THE bond shared between boxer and trainer is unlike any other relationship in sport.
They bleed together, sweat together and spend countless hours perfecting their craft behind closed doors. For a select few, their investment is met by fame and wealth while others aren’t as lucky.
Highly regarded tactician and renowned mentor Billy Hussein has achieved accolades that few will replicate in his successful career as a trainer. His name rests alongside those who have lifted state, national, regional and world title honours, which would understandably make him a hard man to please.
However, in the form of undefeated former Olympian Luke Jackson, Hussein has a product that is more than happy with so far.
“If you are in training camp with me, you need to be on call 24/7,” said Hussein in an interview with Aus-Boxing. “Luke Jackson fits perfectly into that mould. When I was asked to train him, he has come on leaps and bounds since that first day we began to train together.”
“The pressure that he is under is just crazy, I’m so impressed with him. To see him grow into a young, humble, disciplined human being – and how he runs his own business – to being a house hold name in Tasmania, I couldn’t be happier as a trainer.”
The calculated Hussein knows enough about the sport to recognise when he’s onto something special.
Having played an integral part in the development of the careers of many iconic Australian fighters including former world champions Danny Green, Vic Darchinyan and Sakio Bika as well as his accomplished brothers Nedal and Hussein Hussein amongst many others, Hussein knows what it takes to groom a prospect for greatness.
While the professional career of Luke Jackson is still in its early stages, Hussein sees similarities in the growth of his Tasmanian student and that of the previously mentioned Green.
“I was apart of Danny Green’s career when he first began promoting in Perth – it was huge – he was selling out venues.” noted Hussein. “It was amazing, the pressure that goes with a whole city and the media spotlight that goes with that. That was before there was any social media. So with Luke, he has really marketed himself well, his social media is just fantastic.”
“He is a product, but there is more to his life after boxing, we are trying to position him and educate him to have a passion after boxing. Whether he is involved in politics or even the charities he is involved with. I think it’s crazy how he gets called up to attend schools; mental health programs and also has to juggle boxing.”
“No one sees it, he juggles it very well. But he is only a human being as well. He has his own struggles that he has to deal with.”
Like many fighters before him, there is a serenity that surrounds the boxing gym. As Hussein expertly points out, there is more to training than the workout itself, in his eyes it is an escape of sorts for his maturing fighter.
“Boxing is Luke’s outlet, you see the real Luke Jackson when he is training camp,” he added. “I get the best of Luke Jackson in a training camp, because he doesn’t have the stress of being back home in Hobart. I see the guy that can walk down the street and not get recognised, the guy that doesn’t have to take a boxing class.”
“Let me tell you, we’ve had a lot of deep and meaningful discussions, and let me tell you it’s tough. People just don’t realise how hard it is. He has had his issues that he has had to deal with. Other than in the gym, we don’t talk much about boxing, we talk about life. In the gym it’s full on boxing, out of the gym I’m all here for him.”
It has been well publicised that Jackson has struggled with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Since going public shortly after his decision win over former world title challenger John Mark Apolinario, Hussein has helped guide Jackson through the difficult phases of training camp as he attempts to transition out of his illness.
But as Hussein explains, Jackson’s hardest fight isn’t fought between the ropes, but rather within his own mind. Time heals all wounds and in the six months that has passed since his initial announcement, Jackson appears to be in a much better place.
“I think him being able to talk about it and being able to come out about his diagnosis has been important,” he continued. “He is the one with the toughest job. He is the one that puts his body through ridiculous regimes to get into amazing shape for ten weeks. He is in a way better place since his last training camp, mentally he is twenty times better.”
“I think we will see a smarter Luke Jackson,” Hussein said. “He is guy that is very intelligent and he is going to break his opponent down. He will set traps, because his boxing IQ is improving every training camp.”
“I just see him with more knowledge, he has improved as a trainer – and a mentor for the kids in the gym – it’s coming out in him in the ring. You will see a really smart and controlled and dominating performance from Luke.”
As for the task that awaits them on Saturday night, Hussein wants Jackson to execute basic skills in order to achieve an excellent result.
“I’m a big believer in perfecting the basics,” he concluded. “His highest percentage punches are his jab and his right hand. He has a beautiful right hand off his jab so I’ll be really telling him to set his punches up. I want him to watch and be patient.”
“I want him to go out there and prove to himself that what he did in training camp, he will accomplish it in the fight. I want him to give himself a ten out of ten.”
Photo: Bruno Ferreira