Forever Young: 35-year-old Badou Jack says the sky is still the limit

​The former two-division champion believes he’s getting better with age as he seeks another 175-pound world title when he faces unbeaten contender Marcus Browne this Saturday night on Showtime PPV.

Badou Jack acknowledges that the clock is ticking on his career. The former super middleweight titleholder is far removed from the strapping young Swedish prospect who first made a splash in the U.S. early in the decade.

That doesn’t mean he has begun the inevitable decline, though. In fact, the opposite might be true.

Lou Del Valle, Jack’s trainer and a former light heavyweight titlist, insists his protégé is a fresh 35 — the result of a late start, a strong work ethic and clean living — and getting better as an all-around fighter at an age when most boxers have plateaued.

Jack might be nearing the twilight of his career but he has a lot more to accomplish. This Saturday, January 19th, he takes on Marcus Browne in the co-feature of the Manny Pacquiao-Adrien Broner card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I know I’m not young anymore,” he said during a break in training. “I want to make as much money as possible, make smart investments and get out of the sport at the right time.

“I’m taking one fight at a time and we’ll see what happens. Right now, I have to beat Marcus Browne.”

Jack became serious about boxing at the relatively advanced age of 18, a starting point at which it’s difficult to master the sport’s fundamentals.

He is an exception: Jack is known for his mastery of the basics which, combined with his God-given athleticism and unusual size and strength, has led to his success as a professional.

One of the many observers impressed by Jack is trainer Jim McDonnell, who worked James DeGale’s corner when DeGale and then-WBC 168-pound titlist Jack fought to a majority draw in January 2017.

“The secret of boxing is the basics done well and Jack does that,” McDonnell said. “He’s not exceptional in any department but he does everything well. He always has good hand positioning, he’s got a variety of punches.”

And, as Del Valle said, he’s still improving.

“He’s 35 years old and he’s still getting better, getting sharper, still learning,” said Del Valle, who began working with Jack after he was stopped by Derek Edwards in 2014. “It’s hard to get a veteran fighter to do certain things. Not Badou. He will try new things, he’s willing to learn. That makes him a better fighter.”

Whatever he and Del Valle have done together, it has worked. Jack rebounded from the shocking loss to Edwards by capturing the WBC 168-pound title only four fights later when he defeated George Groves by a split decision in September 2015.

He followed that with consecutive fights against Lucian Bute, James DeGale, Nathan Cleverly and Adonis Stevenson. He went 2-0-2 in those bouts — including a draw with Bute that became a disqualification victory after Bute tested positive for a banned substance – but he nevertheless reinforced his reputation as one of the best fighters in the world.

I’m taking one fight at a time and we’ll see what happens. Right now, I have to beat Marcus Browne. Former two-division World Champion Badou Jack

Jack’s willingness to face one big-name opponent after another is a product of his philosophy.

“I’m in boxing to be great,” he said. “And to be great you have to fight the best. It’s how you get better, as well. When all is said and done, I want to be remembered for fighting the best available opponents.”

Mention of the draws riles both Jack and Del Valle. They believe strongly that he should’ve been given the nod in all four fights, against Marco Antonio Periban in 2013 (before Del Valley came on board), Bute, DeGale and Stevenson, for the Canadian’s WBC light heavyweight title last May.

Had he won those fights, they believe, the trajectory of his career would’ve been different.

“The draws are very frustrating,” Jack said. “It’s boxing politics. I can’t control that unless I knock them out. I think I won all four fights. Look at the punch stats; I landed 100 more punches than each of them. Look at my opponents afterward.

“If I had won those fights, I would’ve been unified super middleweight and two-time light heavyweight champ (if you count the WBA’s ‘regular’ title at stake against Cleverly). And there’s the money. I made good money but I probably would’ve made more. Everything is God’s plan. I keep looking forward.”

Del Valle was angrier than Jack.

“Look at Bute after the fight. We beat the piss out of him,” Del Valle said. “Look at DeGale after the fight. His face was busted up. He looked like Chuckie. Seriously. And Stevenson did nothing. We started too late but I don’t care what anyone says. Look at the damage we did. We came out of that fight without a scratch.

“The funny part of it is that the Groves fight was the toughest fight Badou had. If that fight was a draw, I could’ve lived with it. But not the other fights.”

The good news is that considering Jack’s ability and youthfulness, he still has time to build his legacy. That continues versus Browne (22-0, 16 KOs) on Saturday’s SHOWTIME PPV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).

Jack described the 2012 U.S. Olympian as “an athletic, skillful guy” but one who hasn’t faced anyone near Jack’s class in his six-plus year career.

Del Valle also mentioned Browne’s lack of experience against elite opponents but believes Browne has the potential to present problems for Jack with his southpaw stance. The problem for Browne is that Jack has fought several left-handers and had success.

“I don’t know how good he is. We’ll find out on Saturday. I’m very confident,” Jack said.

And if things go well against Browne? Jack wouldn’t go there.

“I always had small goals,” he said. “First I became Swedish champion and was on the national team. Then I got some international experience, fighting in the World Championships and Olympics. I took small steps every time. That led me to where I am today.

“… And that’s how I still think. I want to continue to win, continue to improve, and basically see how far I can go.”

For a closer look at Jack vs Browne, check out our fight page.

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