Interview With “Palooka” David Jaco: I Might Have Been A Palooka, But I Was A F*****g Tough Palooka

“I’m not proud of the number of times I went down. I’m proud of the number of times I got back up,” David Jaco, 24-25-1(19).

David Lee Jaco, a tough, powerful and ultra-game 6’6” heavyweight from Ohio, is rightfully proud of the bravery and guts he displayed in the ring. Yet the soon to be 63 year old is most proud of his children, how he himself brought them up. Mixing boxing, a day job and bringing up kids cannot in any way be an easy thing to do, yet Jaco managed it.

Father of six children, two twin boys and four daughters, Jaco largely devoted the time he spent being a “Mr. Mom” to his 2011 autobiography (“sold out but I want to get more copies printed”). But it is as a true fighting man, a true underdog who occasionally upset the odds, that Jaco is best known.

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Q: You were the first man to defeat Razor Ruddock, back in April of 1985, when you made him quit on his stool (Razor claimed this was due to his asthma, Jaco having none of it)…..

David Jaco: “Yeah, that was the single smartest fight I ever fought. I had a one-week notice but I was in good shape for the fight. I looked at him as he came out, and I thought, ‘this guy looks f*****g strong!” I boxed him, I was smart, I jabbed him in the face all night – I did the Ali rope-a-dope. I saw him get tired and I turned it on, in the fifth and sixth rounds. I stayed on him, giving him no time to breathe. I knew I had him.”

Q: You lost your unbeaten record to Carl Williams, in June of ’83…..

D.J: “Yeah, he might have been the best guy I ever fought. He’s dead now, really sad. As a matter of fact Alex [Stewart], who fought Tyson, and Gary Mason, who I fought in England, they’re dead now also. It’s sad, Gary was killed in a cycling accident. He was real strong. But me, I can list, real fast, the 17 big names, champions, contenders, I fought: Mike Tyson, Buster Douglas, Oliver McCall, Carl Williams, George Foreman, Mike Weaver, Pierre Coetzer, Tony Tucker, Jose Ribalta, Tommy “The Duke” Morrison, Bert Cooper, Magne Havana, Johnny Du Ploy, Haakan Brock, David Bey, Mike Hunter, Elijah Tillery (Jaco doesn’t miss a beat, or take a breath!) I should be in The Guinness Book Of Records, man!”

Q: It is a real achievement…(jumping in)

D.J: “You know Oliver McCall? I was down three times early on when I fought him, they said this skinny white guy wasn’t gonna last. But then I hit him and hurt him bad in the sixth round – I came back. Anyway, he won on points, ten rounds. But you know what his trainer, Beau Williford, told me in the locker room – and Beau, a good guy, he’s just passed himself. You know, everyone seems to be dying, it’s sad. Anyways, he told me how bad I hurt McCall, that I had his eyeballs kissing each other (laughs). And I think McCall is still looking to fight today! It isn’t worth it, not for money. You think I don’t need money? I cut five, six lawns a day, in the heat, at my age! But I wouldn’t risk fighting again, not at age 50, or 60.”

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Q: You fell into journeyman mode with consecutive losses in the mid-1980s, although you could still spring the odd upset. How tough is it to keep going, with short-notice fights, against top guys where you are expected to lose?

D.J: “One word: survival (laughs). I had no [other] job, I had to support my family, my kids. So, yeah, money, that’s what I needed and that’s why I kept going.”

Q: As I said, you did spring the occasional upset – as you did in KO’ing a 17-0-1 Michael Simuwela (from Zambia, a big puncher expected by some to go places) in 1988 and then decisioning the big Haakan Brock in 1991…..

D.J: Yeah, a big right hand – and I could always punch, with both hands – buckled his [Simuwela’s] legs real good in our fight in Germany. Then I hit him with uppercuts and you know where he wound up, where he was counted out? On the judge’s table! True story. Brock, he was a big guy from Sweden, an Angelo Dundee fighter. Actually, Dundee called me to spar Brock, down in Miami. I went there, sparred him twice, took it easy on him, and they must have thought they could beat me easy in a fight. Two weeks later they offered me the fight, and I beat him up bad. I roughed him up. It went ten rounds, he was a tough guy, but they announced a split decision. I thought they were gonna rob me. But thank God for honest judges that night. But Dundee, he was screaming at the judges, calling them mutha******s! I spoke to Dundee, in Italian, and I said, ‘Hey, Angelo, good fight. You know the right guy won!” He was so angry.”

Q: You have written your autobiography, and it’s done well?

Mike Tyson, Roy Jones Jr, Oscar De La Hoya, Chris Byrd, Stay Retired!

D.J: “Yeah, I sold hundreds of copies. It’s out of print now but I’m looking at getting more copies in print. You know, the title says palooka, which is a guy who fights upcoming talent, who they use as a stepping stone. Yeah, I might have become a palooka, but I was a f*****g tough palooka! If you weren’t ready, I’d beat you. I had power in both hands and a good chin. I’ve had a good life. I have a good life. And I showed in life and in the ring that I deserve my respect. It isn’t easy doing what I’ve done.”