Fighters are not like the rest of us, example #8,234.
Back in January, Badou Jack faced Marcus Browne for the interim WBA light heavyweight title. In round seven, the two clashed heads and Jack emerged with what could be best described as a hatchet wound which ran from the middle of his forehead down to between his eyes.
The fight continued, going all 12 rounds while Jack appeared to lose a gallon of blood. Maybe two. But what bothered him the most was losing the decision to Browne, not the cut or the blood.
“I’m a warrior, so to me it wasn’t a big deal,” Jack said. “Of course, losing the fight was the worst thing that happened. But it was just a little cut. I’ve got a little scar, but it’s not that bad and it could have been worse.”
It’s hard to imagine it being any worse, and the only way that was a little cut is if Jack had a four foot tall head. But this is what fighters like Jack do. Call it an occupational hazard, but he never even thought of looking for the exit. Not that he would have been able to see it if he did.
“I could barely see for half of the fight, so it was kinda hard,” he said, chuckling as he continued. “I got more credit for this fight, which was the worst fight in my professional career, rather than my big wins that I showed a lot of heart in. That’s nothing out of the ordinary. If you’re a real fighter, you’re supposed to fight through it. To me it was nothing special.”
It was something special, if only to prove once again that those who step between the ropes are made of sterner stuff than most. Today, Jack is days away from challenging Jean Pascal for the belt he took from Browne when he upset the Staten Islander in August, and the Saturday bout is an opportunity to have the words “world champion” attached to his name once again.
“I want to get my belt back and get back on top,” he said. “That’s it.”
I ask him if there’s anything he misses about not having a title belt around his waist, and he laughs.
“Not really. That was my seventh world title fight in a row.”
In other words, he hasn’t had time to miss it, even though he’s been fighting elite competition night in and night out since 2015, when he removed the WBC super middleweight crown from the head of Anthony Dirrell.
Then it was off to fights with George Groves, Lucian Bute, James DeGale, Nathan Cleverly, Adonis Stevenson and Browne, and with a 3-1-2 record in those bouts, it was clear that the Stockholm native was among the best in the game at both 168 and 175 pounds, with a style that excited fans because of the offensive variety he brought to the ring.
“I might not be the biggest puncher, but I know how to break you down and beat you up, and that sometimes takes more out of you than getting knocked out,” said Jack, who nonetheless admits that he was far from at his best against Browne, even before the blood affected his vision in the second half of the fight.
“Other than the cut, I still felt flat that night,” he said. “I didn’t feel good. I take nothing away from Marcus Browne, he’s a good athletic fighter, but I was basically a blind man for six, seven rounds and he still couldn’t really do anything. If I had somebody bleeding like that, I would have stopped him. But of course it affected my performance. I could barely see.”
Jack’s lopsided loss adds even more intrigue to the matchup with Pascal, who was thought to be done as a top-level 175-pounder before he dropped Browne three times and took a close technical decision win when a clash of heads opened Browne up this time, sending the fight to the scorecards in the eighth round. And while a rematch with the New Yorker would likely have been up Jack’s alley, this fight will do for now.
“I was cleared to fight in March, so I’ve just been waiting for the fight date,” said Jack. “I think they would have given me a fight sooner if it wasn’t for this thing to happen with Pascal and Marcus Browne and me fighting the winner. Otherwise I probably would have been back in September. But now we have a big fight and I’m excited.”
He’s so excited that the prospect of not getting fat during the holiday season isn’t even a concern. But that’s not surprising given the selfless nature of the 36-year-old, whose Badou Jack Foundation has been a key part of his drive to succeed for several years now. In fact, when asked about it, he says he hopes that will be his legacy, not what he’s done in the ring.
“I want to be known more for that than my boxing career, actually,” he said. “It’s a blessing for me to be able to help other people, especially people in need like orphans and refugee kids. We’re going to continue to do some great work with my foundation and hopefully a lot of people can support us.”
In the meantime, there’s a fight to be fought. It’s the 28th trip between the ropes for Jack this Saturday in Atlanta, and that could be an excuse for some to get complacent, but not him.
“It kinda feels the same as always, but I’m a little more hungry,” he said. “Maybe I needed that loss. I feel like a contender now, so there’s something to prove that I still got it, that the loss was just a fluke. I can’t wait.”