Gordon: Prodigious pop made two-weight champion boxer Julian Jackson a star in Las Vegas

Julian Jackson’s jet black hair is now peppered with different shades of gray. A worthy development for the 61-year-old Virgin Islands man, who last fought in 1998.

But his eyes still have that youthful glow, his smile still warm and welcoming, and his hands probably still full of power.

A strong, firm handshake would suggest it anyway.

“My trainer said to me, ‘Julian, you don’t have to force the punch. All you have to do is punch because it’s natural. It’s there,'” recalls the former Resorts World Las Vegas junior middleweight and middleweight boxing champion.

“It became something that – it’s happening right now. I am inducted because of this.

Prodigious punching power propelled Jackson to the top of his profession. At 21 fights in Las Vegas, where he won his first world title in 1987 and fought in six more world title fights. And to the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame, in which he was honored Saturday at Resorts World Las Vegas alongside the 26 other boxers and boxing contributors who make up his 2020, 2021 and 2022 classes.

He has won 49 of his 55 victories by knockout, unofficially qualifying himself as one of the most devastating punchers in boxing history and was officially enshrined in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the annual gala. from the room – and delayed Jackson’s return to Las Vegas. .

“Las Vegas is almost my second home,” said Jackson, who lived in Las Vegas for four years after retiring and was also inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2019.

“Las Vegas is the place that made me who I am.”

Pack a punch

The same was true for the US Virgin Islands, where Jackson was raised by a single mother and struggled to focus without the structure that boxing would eventually provide. She was deeply spiritual and so is he, crediting God with athletic achievements that include championships at 154 and 160 pounds.

But he lacked the self-esteem boxing would develop, revealing he ‘didn’t realize I was going to be anything until I got involved in boxing’.

He was 12 at the time and was convinced to box by a fighter friend whom he would follow at a local gymnasium, fulfilling his mother’s request to take up a trade.

At 16, he was brimming with confidence – and enough pop in his right hand to drop a local pro in combat. He hadn’t eliminated anyone yet, let alone world champions like Baek In-chul, Buster Drayton and Terry Norris.

“I ran towards him. ‘I’m sorry I’m sorry!’ And my trainer yelled ‘No, don’t do that! … It’s part of boxing. It happens,’” ​​Jackson recalled. “I couldn’t believe it, but after that I realized there was something special about my kicking ability.”

Special is an understatement.

Try Generational or Legendary.

‘Good to be back’

He punched opponents with both hands and sometimes pointed to the spot on the canvas where he fell unconscious. His favorite shot is still the short straight that stopped Norris on his feet in Atlantic City the night of July 30, 1989.

“I caught it with a few punches, but to tell you the truth, it was a punch,” he says with that grin.

Countless others have been equally effective.

Each knockout would build his billing — and that of his beloved Virgin Islands.

“The Virgin Islands is only 32 square miles. You can run this so easily,” Jackson said. “Coming from such a small island, nobody knows who you are, nobody recognizes you. You are just a dot on the map.

Everyone seemed to recognize Jackson this weekend at Resorts World Las Vegas. Him with the graying hair, the warm smile and yes, the heavy hands that made him a star here so many years ago.

“It feels good to be back in Vegas, man.”

Welcome home, champ.

Contact Sam Gordon at [email protected] Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.