A prime Julian Jackson was some incredible puncher. Holding a grenade in each fist, the born puncher from The Virgin Islands thrilled fans with a whole slew of, well, thrilling knockouts. Jackson’s right hand was savage, his left hand a destructive force of nature. Some historians say to this day how Jackson is the single hardest-punching light-middleweight AND middleweight in all of boxing.
When he was at his zinging best, before eye trouble caught up with him (and even here, Jackson, if he could find the target, would send his opponent into dreamland), Jackson was simply a pure, non-stop, two-fisted punching machine. And some quality fighters fell at Jackson’s feet: Buster Drayton, Terry Norris, Herol Graham. Jackson’s prime didn’t last all that long, his July 30, 1989 icing of future near-superstar Norris being his career highlight, but “The Hawk” sure left his mark on the sport.
The come-from-behind KO of Graham saw Jackson win his second title, the vacant WBC middleweight title, yet by now his eyesight was in question (he was unable to get a licence to fight in England as result of his eyes). Not too long after the November 1990 KO, Jackson lost in a war with Gerald McClellan.
But rewind to the late 1980s, and Jackson was some fighter, some brutal, take no prisoners KO artist. Having fallen to the masterful Mike McCallum in his first attempt at winning the 154 pound title, Jackson made good on his second attempt, when he stopped In-Chul Baek in three rounds in late 1987. Jackson’s first defence proved to be a quite astonishing fight.
It was on this day back in 1988 when a 27 year old Jackson met the tough and unorthodox Buster Drayton in Atlantic City, New Jersey. What followed was a short fight, comprising of less than three rounds, but a memorable slugfest all the same. Drayton, the former IBF 154 pound champ, had a pretty average-looking record at 33-10-1, yet Buster had only been stopped once (this by Kevin Perry, TKO3, in Drayton’s tenth pro fight), and he had been in with good fighters, such as: Lindell Holmes, Duane Thomas, Sumbu Kalambay, James Kinchen, Carlos Santos (who he had beaten to win the IBF belt), Davey Moore and Matthew Hilton (who took the IBF title from Drayton).
Despite this durability, Drayton would fail to last nine-minutes with Jackson.
The two men went at it right from the opening bell, Jackson especially. The defending WBA 154 champ launched his two-fisted attack with sheer venom, his shots landing to head and body. Drayton took it all. Jackson dropped Drayton with a right hand in round-two, Buster being a little off-balance. Drayton couldn’t stop laughing as he regained his feet. Jackson carried on where he’d left off; banging away with both hands, refusing to take no – as in no way accept the very notion of not getting himself a KO – for an answer.
“What a beating Drayton’s taking,” bellowed the great Gil Clancy in the third-round. Jackson was indeed landing everything, his uppercuts to the head looking especially nasty. Drayton got home with a few shots of his own but Jackson was simply unstoppable. The end came when Jackson landed a cracking left hook to the head. Drayton froze for a split-second, then fell, almost in slow-motion, to the mat. Flat on his back, his arms outstretched, Drayton had the look of a badly stricken fighter, one who was unable to move. Incredibly, the battle-hardened 35 year old tried to beat the count.
Drayton was even arguing when the fight was stopped – the result a TKO. And then, just seconds after having taken a flush bomb from one of the sport’s deadliest punchers, Drayton was again laughing and joking, grinning from ear to ear!
Jackson had arrived on the big stage, and though he would go on to KO Norris and one or two other guys who were more famous than Drayton, it’s very possible Jackson took out his single toughest career opponent on this day back in 1988.
Jackson went into the fight wanting to make a statement. He sure accomplished what he set out to do. As for the iron-chinned Drayton, he would go the full 12 rounds with Norris in his fight after being wrecked by Jackson and he would then have a further ten fights before retiring in 1995. In 57 pro fights, Buster was only ever stopped three times.