A bleary-eyed Badou Jack showed up for a recent workout at promoter Floyd Mayweather’s Las Vegas-based boxing gym claiming to have gotten no more than two hours of sleep in the previous 24.
“My daughter, Malaniyah, was born this morning, April 14,” says Jack of the child born to him and his wife, Jasmine. “That just further inspired me to show up for a quick workout.”
Badou Jack (20-1-1, 12 KOs) will make the second defense of his 168-pound title on April 29 against left-handed, former long-reigning champion Lucian Bute (32-3, 25 KOs). The bout at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C. (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) will mark Jack’s first ring action since September 12, when he earned a tough split decision over George Groves in Las Vegas.
“This is the toughest fight of my life,” Jack says of the 36-year-old Romanian-born Bute. “I’m a little bit younger and a little bit fresher, but he’s got a lot of experience, and I think he’ll bring out the best in me.”
Jack-Bute is the main event of a 168-pound championship doubleheader that also features switch-hitting titleholder James DeGale (22-1, 14 KOs), a 2008 Olympic gold medalist from England who is making the third defense of his crown against stone-fisted Mexican Rogelio Medina (36-6, 30 KOs).
“Badou, right now, is operating in another stratosphere, happier and training harder than I’ve ever seen him,” said trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, a former 175-pound champion. “He looked tired during the workout from being up all night at the hospital, but the way he’s training now, it’s like he’s on another planet.”
The Sweden-born, Las Vegas-based Jack has won four straight fights and is coming off a breakthrough 2015 during which he scored a majority decision over previously unbeaten 168-pound champion Anthony Dirrell last April. That was followed by the victory over Groves, whom Jack dropped in the first round.
Ironically, Groves is the only man to defeat DeGale, doing so by majority decision in May 2011.
When Jack looks at his recent slate of opponents, the 32-year-old places Bute—who held a 168-pound title from October 2007 until May 2012—a notch above all of them.
“As far as accomplishments, Bute is way better than Dirrell and Groves, because Groves has never been a world champion, and Anthony Dirrell, he won a vacant title,” Jack says. “So Bute’s beaten better fighters, and in his last fight against DeGale, he showed that he still has a whole lot left.”
Bute made nine title defenses, winning seven by knockout, before being stopped and dethroned by Carl Froch in the seventh round in May 2012. Bute then split his next four fights, most recently losing a unanimous decision to Britain’s DeGale on November 28 in Bute’s home province of Quebec, Canada.
Bute represents just the second southpaw that Jack will be facing in his pro career; back in March 2012, he defeated Grover Young by six-round unanimous decision in March 2012. But if a lack of experience against lefties is a significant concern to Jack or his team, you wouldn’t know it.
“We’re getting some great work from the southpaws we have in training camp, so Badou is ready for anything,” Muhammad says. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be ready, and that whatever Bute brings to the table, it just won’t be enough.”
Says Jack: “In the amateurs, I fought a lot of southpaws. I don’t have a problem fighting southpaws [because] I have a good right hand. But this is a tough fight against a world-class fighter in Bute. People were writing him off just like they were writing me off.”
For sure, Jack knows what it’s like to mount a comeback, having been knocked out in 61 seconds by Derek Edwards in February 2014. It was a stunning defeat in that Edwards was coming off a stoppage loss, and since beating Jack, he’s dropped three consecutive fights.
Six months after falling to Edwards, though, Jack rebounded with a unanimous decision over Jason Escalera, followed by a sixth-round stoppage of Francisco Sierra in December 2014 prior to facing Dirrell.
“Floyd Mayweather let me know that I got caught with a lucky punch, and that can happen to anybody,” Jack says of the loss to Edwards. “[Mayweather] knew I was better than that guy. It wound up being a blessing in disguise.”
Now here he is a world champion out to prove to everyone—including his newborn daughter—that his reign will be a lengthy one.
“I’m no longer just fighting for the glory of my title,” Jack says. “Now, it’s to provide for my child and my family, so there’s even more reason and purpose for working harder than ever before.
“I’m preparing for Lucian Bute like this is the fight of my lifetime, and it will be the biggest victory of my career.”
For full coverage of Jack vs Bute, hit up our fight pages.