“Jack is a great cornerman. He can do anything I ask him to do”
He’s rarely in the spotlight. His work can go unnoticed. He’s the guy with the whistle at training camp.
On fight night, he watches every move. As his fighter enters the ring, he’s a few paces behind.
His most famous pupil is Andre Ward. He works for former trainer of the year, Virgil Hunter.
Who is he?
Edward “Jack” Jackson right-hand man to Hunter and Ward for the past 11 years. Born in Houston, TX, Jackson engaged in a couple of amateur bouts. One day while in the gym, his trainers told him that he should consider a job change.
“I was boxing at the time,” Jackson told this writer on the phone last week. “I was being trained by two guys. They were training me along with Frank and Thomas Tate. I had brought James Prince (currently co-manager of Andre Ward) to the gym. He told me that he was going to manage boxers and he wanted me with him.
“Then the guys that trained me said that I should be a trainer. I really didn’t want to be a trainer. They told me I was always showing other guys in the gym how to do things. They said I was good at it. So, the guys that were training me told me I should be a trainer. And that’s how it happened," he said, chuckling.
At the time, Jackson was exploring other options. When not in the gym, he was in a recording studio laying tracks for a rap album. But boxing had always been his first love. He grew up in a rough and tough neighborhood where he learned early on how to fight. Since boxing wasn't offered at his high school, he played football, baseball, and basketball instead.
Soon after becoming a trainer, his new career blossomed. One day he heard about a kid who lived near San Francisco, California.
“I was working with James Prince and his management company,” Jackson recalled. “I heard about this kid. I was at a tournament and this other fighter I was interested in told me about his friend from Oakland,” he said, “He’s better than me. His name is Andre Ward.” I figured I better go see this guy. I went to the Golden Gloves in Colorado and he wasn’t there.
“So, finally I got a number and called Virgil (Hunter) to talk about Andre (Ward). We (James Prince and Jackson) went down to Oakland. That’s how I met Virgil. I saw Andre and he wasn’t even in the gym at the time. He wasn’t thinking about boxing. We got in touch with him and said, “Hey, we heard you're good, get back to the gym.” We told Andre we would sponsor him. We had worked with Floyd Mayweather. He talked to Virgil and returned to the gym."
Jackson has been working exclusively with Ward since 2002. He’s seen the super-middleweight champion grow from a teenager to a man. At training camp, Jackson is something of a mother and organizer for all the fighters.
Not with Ward.
“It’s easy work,” says Jackson. “It’s like having a remote control car that can drive itself. It’s a breath of fresh of air when you can go to camp and a guy is pushing you. He (Ward) wakes me up in the morning to run. He’s ready. Normally, in camp, I’m always the guy to wake the fighters up.
“Take Diego (Corrales), for example, I always had to wake him up. Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, Steve Forbes. I’ve been around great guys, but this guy, there’s nobody else like him.”
The co-trainer’s job may lack glamour but it’s extremely important. What does Jackson think is the most important aspect of his position?
“I think with Virgil, it’s being a second set of eyes that he can bounce things off of,” Jackson said. “Same goes for with Andre. He can ask me how he looks, whether he’s sharp. They can both get my opinion to see where he might need to sharpen up.
“I don’t do just one thing. I make sure I take care of everything in camp. I get everything organized. When we’re in camp the fighter doesn’t have to worry about anything. James Prince and I have always treated the fighters like world champions,” Jackson added.
In Houston, Jackson has been training Erislandy Lara for his upcoming bout with Austin Trout. Other fighters under his tutelage are undefeated prospects Miguel Flores and Ricardo Williams.
With so much time spent in the ring, are there any memorable moments?
“I have two great ones,” said Jackson. “I worked the corner of Corrales vs. Castillo 1. I assisted Joe Gooseen that night. That was incredible. I worked with Diego from the time he came home from jail to his fatal motorcycle accident. He was my buddy. I had a great time with Diego.
“My other great memory of boxing is when Andre Ward won his first world title. He was a kid that so many people were saying wasn’t going to amount to "diddly-squat". Virgil, myself, and Prince had so much pressure on us for this kid to develop into a good fighter. When he became a world champion, it was like a house rose up off of all of us. To see him now, where nobody wants to fight him, we laugh."
Jackson travels a lot. It's part of his job. One day he hopes to stay put. His ambition is to step out of the shadows and build a raw young fighter into a champion.
“I do have a desire to get a kid and see what I can do with him,” said Jackson. “I hope to be able to do that someday. My thing is, I’m always moving. Hopefully one day.”
It’s pretty clear that one day, Jackson will come out from the shadows.