, fan-friendly and extremely skilled and talented. In this fickle boxing landscape, a loss can be extremely detrimental to a fighter’s career. However, I don’t see that as being the case here. He will have to grab a few lower-level wins; probably two or three and he can be right back in the mix. He has a few things to work on and they are correctable. Most importantly, he has the right attitude and the right mentality and that is the greatest asset and attribute of any fighter.  If the mind isn’t right, the fight won’t be right.


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