Julian Jackson will be the first to admit he was not a very nice fellow when he was growing up on St. Thomas.
As a youth, he got into fights and eventually dropped out of school. But an older man who ran a gym on St. Thomas took him under his wing, into the gym and turned his life around.
The former middleweight boxing champion was not a very nice fellow in the ring either, developing into "one of the most fearsome punchers pound for pound in the '90s," according to the Boxing Wise Hall of Fame. Numerous opponents seemed to have gotten the upper hand on Jackson, only to hit the canvas hard after Jackson detonated a bomb out of nowhere.
Now the retired champ is helping a dozen young men develop character and discipline. When Jackson got the word from Housing, Parks and Recreation employees Orville "Chopper" Brown and Lawrence "Milk" Charles that there were some guys interested in boxing, he jumped at the opportunity to include them in his I Believe I Can Fly Boxing Program.
Three days a week at the Cruz Bay Recreation Center, he works with them on their boxing skills as well as life skills. Jackson's motivation, he said, is to "develop a group of proud Virgin Islanders. It is my hope to help in the development of the whole man through boxing, just like I was.
"Each of these guys has their own style," he said. "I try to develop their individual style."
"They're fast learners—they are working hard," Jackson said. Alston Smith, one of the program's trainees, agrees the pace is quick. "The program is developing faster than I thought," he said.
Smith said he joined because "I want to handle my anger better. Jackson always encourages us and makes us feel good about ourselves. He reminds us to work hard in school and to show some respect."
Avery Hyncinth, who "joined to keep fit," said he "is trying harder to do my work and stay out of trouble." He also likes the fact that Jackson "not only helps us to keep fit but he also how to stay out of trouble."
Gerson Guerrero, who moved from the Dominican Republic about two-and-a-half years ago, "likes everything about the program." He describes working with Jackson as "perfect" and wants to become good enough to be turn pro one day.
"It's nice learning from one who been there and done it," he said.
Jackson is working on a tournament to be held in December that will include boxers from St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. But the program needs help. Sponsorship letters are being sent out, and some companies like Island Block and MSI have already donated material and equipment.
He may be retired from professional boxing, but Jackson is still a champ to the young men he is teaching to believe they can fly, and touch the sky, with hard work and good character.
For more information, call the Housing, Parks and Recreation Department at 776-6531.


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