15/04/2024

Luke Jackson will fight for the final time when he meets Tyson Lantry on August 23 - Image: Luke Jackson/Facebook, Design: Theo Dimou

The number 841 might seem like a random set of digits to most, but to Luke Jackson (20-2, 8 KOs) it serves as the glue that holds a mended soul together.

No, it’s not the amount of flights the Tasmanian has taken over a 20 year international amateur and professional boxing career, one that has included 2012 Olympic selection and a World title fight in front of 24 000 fans in Belfast.

It’s not the number of rounds he has sparred in the lead up to his highly anticipated rematch with Tyson Lantry (10-4, 5 KOs) on No Limit Boxing’s August 23 card in Sydney.

In fact, it has nothing to do with fighting, at least in regard to hand to hand combat.

The sum represents a much bigger battle, where there are no rounds or rest breaks. Every time the man known as ‘Action’ lands a bruising punch, the opponent returns full of vigour.

841 marks the number of days Jackson has remained free from the clutches of a tidal wave of cocaine and alcohol addiction.

Though he holds the upper hand in the bout, gaining ascendency hasn’t been an easy process.

“Cocaine has been an issue since 2013, it’s been 10 years,” Jackson told The Inner Sanctum.

“It’s been a journey, it’s a constant journey.

“It’s one that I’ve faced head on, I haven’t run away from it like I used to.”

In the midst of cocaine and alcohol addiction, Luke Jackson fought gallantly against Carl Frampton for the WBO interim featherweight title in August 2018

Each time Jackson ran from his problems, however, he found himself in the midst of both a sprint and a marathon.

With each fight camp and bout during his professional career, he would bolt to the finish line, knowing that at the end of the two to three month block, an excess of drugs and alcohol awaited.

Often, these ‘cocaine binges’ as he terms them, could last days, if not weeks or months.

“I’d start training for a fight, so I’d stop and I’d do everything right for 8-12 weeks, and then I’d go on a massive bender after the fight. That would continue until I had another fight locked in,” Jackson recalls.  

“The only time I wasn’t off my head is when I was training for a fight or fighting, but when I had the fight I’d have all the drugs ready and I’d be thinking about the afterparty. 

“It was a f*****g shit show.

“Towards the end when I stopped, I started doing it by myself in the bedroom. Like even on a Monday night, I’d come home from work and if I had drugs, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. 

“I always tried and reason with myself, I’ll just have a few [lines of cocaine] and I’ll go to bed, but I never would, I’d kick on and turn into a mess.”

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With such feats of endurance came dark thoughts.

Jackson’s mind, already plagued with a turbulent upbringing of limited schooling, marijuana use and street roaming in one of Hobart’s toughest suburbs, became further clouded by grey.

Finding freedom from the clutches of addiction seemed almost impossible.

“I didn’t want to live, but I didn’t want to die either,” he conceded.

“I’ve just struggled a lot with everything in life, and drugs was a way out.

“My upbringing was very chaotic. There was no structure, there was no routine, it was all over the place.

“The darkest moment, there’s been a few, but, just before I stopped, I got into a pretty bad state where I was doing it for myself.”

While the decade of despair has created a toll of physical and mental damage, the experience of rock bottom has had at least one positive effect.

The collection of harrowing memories serve as the motivating factor behind a journey of self-improvement.

Through the practice of yoga and meditation, in conjunction with regular appointments with psychologists and psychiatrists, Jackson is now in what can only be described as a much better space. So much so that he believes he is ready to help others fighting similar battles.

After also seeing the work of Hope in Health founder Nick Midgley, himself an ex-boxer who has overcome heroin addiction, the now 39 year old is fully inspired to make a difference.

“I met up Nick at a training camp through a good friend of mine,” he said.

“I found out he’s got the drug and alcohol treatment at Hope in Health.

“I’m like, ‘f**k, this is what I’m about.’ He’s sober as well and he’s former drugs and this and that, and he’s turned his life around, and now he’s helping others. That’s what I want to do. 

“I’ve found my purpose for life and I just feel good.”

Before taking the next step, the decorated veteran has one more piece of in-ring business to attend to.

Having fought the aforementioned Tyson Lantry to a disputed decision loss in late 2020, Jackson is determined to square the ledger in what will be his last outing. Though he doesn’t just want a victory, he needs it.

In his eyes, the final chapter of a storied career must depict the silver he has found on his journey

After all, he’s come too far for it not to happen this way.

“I’ve been doing this for over 22 years now. I’m an old man, but I’m ready to put a show,” he concluded.

“I think I outwork him, I outbox him, I think I’m too good in every area, and the version that he fought last time was the worst version ever. 

“I still thought I nicked the fight, a lot of people did.

“I’m not really worried about that, I’m just worried about setting it straight and putting on a great performance and I know I will, I’ve done so much work for this.

“I’ve put everything on the line, so hopefully the performance speaks for itself.”

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