Jason Cook (b. 1975) took himself to a European title, but may have made more of his talents without weight problems and more serious troubles outside the ring.
An outstanding amateur who won an ABA title and silver for Wales at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, ‘the Power’ turned professional in 1996.
The Maesteg man won all but one of his first 15 fights through to 2001, before his career was interrupted by his criminal activities outside the sport.
Whilst working as a postman Cook was tempted to steal some of the credit cards he was meant to deliver. He was sentenced to 15 months for fraud, eventually spending five months in prison in 2001, first in Cardiff then in Usk.
It was at Usk that he says he began to refocus his life and career and, after his release, he claimed three quick wins before landing an unlikely shot at the vacant European lightweight title.
The Welshman was a late replacement for Bobby Vanzie, who had pulled out of the bout against Sandro Casamonica in Calabria, Italy. With just four days notice of the fight, Cook travelled as an 11-1 underdog and struggled in the early exchanges.
The visitor was floored in the third, but – as Casamonica moved in for the kill – the Italian was caught with a punch that Cook would later describe as the best of his career. The stunning left hook flattened the home favourite, and Maesteg had a new sporting hero.
“From being locked up a jail in November 2001 to European champion August 2002 was just unreal and beyond my wildest expectations,” Cook would later say.
After one successful defence, Cook lost the title outside the ring when he failed to make weight for a fight against Stefano Zoff.
The now-former champion beat Zoff and kept on winning, picking up the lightly regarded IBO crown along the way. The winning run lasted until November 2004, but then he ran into Argentina’s Aldo Rios.
Cook, who had complained about problems making weight in the build-up, was flattened in the third round, although samples taken from Rios before the fight would later result in a failed drugs test for the Argentine.
‘The Power’ stayed out of the ring for a year, returning with a two-round disqualification win over Gary Reid. Cook had also been complaining of a shoulder injury, though, and he announced his retirement.
He stayed away from the ring for four years, returning with a 2009 win over Scott Jordan before entering the innovative new Prizefighter tournament.
This involved a potential three three-round fights in one night but – after beating Michael Grant in the quarter-final – Cook was defeated by fellow Welshman Gavin Rees, who would go on to claim the £32,000 first prize.
Cook had done enough to secure a shot at Lenny Daws’s British light-welterweight crown, though, the Welshman taking the champion all the way.
After hurting Daws in the first round, Cook built up a big points lead. But his stamina problems returned and the champion came on strong in the later rounds to save his belt in a 12-round draw.
Two more wins secured Cook another shot at the British belt, but new champion Ashley Theophane proved too strong for the veteran and claimed a 10th-round stoppage victory.
After an October 2011 win over Laszlo Szekeres, Cook was once again out of the ring for an extended period.
He returned in April 2013 against Glenn Foot at the Rainton Meadows Arena, Houghton-le-Spring, but he was dropped twice and cut before being stopped in the seventh.
- Jason Cook’s career record
- Wikipedia – Jason Cook
- Johnny Owen website – Jason Cook profile
- From prison to Prizefighter