News May 2019

Floyd Mayweather to Tony Pace: Jason Cook looks back on his career with Livefight


By @John_Evans79

It is over eleven years since Jason Cook, (29-5-1, 15 KOs), ventured to Italy as a late substitute, got up off the floor and starched Sandro Casamonica with a picture perfect left hook to win the European lightweight belt.

Although the rest of his career never quite scaled those heights, the likeable Maesteg man has provided plenty of excitement throughout a successful and exciting career and as he counts down the days until his final fight, against Welsh rival Tony Pace, Cook, now 38, remembers the proudest night of his life as if it were yesterday.

ďMay 5th 1993. That was my most memorable moment. Itís 21 years ago nearly. I won the ABA featherweight title.Ē Yes, thatís right. Surprisingly, the most memorable night of Cookís career wasnít that spectacular night in Calabria or the day he won his silver medal at the 1994 Commonwealth Games but an evening at Birmingham Indoor Arena. ďI was in exactly the same situation as I was in when I won the European title in Italy. I had no chance of winning it really but I won it in 2 minutes and 51 seconds [knocking out M McCrae from Fitzroy Lodge].Ē

It is an unexpected answer but one which I was happy to hear. Thousands of words have been written about the punch which floored Casamonica and perhaps they have overshadowed the rest of Cookís career.

Around the turn of the century, Cook was in his prime but British boxing was plagued by an influx of WBF, IBO and WBU titles. Promoters took full advantage, using the belts to keep their diaries full of television dates and their fighters unbeaten. Ten months after beating Stefano Zoff but losing his European title on the scales, rather than contesting the British title with the likes of Graham Earl and Bobby Vanzie or attempting to crack the world scene, Cook beat Ariel Oliveira to win the IBO belt.

Whilst defending the title kept him busy and Ė no doubt Ė paid a few bills, he is the type of man who would have relished the chance to win the British title [his two opportunities came late in his career and resulted in a draw with Lenny Daws and a defeat to Ashley Theophane] and Ė if possible Ė compete at the very highest level. Although he did almost get the opportunity to face the man now universally acknowledged as the toughest test in the sport.

ďI was ranked number five in the world at one time. I was on the shortlist to fight Floyd Mayweather. Weíre going back to 2003 and I was ranked number seven by the WBC and he had a voluntary defence where he could choose anybody he wanted as long as they were in the top ten or top 15.

ďIf the opportunity arises, you take it. Thatís why I took the Casamonica fight.

ďWhen I took that fight I was ranked about number eight in Britain. Because Iíd been to prison, Iíd lost my ranking and I was behind people like Michael Ayers and Colin Dunne. When I won the European title and made my first defence I established myself as the British number one and I was head and shoulders above them then. I think Graham Earl was the [British] champion at the time after he beat Bobby Vanzie and thatís the fight I wanted.

ďI was British number one and the European champion but I wanted that Lonsdale belt. When I turned pro in 1996, thatís all I ever wanted. I thought to myself that if I could fight for that and establish myself as a top five or top ten fighter in Britain, Iíd be happy and I surpassed that. People say that I could have achieved more than I had. Possibly I could have if I hadnít been loyal and gone away from my roots. Itís all about Ifs, Buts and Maybeís and they donít mean anything do they?Ē

And so we move from 2003 to 2014 and from Floyd Mayweather to Tony Pace. It may be a far cry from the days of old but Cook is attacking his final fling with the same intensity as he did the biggest nights of his career.

Many an aging fighter has been seduced into delaying their retirement by a successful training camp. Buoyed by some success against a younger sparring partner, an injury free build-up or a relatively comfortable weight cut, they choose to delay the inevitable and give it one last go. Not Cook. This truly is it. He is realistic enough to know that he is unlikely to compete at the level he once did and is concentrating on rewarding his supporters with one last victory.

ďThis is my last one. 100%. Never again. Iíve enjoyed my career. Itís been up and down but Iíve enjoyed every minute of it.

ďIíve enjoyed my training camp more than ever and I have got the buzz back in that way but Iím not going back on what I said. I swore on my childrenís lives Ė and my three children are my life Ė that Iím not gonna go through this anymore. I work full-time too and Iíve taken six and a half weeks off work for this and I canít afford to keep doing it. At least thereís a wage coming in whereas in boxing you never know.

ďAs you get older you pick up more injuries anyway. Touch wood Ė and Iím touching my head here Ė since I made my comeback Iíve only had very minor injuries, nothing serious.

ďIím only being honest with myself. People are saying itís an age thing. No, itís not an age thing! I want to box at a level that Ė being honest with myself Ė Iím not good enough to compete at no more. Iíve always wanted to win a British title and I donít think Iím gonna get the opportunity again. People say that if I win this in good style then I could be offered a British title. Itís tempting but itís not tempting enough. Iíve said no and no it is.

ďIíve got great support and Iíve sold 550 tickets and it wouldnít be fair on the fans. They are loyal fans. Iíve got some fans who were with me from the start. Some walked away after I lost my title but there are a lot of people whoíve seen me go through the good, the bad and the ugly and they still wanna be there and support me.

ďItíll be emotional and on the night there will probably be a few tears but Iíll make sure that there will be tears or joy as well. Iím making sure Iím winning this fight in style.Ē

Plans are already underway for life after boxing and Cook is planning on staying involved in the sport as a trainer. Boxing isnít his only sporting passion though and, should his short ball be as devastating as his left hook, the batsmen of the Welsh amateur cricket leagues could be set for a harrowing few years. Cook also has one boxing goal left, and in a nice touch of symmetry, it harks back to his days as an amateur.

ďI was a keen cricketer when I was young and I was a better cricketer than I was a boxer. Iím a bowler. I try to tag myself as an all-rounder but if Iím being honest with myself, Iím not! I still open the bowling and started back playing about two years ago. Iím only in the second team mind you!

ďI like to help the kids and itís the same with the boxing. After this fight Iíll probably take about six months out and then help the kids boxing too. Thatís not for me just yet though, I want to enjoy my life for a couple of months.

ďIím not gonna stay and train in Maesteg. I think Iím gonna go a bit further down the road. Thereís about three clubs in the space of six miles. Already, Iíve had so many people asking me to train them. One lad came to me the other day and told me heíd like me to train him. I asked him where heíd like to train and he said ĎIíll go wherever you are.í

ďIíll take whatever opportunities arise. Iím not choosy but Iíd love to train somebody for the 2020 Olympic Games. I lost out on my Olympic place by one point and Iíd love the opportunity to coach at the Olympics. The Commonwealth Games were amazing and Iím hoping to go back to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow as a guest. Itís the 20th anniversary of my silver medal. Itís amazing how fast it goes.Ē

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