Badou Jack is ready to knockout Superman
Photographs by Anthony Geathers
Badou Jack isn’t the type of fighter to get caught up in hype and pre-fight chatter. “I do my talking in the ring,” he says. At least that’s the plan, as he steps into the ring on May 19th at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto to face Adonis “Superman” Stevenson, the WBC light heavyweight champion. “He likes to talk,” Jack says. “He can talk all he wants. It’s not going to change the result.” Badou Jack “The Ripper,” expresses his fighting philosophy in one concise sentence: “I like to beat people up.”
Jack didn’t start beating people up until he turned 18, somewhat late for a boxer who would become a two-time world champion. Born to a father from Gambia and a mother from Sweden, Jack was born and raised in Sweden. With that unique lineage, he had two different paths to the 2008 Olympic Games. Choosing the road less traveled, Jack became the first boxer in Gambia’s history to qualify for the Olympics. He was also the nation’s flag bearer for the opening ceremonies. “That was a great honor for me,” Jack says. “To carry the flag into a stadium filled with people, so many people watching at home. It was amazing.”
When Jack turned pro, it was American heavyweight Shannon Briggs who saw something in Jack. “I saw the talent, I saw the composure,” Briggs once told Sky Sports. “Everything about him said ‘champion.’”
After signing with Briggs, Jack moved to the United States in 2011 and lived in Briggs’ house in Florida for a while. “Shannon is a good friend,” Jack says. “I think people have an impression of him from everything he says, but he has a big heart.”
Taking Jack under his wing, Briggs wanted to help Jack reach the next level as a pro fighter. “He was raw, but he’s learned so much,” Briggs said. “He’s a tough kid, trust me, he’s tougher than hell. His boxing skills have gone from level one to level 10 overnight.”
When Briggs decided to take some time off from boxing, he encouraged Jack to look into other avenues to find his fame in boxing. While sparring in Las Vegas in 2012 with Andre Dirrell, Jack happened to catch the eye of the most famous boxer of them all, Floyd “Money” Mayweather.
In addition to being one of boxing’s all-time greats, Mayweather would soon become Jack’s promoter as well. Jack vividly remembers the call from Mayweather that changed his boxing life forever.
“I was on a flight from Thailand, and when my plane landed, I had four missed calls from Floyd, so I called him back as soon as I got off the plane.
“Who’s the man?” Mayweather asked.
“You are,” Jack said. “What’s going on?”
“I got you a title shot!” Mayweather said.
The fight against Anthony Dirrell would be for the WBC super middleweight title in Chicago. When Jack defeated Dirrell by decision, he achieved his goal of becoming a world champion, and put himself among the rising stars of the sport.
Jack defended the super middleweight title three times before stepping up in weight class to defeat Nathan Cleverly for the WBA light heavyweight title. But his upcoming fight with Stevenson is the fight he’s long been waiting for to propel him on to the international stage.
At 34 years of age, Jack knows that the fight game isn’t going to last forever. He has to make his fame and fortune now. His wife, Yasemin, just gave birth to their second child. It’s helped focus Jack on his future both in and out of boxing.
“I’m launching a new line of supplements called Ripper Nutrition,” he says. “I wanted to create a line that was pure and clean and that people could trust. I know boxing doesn’t last forever, so it was important for me to create a business that can provide for my family for years to come.”
For now, Jack has his sights singularly focused on beating Adonis Stevenson for the WBC light heavyweight title. “I’m sure there will be a lot of people rooting for me,” he says laughing. “They would love to see someone shut that guy up.”
Badou Jack faces Adonis Stevenson on Saturday, May 19that 10 p.m. ET live on Showtime.