High up on the wall of Billy Hussein’s Bodypunch gym there’s a mural of Muhammad Ali that reads: ‘don’t count the days, make the days count.’
It’s safe to say Tasmania’s Luke Jackson is doing just that.
Jackson is set to fight in the biggest bout of his life when he tackles Carl Frampton in Belfast, Ireland on Sunday morning for an interim version of the WBO featherweight title but it’s his time spent in Sydney that will give him the best chance to upset the odds come fight night.
It’s a cool Wednesday morning in the middle of winter in Lakemba, Sydney and trainer Billy Hussein and former world title challenger Hussy Hussein are chatting as they wait for the arrival of their fighter.
A relaxed Jackson walks into the gym ready to get to work and after a little small talk the man of the moment gets straight into his workout under the watchful eye of the Hussein boys.
After a few rounds of skipping, Jackson enters the ring for some pad work with Hussy Hussein. Billy keeps a watchful eye on his fighter and offers some words of encouragement, as well as some constructive criticism.
“Luke, stay low mate,” he says.
“You’re looking strong. Stay sharp and keep compact. Let’s make Frampton fight our fight.”
You can see that both the Hussein boys have built a relationship with Jackson that goes beyond boxing but right now there’s only one thing on all of their minds: preparing the best they can for the biggest fight of Jackson’s life.
When the Tasmanian was announced as the next opponent for Carl Frampton, many outside of Australian boxing circles were left wondering just who he was but despite his lack of presence on the big stage, Jackson wasn’t about to turn down an opportunity to fight one of boxing’s best.
“From their position they wanted a big name and I understand that but look I didn’t ask for this fight, I wanted the Valdez fight but this fight came up so I grabbed it with both hands,” Jackson told Aus-Boxing.
Whilst the former Olympic captain may lack experience at the kind of level that Frampton has fought at in recent years, he still feels he has the ability to not only compete with the one-time Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year, but also to defeat him.
“I feel that I’ve never boxed at my best, as crazy as that sounds,” Jackson says.
“I don’t really know how high I can go and how high the ceiling is.
“I’ve never really been pushed to the point where I needed to bring out the big guns, obviously as an amateur I did but I’m a different fighter now.
“With the training of Billy Hussein, I believe I can beat Carl Frampton.”
It’s often said that there are levels to this thing called boxing. Making the step from regional titles to the world stage doesn’t always go to plan for many fighters, especially when facing a fighter of the calibre of Carl Frampton but Jackson feels his ring smarts and the experience of his trainer will see him get the job done.
“I feel that I can make adjustments,” he says.
“I feel that I can dictate terms and do things how I want to do it and obviously Billy Hussein has his input as well.
“We actually talk in the corner about what I see and what he sees and we have a discussion about what we think is going to work.
“I think my I.Q. is very high and although I don’t have great punching power or speed, my timing is very good.”
Speaking with Jackson is refreshing. He’s an engaging personality but also a man with humility. He’s not the type to brag but it’s clear he has the self-belief needed to beat the odds and the fact that he’s even made it this far is a testament to his hard work and desire.
It wasn’t all that long ago that Jackson was at a very low point in his life and much like so many before him, it was boxing that offered him salvation.
“June 22, 2002 I had my first fight as an amateur fighter,” he says.
“My goal as an amateur was to be known as a boxer, I wasn’t sure if that was what was going to make things work for me but I didn’t really have much going on in my life.
“I was into drugs and I guess I thought I needed someone or something and boxing was there for me.
“To be here 16 years later, Olympic captain, Commonwealth captain, World Championship captain and now fighting for a world title is crazy, absolutely crazy.”
As a sweat soaked Jackson finishes his workout he shows a glimpse of what drives him. This moment of introspection epitomises the kind of man he is. He knows he’s done the work and now it’s matter of seeing just how well he can measure up to one of boxing’s best.
“I always promised myself that I didn’t want to be that guy when I’m 60 or 70 sitting in a pub saying I would have, could have or should have,” he says.
“If I do it (win a world title), it’s because I’m good enough and if I don’t it’s because I just wasn’t good enough.
“I’ve given myself every opportunity to be the best Luke Jackson I can on August 18.
“I’ve dedicated myself for many, many years and I’ve gone without a lot.
“I’ll only get one shot at this. I never want to be that guy that says I could have done that if I would have done this.”
Words: Dan Attias/Follow Dan on Twitter