Ever since he was a little kid, Long Island’s Jahi Tucker dreamed of fighting professionally at Madison Square Garden.
When he was 17, he remembered walking past The Garden the day of a WBC championship bout between lightweights Devin Haney and Zaur Abdullaev on Sep. 13, 2019.
He thought to himself, “I’m going to fight here, real soon.”
Just six days later, Tucker fought in his first professional fight at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He won via a first-round knockout.
Tucker, a welterweight, strung three more victories in a row, including this incredible body-shot KO finish below:
About a year later, he achieved his goal. He would fight at MSG, The World’s Most Famous Arena, on Oct. 10, 2021.
He remembers his walk up to the ring.
“I looked around… I saw everyone, and I was like, ‘We’re here. It’s time to do this.'”
He won again by TKO — this time in the second round. He went on to fight at MSG two more times in the next year. Both wins.
Now the pro boxer, who was born in Brooklyn but lives in Deer Park, is a perfect 9-0 and a rising prospect in the sport.
[Editor’s note: Jahi Tucker’s fight was canceled due to a miss weight.]
He has a big accomplishment on the horizon.
He’ll be on the undercard Saturday, Dec. 10, for a pay-per-view fight at MSG between Teofimo Lopez and Sandor Martin for the WBO International super lightweight championship.
“It’s a milestone for me,” he said.
The fight also has other special meanings for him.
“Not only am I fighting in my hometown at MSG…it’s also my 10th career pro fight,” he said. “It’s also my little cousin’s birthday that day.”
“I have a lot of things [going on this fight]; it means a lot to me that day,” said Tucker. “I got to go out there and perform.”
He’s taking on Ivan Pandzic (14-2-1) in an eight-round bout.
When asked about his opponent and how they match up, Tucker said he’s very confident heading in the match up.
“I see domination,” he said. “I think I hurt him, I think I stop him, but you never know with this sport.
“I want to give the fans a show.”
For those who want watch the fight, it will be availble on ESPN+. If you want to see the match in person, you can grab tickets here.
From Brooklyn to Long Island
Tucker, who turns 20 next month, said he owes a lot of his passion for the sport to his father Makonnan, who helps train and coach him.
“He never was a boxer himself, however, he always had me doing training around the house,” said Tucker.
Tucker lived in Brooklyn until he was 13. He grew up down the block from Starrett City Boxing, the world famous boxing gym.
“Some of New York’s best fighters ever trained there,” said Tucker. This includes world champions Zab Judah, Shannon Briggs, Dmitriy Salita, Luis Collazo, and Will Rosinsky.
He said him and his pops went there one day to check it out, and then the rest was history.
Then Tucker moved from Brooklyn to Long Island right before he was about to enter high school.
He said his boxing career took off while on the island.
“Long Island is different [than Brooklyn],” he said. “It’s more of a community type feel. In the city everyone is kind of doing their own thing.”
Tucker said it helped knowing there was some really talented fighters from the island, including champs Joe Smith Jr. of Shirley, Jamel Herring of Coram and Chris Algieri of Huntington.
“That’s big motivation seeing all these Long Island guys make it to the top,” said Tucker. “These guys are from towns no more than 20-30 min from me, and they live in small towns too… like me.”
On Long Island, Tucker trains at the Suffolk PAL in Brentwood.
He represented that gym when he fought for Team USA in 2018 and 2019. He won gold at the 2018 Junior Open and earned a first place finish at the 2019 Bornemissza Tournament, a European-based boxing competition.
“The guys [at Suffolk PAL] helped me,” said Tucker. “They always showed me a lot of love. I embrace it as a home now.”
A teenage boxing phenom
Tucker was 16, a junior at Deer Park High School, when he knew for sure he wanted to go pro.
He said he saw someone a year older than him who he came up with in the sport go pro and thought, “I’m better than him. I could do this now.”
So that’s exactly what he did.
He did say it was a little challenging balancing homework while preparing to fight grown men in the ring.
“When I went pro, I started training a lot harder, so balancing it all was a lot harder,” he said. “But where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
COVID actually helped expedite his decision.
He said, “There was no other options,” because all the amateur leagues were canceled due to the pandemic.
Now sitting at a perfect 9-0, he’s glad of his choices and all the hard work he’s put into the sport.
“I’m trying to be one of the best fighters to ever lace them up,” he said. “Whenever they mention Floyd Mayweather, Muhammad Ali, ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard, I want them to mention my name as well.”
When asked, “What would you tell your younger self if you had to do it all over?” he response was simple.
“You have to be patient,” he said. “Don’t rush. Your time is going to come. Experience teaches all.”
Highlights from his last fight at MSG
Here’s Tucker’s highlights from his last fight at Madison Square Garden: