Badou Jack thought his career was over before it ever got off the ground. Thanks to a slippery New York manager who couldn’t muster the courtesy to meet his young immigrant fighter in Las Vegas, Jack had gone from a Swedish boxing legend to a nameless, broke brawler sharing an air mattress in a sleazy motel room off the Strip.
“I signed a slave contract,” says Jack, now a two-division world champion nicknamed “the Ripper.” His manager “put us in the ghetto with no furniture — nothing. But that only made me stronger.”
And at 34, the soft-spoken father of two is a rare boxer becoming more dangerous with age. With five recent championship bouts (four wins and one draw) behind him, Jack has captured belts at super middleweight (168 pounds) and light heavyweight (175 pounds). He stopped Wales’ Nathan Cleverly in five rounds on the Mayweather-McGregor undercard last August, then quickly relinquished his WBA light heavyweight title to set up his biggest fight to date.
On May 19, Jack (21-1-3) fights Canadian knockout artist Adonis Stevenson (29-1) in Toronto for the WBC light heavyweight belt. A victory would catapult Jack to the forefront of boxing’s conversation and validate his quest to become one of the world’s biggest prize fighters. With that, the boxer who nearly slipped through a corrupt sport’s cracks hopes to pay it forward by promoting the careers of young, far-flung fighters. In this new era of the fight game, Badou Jack wants to make the rules.
Jack was born and raised in Stockholm by a Swedish mother and a Gambian father. Life was no cakewalk, but it was comfortable. He vacationed across Europe, and caused “a little trouble, but nothing serious,” he says. In 2001, 17-year old Jack followed a friend to a Stockholm boxing gym. After a few rounds of sparring, he was hooked. Boxing became his outlet, and a ticket to the life that, until then, he’d not been quite sure how to reach.