Unsung 20th Century Fights: Julian Jackson vs Gerald McClellan

The WBC middleweight title was on the line on May 8, 1993. Julian Jackson had captured the belt on Nov. 24, 1990 — the second world title of his career — after moving up from the junior middleweight division to defeat British great Herol Graham. He made four successful title defenses in five fights prior to the night in question.

Meanwhile, Gerald McClellan was tearing through the division. He had only seen four of his 29 fights go further than the third round. Seen by many in boxing circles as the middleweight version of Mike Tyson, who was incarcerated at the time, McClellan was the knockout king of the sport.

He notably defeated superstar Roy Jones Jr in their amateur days at the 1988 National Golden Gloves, and after losing the 11th and 12th fights of his pro career, McClellan had conquered his next 17 opponents in just under four years of action.

The Fight

Jackson was quick out of the gates with a sharp jab and overhand right that landed. McClellan displayed good movement on the inside and caught Jackson with a sneaky right hand, then proceeded to unload three big bombs on Jackson that were partially blocked. Jackson retorted with a jab that tagged McClellan. With about a minute to go, both fighters threw a series of haymakers, the majority of which missed. Still, McClellan did enough to win the round.

Before the second round bell, McClellan was caught on camera looking like a man possessed, ready to inflict damage upon his opponent. If McClellan was possessed, Jackson would prove to be his exorcist, as he went to the body with verve and precision. McClellan, while getting out-boxed in the round, did not revert into a shell, but rather threw every single punch there is for a boxer to throw, yet Jackson’s defense and countering was superb. Jackson evened the score after two.

A head clash in the third round saw McClellan docked a point. The round was otherwise even, so this put him in a pit. Throughout the third and fourth rounds, Jackson became comfortable with throwing feints, and kept McClellan somewhat off-balance. McClellan would extend his left arm out at Jackson’s head to establish distance. Yet, Jackson remained vigilant with sweeping crosses to the body. McClellan resorted to dancing around the ring to end the round, and picked up a couple points with his jab from him.

Round five brought the most excitement, as Jackson caught the “G-Man” with a sneaky left hand to the face. Both fighters then traded shots once more to the body. Then the moment of truth happened, as a downward angling right hand stunned Jackson, and a followup left cross sent him flying to the canvas. Jackson would arise again, but McClellan hit him with a jolting right that effectively ended the fight.

Aftermath

This fight is a great one to watch for many reasons. It emanates nostalgia, and shows two gladiators battling for a championship in one of the best boxing duels of the decade. Whether its supreme counterpunching, marvelous work to the body, or calculated punching upstairs, this fight gave viewers the goods.

It also allows us to marvel at the greatness of Gerald McClellan, and put into perspective the grim and somber nature that boxing sometimes carries.

One would like to think that most great fighters retain their championships, may face a defeat or two in their prime and bounce back, before retiring into a life of comfort and acclaim, with most of their faculties intact. Unfortunately, McClellan wasn’t so lucky.

After his defeat of Jackson, he would successfully defend his title three times, the third time against Jackson in a rematch which McClellan won via first round knockout. Then, in his fourth title defense by him, the unthinkable happened. Against Nigel Benn, he sustained several devastating punches to the back of the head. That, mixed with questionable competence on the part of the referee, endangered McClellan and caused him to pass out after getting counted out in the 10th round.

As a result, McClellan suffered vision and hearing loss. He is currently blind, and without most of his hearing faculties. As of a few years ago, he regained the ability to walk with a walker.

Today, McClellan is seeking stem cell treatment to hopefully reverse some of the damages he’s sustained from that fateful fight. His pension ran out shortly after retiring, and he is in need of the financial assistance. A GoFundMe was started in early 2021 — here is the linkfor those who may be interested.

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