Ali Jacko Legacy
Many people have underestimated the stubborn determination of Ali Jacko, a self- proclaimed ordinary English lad of Bangladeshi decent who was destined to follow his dreams. Born in England in 1969, Jacko may have been ‘ordinary’ but his pursuit of his personal ambitions saw him eventually become a World Kickboxing Champion, who would travel the globe and gain a fanatical multi-ethnic following. This determination was in evidence from an early age, where he excelled at sport, playing Junior League football and becoming the BMX Freestyle Schoolboy champion. At the age of 17 he was already running his own fashion design and manufacturing business, but it was the dynamic sport of kickboxing that was to give him the gateway to the popularity and esteem he enjoys today.
From his humble beginnings, Ali Jacko became the first Asian to win British, European, Inter-Continental, and World Full-Contact Kickboxing championships in a 45 fight unbeaten career, with his World title fight at ‘The Island’ in Ilford on 26 th May 1996 proving to be one of the most spectacular and memorable shows in British Kickboxing history, with the Bollywood superstar Salman Khan travelling from India to support his friend. From winning his first B.I.K.MA British title in 1990, Ali capped his remarkable career by taking his second World title, this time the WKN belt, in June 2000, but before he retires from fighting he still has one great ambition unrealised and that is to fight for a World Title in Bangladesh. On this topic he says, ‘we are small in size but not in strength: we just need the right guidance and support to go forward in the most advanced sporting world today.’
Ali’s achievements have not gone unnoticed in the local community, where his fame has been used to good effect to foster racial harmony, and alongside a award given to him by the Tower Hamlets Council, Jacko has also won the Canary Wharf Sporting Personality Award 2001 and won the UK Asian Sporting Award in 2003. As a result, Ali has an enviable fan base from all communities, especially amongst the younger generation, where he is perceived as a cultural hero. Ali, however, puts it into perspective by saying, ‘I am just an ordinary English/Bangladeshi and like every other human being I have dreams, but I just took my dreams forward to reality and became the World Kickboxing Champion.’
It may be outside of the ring that Ali achieves his greatest success, however, through his innovative televised series of Thai and Kickboxing shows, first presented by JKO Promotions in November 1999. Before the advent of ‘Now is the Time: Night of Combat’, kickboxing only featured sporadically on the satellite networks but Ali Jacko was determined to ensure that his series of events would become the flagship for martial arts action on terrestrial television.
To succeed, Jacko realised that his shows had to be as professionally produced, lit, and edited as any mainstream television programme. To ensure this he brought in a professional production company and introduced multiple camera shoots, lighting rigs to rival any boxing show, a professional commentary and interview team, state of the art graphics and big screen display, complete with instant replays, for the live paying audience. This fusion of classic production values, expert commentary and assured editing saw ‘Now is the Time: Night of Combat’ become the first ever British martial arts show to receive a sustained run on terrestrial television, a success story that is ongoing on Channel 5.
The key to the success was the way that Jacko brought together top promoters, raising the profile of the country’s best fighters and featuring them consistently in high quality professional bouts. Only the best fights were chosen for broadcast and ‘Now is the Time’ was an instant hit for Channel 5. Now even stronger, slicker and exciting, ‘Now is the Time: Night of Combat’ is a benchmark for quality and has introduced the wider viewing public to some of the best fighters this country has to offer, featuring spectacular knockouts, legendary wars and technical excellence on a weekly schedule.
For Ali Jacko, however, this is only the beginning as his ultimate dream is to bring Thai, Kickboxing and the K1 format into the mainstream as genuine rivals to professional boxing with live shows broadcast and the creation of a generation of ‘household’ name fighting stars in the process.