The sound of the horn from the large, white Mustang, parked outside the lobby of the famous MGM Grand, was long and somehow aggressive.
It was parked up on the far side of the area and seemed to have no reason to attract attention.
It was then that the tinted driver’s window wound down to reveal Badou Jack, the WBC super-middleweight champion of the world, grinning the grin of a man with the world at his feet – or rather in his hands.
The slogan on his red t-shirt? ‘Young, Rich and Famous’ and it just about sums him up perfectly. In Las Vegas of all places, world champions are elevated above the rest. But Jack’s journey to the top was about as arduous as it gets. And it’s still not proving easy.
He drew with Lucian Bute to retain his title despite appearing to dominate the fight.
Today he is fresh off the plane from Washington DC, where he drew with Lucian Bute to retain his title despite appearing to dominate the fight. It’s irking him.
‘I hear the WBC are thinking about changing the decision or something,’ he said. ‘I dunno. We will see. I don’t want that draw on my record.’
But you kept your title with that result anyway. ‘Don’t mean nothing,’ he responded. ‘I won that fight.’
Jack was born in Stockholm to a Swedish mother and a Gambian father and made his mark as one of Sweden’s most prolific amateur boxers. He won the national championships five-years running and was named Sweden’s boxer of the year in 2007.
He switched allegiances to the Gambia in the run up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and became the first boxer ever to represent the West African republic at the Games. In fact, so big was the excitement around him, that he was chosen as their flag bearer at the opening ceremony.
This Gambian via Sweden decided America was for him.
But he was beaten in the first-round in Beijing and swiftly turned professional back in Sweden. He raced to 5-0 inside a year of turning pro but, somehow, knew there was more to life. That is when this Gambian via Sweden decided America was for him.
He did the rounds over there and was spotted by undefeated icon Floyd Mayweather Jr during a sparring session in 2012. It should have been the start of something great.
But in February 2014, with a world title shot beginning to appear on the horizon, he suffered a crushing first-round knock-out by the little-known Derek Edwards and it was back to square one.
‘All of that, everything that happened to me then,’ he explained. ‘That’s helped me get to where I am today.’
Jack is now world champion. He swiftly rebuilt from that shock loss and, only three fights later, beat Anthony Dirrell to clinch the WBC title that he holds today.
His decision to up sticks to Sin City has been vindicated but before he defended his title against Bute, the 32-year-old arranged a trip to the Gambia for a dose of reality.
‘I met the president and spent time with my family.’
‘I went there at the start of the camp ahead of the Bute fight. I met the president and spent time with my family,’ he says. ‘I had such a good time over there.
‘Going back was a truly humbling experience. You don’t really know what kind of effect you are having on the people until you go back yourself. Seeing it with my own eyes was an incredible experience.
‘If I can become a world champion, why shouldn’t they? We are from the same country after all. I’m extremely proud of my heritage and I hope the Gambian people know that.
‘I hadn’t been there for 15 years. I was back there, met the president and all the boxers and everything. It was amazing; it was inspirational. I won’t be leaving it another 15 years to go back that’s for sure.
‘I’m the first boxing Olympian ever from the Gambia and people have been inspired by that. People see what I’m doing and they want to start training, they want to start hitting the bag.
‘The national team came to my hotel to meet me. They were working out on the beach in front of me. Hopefully I can continue to inspire people over there.’
‘I’m a Gambian born in Sweden who lives in Vegas,’ he said. ‘I think that tells you I’ve got no problem travelling.’
But before he can think about another trip to Africa, this globe trotter might be set for a debut in the United Kingdom.
By retaining his title against Bute, Jack set up a unification clash with London’s James DeGale, who successfully defended his IBF title on the undercard in Washington.
DeGale has not boxed in his hometown for two years now and is desperate to lure Jack to England for their fight, which has been pencilled in for September. Not a problem for Jack.
‘I’m a Gambian born in Sweden who lives in Vegas,’ he said. ‘I think that tells you I’ve got no problem travelling. I would love to go to London.’
‘But they’ve got to pay me the right money, though. That’s what it’s all about now. I’ve got myself to this position, I’m a champion and I should be respected now.’
Jack will take some time to unwind before turning his full attention to DeGale.
‘But, what’s not to love about Vegas? Maybe we should just do it here.’
But, with the bruises from Washington still fading, Jack will take some time to unwind before turning his full attention to DeGale, his fellow Olympian from Beijing.
He will have his hands full, however, following the birth of his first child, a daughter, just a fortnight before his fight with Bute. ‘I’m looking forward to getting home and spending time with her,’ he said. ‘I might eat a little bit and just relax. DeGale is a good fighter and when the time comes that is when we will focus on him.
‘For now it’s time to enjoy my family. I only live like 20-minutes away from here. This is the life I’ve chosen and it’s working out pretty good.’