“We really are interested in touching the lives of these young people,” said Julian Jackson, three-time world champion boxer and native Virgin Islander. “Not just physically, but emotionally, and mentally. We want to see them have an education. The program is about reaching the whole man.”
Jackson was joined at the press conference by his two sons, Julius and John Jackson, and his nephew, Samuel Rogers. All three are successful professional boxers.
Rogers and John Jackson both hold WBC world titles and Julius is fighting for a title of his own this April.
Julius and John Jackson competed in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Julian Jackson believes the youth program will help continue the territory’s pedigree of excellence in boxing.
“The Virgin Islands can feel proud about it,” he said.
The new gym will be located in Peter’s Rest in a vacant area of the same building that currently houses Closet to Closet.
The youth program is run by a group of volunteer coaches. Interested children must pay a $30 yearly fee to cover insurance, but otherwise the program is free.
The model has been a success on St. Thomas, attracting children as young as seven.
“We have some youngsters that are nine years old,” said Jackson. “You wouldn’t believe what they can do.”
The most talented athletes in the program are regularly invited to box in off-island tournaments. Jackson said that at most of the tournaments they’ve participated in, at least one Virgin Island boxer has medaled. He hopes the program will produce more Olympians for the territory, but ultimately the goal is to develop the children’s characters, he said.
Julius Jackson was attending college in Florida at the same time he was qualifying for the Olympics, he said, adding that boxing taught him to prioritize things in his life.
“I had to put everything aside—my social life, everything—because I wanted to go to the Olympics,” he recalled. “I thought if I’m going to do this, this is what has to happen. I have to wake up at 5 o’clock every morning and go to bed at 1 o’clock every night.”
There will be a sneak peak of the new gym this Saturday at 7 p.m. The event will include a screening of John Jackson’s and Samuel Rogers’ championship fights with live commentary by the fighters.
Parents interested in enrolling their children in the youth program are encouraged to view the gym and meet the coaches. For more information call 244-8848.