18: Julian Jackson Vs Herol Graham
November 24, 1990
Venue: Torrequebrada Hotel
In my 44 years of watching and studying the sport of boxing, few boxers had a more powerful weapon than Julian Jackson. The native of The Virgin Islands was not a great boxer or stylist. He incorporated no defense whatsoever into his game plan. His strategy was basic; walk you down until he caught you with his atomic bomb of a right cross.
Herol Graham fought in the golden age of United Kingdom middleweights. Alongside Chris Eubank, Nigel Benn, Steve Collins and Michael Watson, Graham was an excellent technician inside the ring. He didn’t do one thing great but did everything well. Up to this point of his career, the self-proclaimed “British Bomber” had only lost two extremely close decisions to Mike McCallum and Sumbu Kalambay, who were only two of the best middleweights in the world at the time. Graham definitely had the in ring tools to hand Jackson his second defeat. Jackson’s only loss going into this fight was also at the hands of the Jamaican legend McCallum. Unlike Graham, Jackson didn’t give McCallum much of a fight as he was destroyed in two rounds.
For the first three rounds of their battle for the WBC middleweight title that had been vacated almost a complete calendar year by the iconic Roberto Duran, Graham boxed gracefully and was giving Jackson hell. The southpaw stylist from Great Britain darted in and out while landing combinations at will. At the end of three rounds, the doctor at ringside warned Jackson and his corner that he was dangerously closed to stopping the fight as the Virgin Islands slugger’s left eye was almost completely shut.
Jackson was very similar to Deontay Wilder in that his right hand was such a nuclear weapon that he’d stalk you until that one moment when he caught you and put you to sleep. That strategy was failing miserably throughout the first three rounds as Graham was completely in control. Graham, seemingly spurred on by the damage he caused to Jackson’s left eye, began to aggressively go after Jackson in an attempt to finish the wounded slugger off. For the first two minutes and fifteen seconds of round four, Graham landed one blistering combination after combination. Then, while having Jackson trapped against the ropes, Graham walked into a short right cross that detonated off his jaw not unlike a nuclear bomb. Graham was already completely unconscious before his head violently bounced off the canvas. Referee Joe Cortez’s count of ten was a mere formality as Graham laid prone for almost five minutes before finally regaining consciousness.
My father was totally disgusted after this fight ended. He rightfully criticized Graham in his over eagerness to try and put Jackson away. As my father explained, you don’t go after a ravenous dog once you’ve wounded him, you keep peppering him from the outside until he’s completely cooked. Jackson was a one-eyed fighter who, like the dog my father was talking about, couldn’t chase you anymore. Had Graham continued to box from the outside, the fight would’ve been stopped soon after. Graham’s one great opportunity at becoming world champion ended as he unwisely engaged and walked into a right hand missile.
Jackson’s career began to decline after that one punch miracle knockout win. After successfully defending his title four times, Jackson lost his title to rising power puncher Gerald McClellan in the fifth round on May 8, 1993. Then in the rematch one year later, Jackson was destroyed in the first round. On March 17, 1995 promoter Don King found a stiff from Italy named Agostino Cardamone to fight Jackson for the title vacated by McClellan. Jackson, although 34 and completely shot as a world class fighter, destroyed the Italian fraud of a contender in two rounds. Five months later Jackson would be pummeled in six rounds by Quincy Taylor, ending his final reign as champion. Jackson would finally retire two years later after getting knocked out in his last fights.
Graham would lose three of his next eight fights after his shocking loss to Jackson before retiring in 1998 at the age of 39. That knockout to Jackson completely took the steam out of his career. He will forever be known as one of the best British fighters never to win a world title. Like my father felt, if he hadn’t been so overzealous in trying to put Jackson out, his career would’ve had a different trajectory. A perfect example of would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.