Welterweight prospect Jalil Hackett makes most of Gervonta Davis, Floyd Mayweather mentorship
For a young apprentice, the mentorship of more experienced veterans of the trade is an invaluable asset that can help guide one as they embark on their own path. Welterweight prospect Jalil Hackett couldn’t ask for better mentors than his promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr. and training partner Gervonta “Tank” Davis, who are providing the Washington D.C. native with a Master’s level education in big time boxing.
One of the most intense lessons came just three weeks prior to his professional debut in 2021, when Hackett underwent a baptism by fire.
The then 18-year-old donned his headgear at the Mayweather Gym in Las Vegas and went 15 rounds straight with Davis, a world champion who is among the fastest and hardest hitting fighters in the world. Davis was preparing to step up ten pounds in weight to face Mario Barrios in a junior welterweight bout, which made the 5’11” welterweight the perfect physical dimensions needed to replicate his opponent.
The experience proved to Hackett that he was ready for anything he would face in the pro ranks.
“That was probably the best work I ever had. After sparring that fifteen rounds I just felt like I could beat the world,” said the now 20-year-old Hackett.
After that session, Hackett says he felt prepared and ended the sparring phase of camp two weeks earlier than normal. His professional debut against Angelo Diaz went just 61 seconds before a right hand put Diaz down to end the fight.
Since then, Hackett has remained unbeaten at 6-0 (5 knockouts), and will look to keep his unbeaten streak going when he faces Jorge Rodrigo Sosa (6-7, 6 KOs) on Saturday, August 5 in a six-round bout at the Physical Education Complex in Baltimore, Md.
Hackett’s boxing story began long before he was in camp with some of the biggest names in the sport. He picked up the sport at age eight from his father, Bernard Hackett, who trains him to this day. Initially he split time between football and boxing, but grew to love the sport. He trained at the gym which was run by the late Gary Russell Sr., who had also trained his father as an amateur, and learned important lessons there.
“It was definitely a gym based off toughness. It was a character building gym, nobody got treated differently no matter how old or how young. When you got in that ring, you knew you had to work. If you weren’t gonna work, get out the way. That definitely helped me develop a different level of toughness and the ability to how Gary Sr. would say, to break someone’s will,” said Hackett.
That mentality helped him develop an amateur career which consisted of 140 wins and 19 defeats, including ten national tournament championships and several international bouts.
Hackett had known the Baltimore based Davis in his earlier years, with both gyms traveling up and down to spar one another. It wasn’t until 2019, when Davis was getting ready for his homecoming fight against Ricardo Nunez, that he stepped in the ring with the brash amateur that he had been hearing so much about.
“Everyone was saying, ‘This kid is nice’ but Tank was like ‘We’re gonna see how nice he is,’” recalled Hackett. He was sent to training camp to be the main sparring partner for Davis and earned his respect. The experience began Hackett on his journey to signing with Mayweather Promotions.
“After the camp, Tank vouched for me to [Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe] and to Floyd, telling them ‘This kid’s nice. He’s tough, y’all need to sign him.’ I definitely appreciate him for that,” said Hackett, who is managed by Derrick Curry.
Rather than rush into any arrangement, Hackett took his time to get to know the team, especially Mayweather, who offered plenty of advice to the young fighter.
“He’s a great role model. He’s always there to give great advice. He’s the perfect promoter because he definitely understands what it’s like to be a young black athlete so we can definitely relate on different levels. I really like being under the tutelage of Floyd,” said Hackett.
“The biggest thing that he taught me was to invest. No matter what: invest, invest, invest. He told me I’m young now, there’s all the glitz and glamor, looks good but you’re not gonna be able to do that when you’re my age.”
The experience under Mayweather Promotions has enabled Hackett to experience the big fight atmosphere which fighters usually have to work years before seeing. Hackett turned pro on the undercard of the Mayweather vs. Logan Paul exhibition in Miami, and has fought on four different Davis undercards.
“I honestly feel like fighting on these big cards, even when you fight early on the cards, it prepares you for all the stuff that leads up to fighting in the larger arenas,” said Hackett.
His next fight against the Paraguay native Sosa will take place on a much smaller card just an hour away from his hometown. The card will be headlined by a ten-round bout between unbeaten bantamweight prospect Dominique Crowder of Baltimore and Filipino slugger Arthur Villanueva. Sosa, 35, has lost in each of his five fights in the United States, including a six-round majority decision in Colombia this past March to a fighter with an 0-2 record. The fight will be the third of the year for Hackett, who is hoping to fight three more times in 2023 after fighting just once in 2022.
What drives him, he says, is the hope he has for a better life than the alternative for many of those he grew up around.
“My biggest motivation is, I gotta beat the odds. I have a lot of friends that I grew up with who a lot of them are locked up. A lot of them are dead, lost their life to violence,” said Hackett.
“I just want to be that small bright light in a dark situation.”
Ryan Songalia has written for ESPN, the New York Daily News, Rappler and The Guardian, and is part of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism Class of 2020. He can be reached at [email protected].