BETHLEHEM, PA - When Russian knockout sensation Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev, 20-0-1, 18 KOs, squares off against Houston's Cornelius White, 21-1, 16 KOs, at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, the light heavyweight contender will have a not-so-secret weapon in his corner. Over the last year, Kovalev has been working with former world champion John David Jackson, who in recent years has become a standout as a boxing trainer.
The Kovalev-White bout is part of a knockout triple header on the next edition of NBC Sports Network's popular Fight Night , on Friday, June 14th. The broadcast begins at 8PM ET, and also includes a 10-round heavyweight fight between Philadelphia's Bryant Jennings, 16-0, 8 KOs, and Andrey Fedosov, 24-2, 19 KOs, of Russia, as well as a 10-round welterweight clash between Bethlehem's Ronald Cruz, 17-1, 12 KOs, and Ray Narh, 25-2, 21 KOs, of Ghana.
Before becoming a trainer, John David Jackson had an excellent boxing career that included world titles in both the junior middleweight and middleweight divisions, and an overall pro record of 36-4, 20 KOs. In his post-punching era, Jackson has worked with fighters like Bernard Hopkins, Shane Mosley, Nate Campbell, Randall Bailey, and others. Now, his latest charge, Kovalev, is quickly climbing the ranks toward a world title shot.
"He's a tremendous puncher, probably the most pure puncher in the division," Jackson said. "I don't try to change anything he does because his style is very unique. It's not conventional. He punches from different angles. One thing he does really nice is when he throws his shots, he sits on almost all his punches. I just try to add small things to his game."
Jackson learned the training trade during his five years in Philadelphia, when as a boxer, he worked with legendary trainer George Benton.
"Georgie Benton was my one and only true teacher of boxing," Jackson said of the North Philly icon. "I would just pick his brain. I think the relationship we built, and just watching him and the way he did things, made the transition (from boxer to trainer) easy for me. He was the first person to tell me that I would make a very good trainer. He said, 'You'll make a great trainer because you have patience and you understand the game.' So Georgie was the main reason I've had success as a trainer."
(Jackson and Kovalev)
Jackson needed that patience when he first started working with Kovalev. At first they didn't click, but over time, their relationship grew and their communication and understanding of each other began to pay off.
"I just took my time," Jackson said about the early days in Camp Kovalev. "With each passing day, we began to click, and by the second fight, we really began to gel. Now he's a pleasure to deal with."
There is no question that Kovalev's career has been on the fast track over the last year, and Jackson sees more success in his immediate future, starting with the fight against White, on June 14th.
"Cornelius White is a nice fighter," Jackson said. "But I don't think he has enough ammunition to offset what Sergey is bringing to the table that night. I know it won't go the distance."