Gym Notes: Badou Jack readies for his light heavyweight debut
LAS VEGAS – The Mayweather Boxing Club was deserted, save for a man mopping up.
The gym, located near the Vegas strip, wouldn’t be this quiet again for quite some time. Less than 24 hours earlier, the mega fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and UFC star Conor McGregor was announced and soon Floyd will be deep into training.
“Money,” of course, isn’t the only top fighter who trains at the spacious facility. Shortly before 11 a.m., Badou Jack, who is promoted by Mayweather, rolled up in his silver Tesla with two unexpected visitors in tow on a blistering-hot desert morning two days before the second fight between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev.
Voluntary Anti-Doping Association collection agents – a woman riding shotgun with Jack and a bespectacled man driving an SUV – travelled with Jack for his routine late-morning workout, part of the WBC’s Clean Boxing Program. The collectors had arrived at Jack’s Vegas residence earlier but he was unable to provide a sample.
Now, in the air-conditioned entryway of the club, Jack – his two samples provided and stored in locked canisters so they couldn’t be contaminated – was ready to train for his own light heavyweight fight.
Mayweather has said his prized pupil will appear on the undercard of his fight against McGregor on Showtime PPV and that remains the plan.
A massive Showtime Sports banner hangs in the gym emblazoned with Mayweather’s likeness and a quote: “A true champion can adapt to anything.” Well, that’s exactly what Jack is attempting to do – adapt. Adapt to a new weight class, light heavyweight, after an impressive campaign at 168 pounds.
The 33-year-old weighed in at 195 pounds – after recently losing five pounds – for his workout with trainer Lou “Honey Boy” Del Valle, a former titleholder who fought Roy Jones Jr. and Virgil Hill. Jack last fought in January, a disputed draw against James DeGale, and he immediately announced his intention to give up his super middleweight belt.
This wasn’t a man who needed to work his way back into shape after a layoff, though. Jack, even at the size of a cruiserweight, appeared ripped and strong.
“I feel way better,” Jack (21-1-2, 12 knockouts) told RingTV.com before his workout. “Like in (the DeGale) fight, if I would have had my strength – I was still strong, I was still doing fine – but I didn’t feel the weight behind the punches like I usually have. I would have stopped him.
” … I feel good. I’m going to be way stronger, I’m going to be faster, my style is way better. I box better against bigger guys. I’m a natural light heavyweight.”
He said he should’ve moved to 175 a long time ago, but he “needed that unification” fight with DeGale, his biggest bout to date. Of course, if all goes according to plan and he fights on the Mayweather-McGregor undercard, he’ll receive more exposure than he could have ever hoped for.
Clad in a black and gray Reebok PlayDry top, Jack tore off his black “The Money Team” track pants with a thick gold stripe down the sides to reveal black gym shorts, and went to work.
Tupac Shakur’s “All Eyez On Me” bounced off the gym walls as Jack practiced fighting at range during shadow boxing, his right uppercut the chief weapon of choice. “It’s my favorite punch, just ask DeGale. Ask (Porky) Medina,” he says with a smile, referring to a shot that inflicted much of the damage that busted DeGale’s ear drum, broke his nose and knocked out a front tooth.
Del Valle, who has been with Team Jack on and off but became head trainer for the DeGale fight, shouted “Faster! Shoot the two!” as the native Swede punched the pads for six rounds.
A less-polished Jack once fought tall, in the European style. Now, with his knees bent, he exploded into every punch. Every so often, advisor Mike Leanardi reminded Jack to bend in his knees just a little bit more.
BAM! POW! CRACK! Over and over, Jack connected with a right uppercut, left hook combination that made a whipping sound off Del Valle’s black-and-white Rival pads.
“I see so much talent in these gyms, but they’re not fighting the way they’re supposed to fight,” Del Valle, who dubs himself the sport’s best trainer, said in a scratchy voice. “They all stay on the ropes, they all drop their left hand. Southpaws don’t fight like southpaws. It’s horrible; there’s no teaching.
” … You gotta train to win the fight. Sharp punching, accuracy. It’s not quantity, it’s quality.”
The Long Islander, who put Roy Jones down for the first time in his career, stresses one fundamental above all else: range.
“(Jack) does very well against light heavyweights. (Eleider) Alvarez, he played with him,” said Del Valle, who also works with Mayweather Promotions fighters Ronald Gavril, Ashley Theophane and Lanell Bellows. “I was shocked. That was when he was getting ready for (Anthony) Dirrell. He went up to Big Bear.
“He’s a very hard worker. He’s very dedicated. That’s what makes my job easy. That’s hard to find. … He’s sitting on his shots, his power’s nice. He’s best at light heavyweight. We’re going to shock a lot of people.”
If anyone is still sleeping on Jack, they haven’t been paying attention. Jack has evolved into a completely different fighter since Derek Edwards knocked him out in 61 seconds in 2014, one who seems to improve with each outing, even as the competition gets tougher.
He edged Dirrell in his first title opportunity and then outpointed current titleholder George Groves. Jack then handled former champion Lucian Bute (in a fight that was initially ruled a draw but eventually changed to a victory after Bute tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs) before his impressive performance against DeGale.
Jack still can’t believe his hand wasn’t raised that night in Brooklyn. He points to the difference in punch connects – he out-landed DeGale in nine of 12 rounds, according to CompuBox – as proof.
“I’m over it, but it’s a corrupt sport,” Jack lamented. “I have to knock people out. Maybe they don’t like Floyd, (maybe) they’re jealous of him. I’m one of his top fighters. They don’t want him to succeed and maybe they take it out on me; I don’t know.”
So that’s what Jack is training for: smart, effective pressure and punching power.
After his padwork with Del Valle was complete, UNLV track and field coach Larry Wade (who also works with Shawn Porter) strapped on a black-and-gold Rival body protector, and the workout continued. Three more rounds.
Jack practiced cutting off the ring and fighting on the inside as Wade continually moved forward. With his head in Wade’s chest, Jack whacked away at the body with vicious hooks and uppercuts – BAM! BAM! BAM!
“Nice and solid,” Del Valle instructed from just outside the ropes, “nice and solid.”
Jack walked Wade down and pinned him into a corner. More lefts and rights, more uppercuts. Wade escaped once or twice and playfully teased Jack, who only pushed harder, sweat flying off his face.
Training camp isn’t officially underway yet – that will commence when Jack’s opponent is set – but the hard work isn’t predicated on any fight. It’s a year-round commitment, just as it has always been with his mentor, Mayweather.
“I’m in my prime, I’m going to be 34 in a couple of months, so I want to stay busy,” said Jack, who hopes to fight lineal champion Adonis Stevenson or RING champ Andre Ward. “I want to fight the best.
“Floyd’s a great promoter and he’ll get me whatever fight I want.”
Soon, Mayweather Boxing Club will be packed with onlookers – no phones, though, or risk banishment! – as Floyd prepares for a fight that promises to add substantially to his already bursting treasure chest.
For now, though, Jack works diligently in relative anonymity in hopes of claiming some of his own fame and fortune.
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger