Former world champion and current boxing trainer, John David Jackson, will be working the corner of a former opponent that he once fought almost two decades ago, the legendary Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins is now 51 years old and is heading into what is being promoted as his final fight. John David Jackson, only two years Hopkins’ elder, will be the head trainer after previously training Sergey Kovalev to hand Hopkins his most one sided defeat of his career.
In part 1 of my “On The Ropes” boxing radio interview with John David Jackson, I discuss with him his path to training Bernard Hopkins and if there was any animosity before working with each other again. Jackson also talks about what kind of fighter Hopkins is now at 51 compared to the younger version he fought and trained in the past. Additionally, John shares his thoughts on Joe Smith Jr. as a fighter and gives his official prediction for the fight. Here is what John David Jackson had to say.
Jenna J: You will be taking Bernard Hopkins to his final fight this Saturday. How did you and Bernard come to work together again?
John David Jackson: Bernard and I had just been talking, crossing our paths with the recent fights and he had mentioned that he was going to have one more fight. We had great success in the Antonio Tarver fight and the Kelly Pavlik fights, fights that I orchestrated the blueprint for, and they worked well. We just kept talking and I think things between him and Naazim Richardson weren’t going so well, so we decided to go out together in the blaze of glory.
Jenna J: Was there any animosity due to the fact that you helped engineer one of his most decisive losses when he took on Sergey Kovalev?
John David Jackson: I don’t think there’s any animosity, it was business. I had warned Bernard’s people — not him directly, but his people — to not fight Sergey about five years ago because I just knew that Sergey was young and stronger and he’s a different type of fighter, one that would give Bernard trouble at this stage of Bernard’s career. It wasn’t personal for me.
People thought that the fact that Bernard had defeated me in our championship fight in 1997 meant that I would use that as revenge, but as a man I can’t use another fighter’s victory as my revenge. I was happy that Sergey won and he used my gameplan to a tee, but the only way I can feel vindication is if I beat Bernard myself. There’s no animosity towards Bernard, it was all business, it was a fight I thought he shouldn’t have taken and it proved that. It was just business, Sergey was my guy and Bernard was in his path and he had to get past him. It was never personal.
Jenna J: When you look at Bernard now at his age, what type of fighter do you have to work with?
John David Jackson: I have a very crafty, knowledgeable, older fighter who doesn’t fight as his age would indicate. He still has enough left to beat most of the young crop of light heavyweights that are out there. This should be Bernard’s last fight but he has enough left in his tank and enough knowledge to beat most of the light heavyweights in boxing. The clock is ticking and it’s time to shut it down but there’s one left in him and if he got a knockout it would be great but just a win by decision at this stage of his career would be a testimony to how truly great Bernard has been during his time in boxing.
Jenna J: He will be fighting Joe Smith, who is coming off of a knockout win over Andrzej Fonfara. What do you see in him?
John David Jackson: I see a kid who seems to be very hungry. I think he’s a hungry, young soldier who wants to prove that he belongs in the top echelon of the light heavyweight division. I look at his record and it’s not filled with a lot of good names on it, but he’s dangerous. He wants a victory over Bernard to elevate him and catapult him into a bigger cash bracket.
He’s dangerous and we’re not taking him lightly because every fight at this stage in Bernard’s career is dangerous for him. To look past him or to say it’s a walk in the park, no because he’s hungry and he wants to get a little taste of that fame that Bernard has been able to enjoy in his career. Se we definitely know that this is not a guy that train lightly for, Bernard decided to take on a tough opponent on the way out.
Jenna J: What is your official prediction, how do you expect the fight to play out from the opening bell to the finish?
John David Jackson: I think early on Smith is going to come out, he’s going to try and use his youth and strength to his advantage and it might serve him well early. How early it depends on what Bernard does to nullify what he’s going to do, but I think as the fight wares on, the experience and Bernard’s ring generalship will take over and I see Bernard winning the fight.
I see Bernard winning the fight by decision, he might surprise people and score a late round stoppage, but I see Bernard winning the fight handily. Listen, unless father time shows up that night and decides to slow Bernard down, Bernard should win the fight, he should win the fight handily.