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St. Thomas Boxer John ‘Dah Rock’ Jackson Hoping To Follow In His Father Julian’s Handprints

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CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Julian “The Hawk” Jackson’s ferocious straight right hand and devastating left hook turned him into arguably the most feared boxer of his era. St. Thomas native Jackson knocked out 49 of his 61 opponents in his decorated career that spanned from 1981-1998.

The former two-division champion is regarded as one of the hardest punchers in boxing history. John “Dah Rock” Jackson, Julian’s son, is thankful he inherited some of that power.

“I don’t have the power my dad had, but I have some of it and I’m grateful for that,” John Jackson said.

The younger Jackson (20-2, 15 knockouts) has a shot to win his own championship belt when he faces Jermell Charlo (27-0, 12 KOs) for the vacant World Boxing Council junior middleweight title on Saturday at the Chelsea inside the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

Jackson’s bout is the first of three 154-pound title fights scheduled for the Showtime-televised card. Charlo’s twin brother, Jermall, battles Austin Trout for the International Boxing Federation belt, and in the main event Erislandy Lara takes on Vanes Martirosyan for the World Boxing Association crown.

“It’s just my time,” Jackson said. “We’re going to make history. My dad was a champion in this weight class and I’m also looking forward to being a champion also in this weight class. It’s going to be a long time coming.”

Fighting in Las Vegas is sort of a homecoming for Jackson, who spent his first five years living in Henderson.

The 27-year-old Jackson was born in St. Thomas, but shortly after moved to Henderson where his dad trained. Jackson recalls riding his bike with his brothers, Julius and Julian Jr., around the Montego Bay Apartments and going to school in Henderson.

“We would ride our bikes in dirt areas and we would make ramps,” Jackson said. “I have good memories from that. We even stayed connected with our neighbors and some are coming to the fight. (Henderson) is kinda like a second home, an extended home.”

At the age of 5, Jackson and his family moved back to the U.S. Virgin Islands after his father was asked to open a gym. Julian Jackson started the I Believe I Can Fly Boxing Program in Saint Thomas, the 31-mile island on the Caribbean Sea.

“Everyone thinks our dad forced us to box,” John Jackson said. “We were actually into baseball. He asked us if we wanted to check it out. We liked it, besides Julius. He wasn’t feeling it at the time. That’s where it all started.”

Julius Jackson, 28, eventually got into boxing and became a U.S. Virgin Islands Olympic qualifier with John in 2008. Julius Jackson, who goes by “The Chef,” is a super middleweight.

Julian “The Hawk” Jackson trains his two sons. John Jackson, whose moniker is “Dah Rock,” is coming off two consecutive victories to earn his title shot against Jermell Charlo.

Jackson is a plus-400 underdog against the undefeated Charlo, according to William Hill. Jackson is known as a brawler, but said he has more to his arsenal than just power punches.

“I’m expecting (Charlo) to be cautious and he’s going to try to use his hand speed and foot speed to try to beat me,” Jackson said. “We’ll be ready for anything. I’m ready to show that I’m more than just an aggressive puncher.”

Jackson said he’s learned from his two losses to Andy Lee and Willie Nelson. Jackson had Lee hurt in their 2014 bout and even dropped him in the first round, but a counter right hook sent Jackson to the canvas in a fifth-round knockout defeat.

In the 2012 slugfest versus Nelson, Jackson lost by unanimous decision at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“The fight with Willie Nelson, that’s still one of my best fights, two young fighters in our prime going at it,” Jackson said. “That’s the type of fights I like. But I have to be better than that. This fight (with Charlo) is going to be very competitive.”

Jackson doesn’t remember much from his dad’s fighting days, but he knows about the respect he had in the ring.

Julian Jackson always yearned for a fight against the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard. Jackson came close to getting his shot after defeating Terry Norris in 1989.

“Sugar Ray Leonard kept saying no to my dad,” John Jackson said. “I was with my dad at a WBC convention and everyone was there. Mike Tyson was there and Sugar Ray was there and he was like, ‘Hey, Julian we can fight now.’ He was making a joke because he always ducked him in his prime.”

John Jackson hopes to command that type of respect with a victory against Charlo.

“I can do it,” he said. “I’ll have plenty of support there from the island.”

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John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1989. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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