By Gary Purfield
In the co-feature to the Pacquiao vs. Bradley PPV this weekend Philadelphia’s Mike Jones (26-0, 19 KO) will attempt to complete his journey to a world title. He meets power punching Randall Bailey for the vacant IBF Welterweight title. Jones was pegged as a future title holder the moment he turned pro. He has been groomed for this moment by hall of fame promoter Russell Peltz and is determined to follow through on his potential with a win Saturday night.
Jones has been matched each step of the way to prepare him for this moment. Early in his career, he won his first five fights by stoppage with all but one coming inside three rounds. He got experience and rounds against veteran boxers Lenin Arroyo and Henry Bruseles in decision wins. He got his first challenge in deep waters against Jesus Soto-Karass. In a big second round he appeared to be close to stopping the veteran Mexican, but then found himself spent and out of gas with Soto-Karass still standing. He survived the tough middle rounds to take a disputed decision. Jones then made amends when he thoroughly out boxed Soto-Karass to win a wide unanimous decision in the immediate rematch.
Jones then got closer to the title when he met tough guy Sebastian Lujan at Madison Square Garden last year on the Cotto-Margarito undercard. Jones out boxed Lujan to a unanimous decision to set up the title opportunity that awaits him Saturday night.
The quiet, calm, and reserved Jones met with the media at Joe Hand Gym prior to leaving for Las Vegas. As always, Jones kept it simple when talking about his big opportunity to fight for a world title.
“It is a lifelong dream to fight for the title. All I know is I’m 100% confident in myself and my abilities. I come to win and I will not lose.
“I never get too high or too low. I never need acceptance from anybody, whether I score a knockout or get a decision win. I stay true to myself. I believe in God and I believe in myself. That’s what matters to me.”
Jones will have to defeat the veteran knockout artist Randall Bailey (42-7, 36 KO) to walk away with the title. Jones will have every advantage including speed, skill, boxing IQ, and maybe most important youth, as Jones is twenty nine years old to Bailey, who is thirty-seven. He will have every advantage save one. Bailey comes to the ring with the great equalizer. His right hand can put the lights out at any moment.
“He’s a banger, definitely likes to bang. I can do more than just slug. I’ll do whatever it takes to win, even if I have to pound him out, but I want to be moving to set everything up. I don’t know if he can take my power. My plan is not to give him anything and not to give him any advantage.
“It’s like game planning for a tough defense in basketball. You have to take Bailey’s best attribute – his banging – away from him. Once you do that, things become a lot easier.”
Jones’s trainer, Vaughn Jackson, who is far more outspoken and prone to giving exciting quotes, talked about Bailey’s power.
“I’ve been watching Randall Bailey for quite a while now. He still has a lot of power, but I’m not expecting any changes since he’s an older guy stuck in his old ways. Whatever he brings, we’ll be ready for it.”
Jones and Jackson know they have to be prepared for Bailey’s power. They also feel Bailey had better be prepared for the power and strength Jones brings to the ring. Jones is a large welterweight, to say the least, standing six feet tall. Bailey is five foot nine inches and has spent a large part of his career at junior welterweight, so Jones will be the bigger man in the ring.
Jones stated, “He has to watch out for my big shots, too. He’s shown he can be knocked out as well. He has his weak points; he doesn’t have a real good jab and he doesn’t put combinations together well. His thing is just trying to bomb you out with one punch. I just want to use my speed and show that I’m the better fighter all around.”
Jackson added, “People talk and say what they’re going to do, but when Bailey gets in the ring and feels how strong Mike is, he’s going to be in a lot of trouble and have his hands full. He’ll realize then he’s in with a full-blown 147-pound man. Mike is big. If Bailey thinks he can bully Mike, that’s not going to happen.”
Jackson went further, stating that Mike will control the fight and that while Bailey can punch, his chin is suspect as three of his seven losses have been by knockout.
“Randall Bailey won’t be able to stand back and dictate the pace. Mike, with his all-around boxing talent, will dictate the pace. Bailey will have to move around more than he’s accustomed to, which he’s never been known to do and at his age that will be even more difficult for him now. I think Bailey is going to step straight to Mike and try to hit the lottery. That’s the only chance he has, but Bailey’s chin is suspect, and Mike can crack, too.”
Despite the opportunity, Jones remains cool and calm as always. He went about as far on the edge with words as he will ever go when asked for a prediction stating, “I don’t have a prediction, but I’m just going to beat him down.” He believes he will win, look good, and demonstrate that he is getting better with each fight.
“Making a statement in this fight is showing my best, winning the fight and looking fantastic. The plan always is for me to show the world something better each and every time out.”
Assuming he avoids getting caught clean with a Bailey bomb and does what he is capable of doing, he should leave the ring with a world title Saturday night. With an impressive win on this particular card he could be setting himself up for much bigger opportunities in the future. If Pacquiao defeats Bradley, Jones could be a viable opponent for the future as Pacquiao is running out of opponents (beside the obvious one but that is a topic for another day). If Bradley wins, then he could look to unify welterweight titles against Jones in a matchup of young rising undefeated champions. Either way, Jones is sitting pretty with a win and the IBF title this Saturday night . But first things first. Jones has to win Saturday to complete this part of his journey.
“I always dream about them holding my hand up and I’m the new world champion. There’s no doubt that I’ll be the new IBF world welterweight champion.”
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