Can you smell what Julius Jackson is cookin’? You could if you were a bystander in his kitchen, where the unbeaten 168-pound contender is as deft with a pair of oven mitts as he is with boxing gloves in the ring.
Turns out Jackson dubs himself “The Chef” for a very good reason: “I’m actually a chef,” says the 28-year-old native of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. “It’s another passion of mine.”
Jackson graduated from the Florida Culinary Institute in West Palm Beach in 2008, represented the Virgin Islands in the Olympics the same year, then spent the next three years delighting customers with his culinary skills.
“Right out of high school I worked at the Marriott here in Saint Thomas,” Julius Jackson says. “Then I worked at the Marriott in West Palm Beach, Florida, for two years.”
In the midst of a budding pro boxing career, Jackson returned to Saint Thomas in 2012 and became head chef at his hometown Fat Turtle restaurant, and won the island’s “King of the Wing” competition, beating out 17 area hotels and restaurants.
While fans gorged on his wild bacon chipotle “Knockout Wings,” Jackson also won the “Coal Pot” contest named for a “an old traditional pot that Virgin Islanders used back in the day.”
As his fighting career continued to advance, Jackson had to give up his job at Fat Turtle, but his toque and apron are never too far away. In fact, he’s partners with a friend in a catering business—“We cook all kinds of stuff,” he says—and he recently appeared on an episode of the Cooking Channel’s Beach Bites With Katie Lee, where he whipped up some stewed chicken.
Lately, though, Jackson (19-0, 15 KOs) has been focused exclusively on cooking up his 10th straight stoppage victory, which he’ll attempt to do in Tuesday’s 168-pound headliner against Jose Uzcategui (23-1, 19 KOs) at Cowboys Dancehall in San Antonio (Fox Sports 1, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
At Monday’s weigh-in, Jackson tipped the scales right at the 168-pound limit, while Uzcategui came in at 165.8.
That Jackson became somewhat of a culinary wizard might come as a bit of a surprise to traditional boxing fans, but the fact his primary job is that of a pugilist isn’t at all shocking, given his bloodlines.
His father, Julian “The Hawk” Jackson, was a champion at 154 and 160 pounds in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was also widely regarded as won of the fiercest punchers in history.
Meanwhile, younger brother John Jackson (20-2, 15 KOs) is a hard-hitting 154-pounder, who has won two straight bouts since being stopped in the fifth round by current 160-pound champion Andy Lee in a June 2014 clash that featured knockdowns by each fighter.
Besides the Jackson brothers, there’s cousin Samuel Rogers, a 32-year-old who has won 15 of 17 bouts at 154 and 160 pounds. All three are trained by Julian Jackson, but it’s Julius who is most often compared with his father.
“I love hearing about how everyone respects my dad,” he says. “I have one or two one-punch knockouts—nothing like he had—but he doesn’t force us to be like him. “Dad never liked clinching, and neither do I. I’m always ready to punch. He sometimes gets on me for not being defensive enough, but I’m a boxer-puncher who can mix it up, move, jab or sit down and throw power punches inside.”
As Jackson prepares for the challenge against Uzcategui, it would be understandable if he were to be peeking ahead—not only to the post-fight spread, but to a potential shot at a title. Instead, Jackson harkens back to the time when his father provided that initial ingredient that awakened “The Chef’s” taste for the sweet science.
“I was maybe a 3-year-old and my brother, Julian [Jr.], was 4, and my dad had got us some gloves that were sort of like the Socker Boppers of this era,” he recalls. “Eventually, I decided to join a gym just to stay in shape, because I had told my dad that I didn’t want to fight. He said, ‘That’s fine.’ But, eventually, that opened up the doors.”
For complete coverage of Jackson vs Uzcategui, visit our fight page.