What a difference a year can make in the boxing landscape. In early 2009, the welterweight division was home to many of the big names in boxing: Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, and Antonio Margarito. Now many of those fighters have moved up to 154, or taken a sabbatical away from the sport. What some fans see as a disappointment, rising welterweight Mike Jones views as an opportunity.
The Philadelphia contender will get his biggest exposure next Saturday (November 13) when he fights Jesus Soto Karass on the undercard of Pacquiao-Margarito. Coming up in Joe Frazier’s gym, Jones was indoctrinated with the hard-nose, blue-collar toughness that came to define fighters from Philadelphia. But will be that be enough to help Jones handle the bright lights of the big stage?
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Since you’re an up and comer many casual fans may not be familiar with you. When did you start boxing?
Jones: I started when I was 15 years old as an amateur. I used to play basketball and football but nothing too serious. I wanted to box and my dad took me down to Joe Frazier’s gym in north Philly. And that’s when my amateur career began and I just stuck with it. I turned professional at 22 years old. And here I am now.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: One of the hot-button topics in the sport is the matchmaking, especially when it comes to prospects and fledgling contenders. How do you feel you’ve been matched up five years into your career?
Jones: I think it’s been going along pretty good. I’m learning on the job. I’m getting better and better, but I’m still making mistakes. Every fighter does, but everything is starting to fall into place.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Even though you’ve never weighed more than 148 for a fight, you look a lot bigger and stronger than many of your fellow welterweights, especially in your last few fights against Hector Munoz and Irving Garcia…
Jones: I know I’m in the top of my class as far as strength in the welterweight division. I’m not sure I am the strongest, but definitely one of.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: You like to trade up close and walk guys down. Will we see any changes for this fight?
Jones: I’m looking to box a little bit more. Karass is pretty much a bruiser; he likes to come straight in at you and throw a lot of punches. I’m going to give him angles and a good jab. We’ll see how he handles that.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Jesus Soto Karass has a tendency to throw low blows and lead with his head. The latter put a nasty cut on Alfonso Gomez in his last fight. Is that a new challenge for you?
Jones: Yeah, definitely have to be aware of that so I have the chance to fight. I just have to make sure that caution doesn’t take away from my game plan.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: When you look at tapes of yourself, where are the areas you’re looking to improve in?
Jones: I want to improve on my balance. I want my legs a lot stronger. And master my jab. The fights will go a lot easier if I throw it correctly. That’s about it. I can improve those a whole lot.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Who are the fighters you enjoy watching in your division?
Jones: I like guys Andre Berto, he’s a good talent. Paul Williams is good, although he moves around he says he can still make 147. There are more guys, but they’re not coming to the top of my head right now.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: You might be drawing a blank because some of the titlists are now non-American fighters. How willing are you to travel to unify the belts?
Jones: I would like to fight in the U.S. because a lot of things happen over overseas. They tend to rob you out there. I don’t have a problem beating someone out there as long as things are fair.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: The ironic thing is that a little over a year ago, the division was packed with name fighters like Mayweather, Cotto, Mosley and Margarito. Has there been talk about you moving around in weight?
Jones: I really haven’t thought about it too much. I think we’ll stick with welterweight since I don’t have a problem making weight.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Any nervousness since this will be the highest profile fight of your career fighting on the Pacquiao-Margarito undercard?
Jones: Not at all. Every fight I feel is my biggest. I feel I’m defending a title any time I fight. I’m excited either way. When it’s over, I’ll look back like “wow, that was a big event.” As far as my mind state now, I’m focused on taking care of business.
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: Working under Joe Frazier, what’s the best advice he gave you?
Jones: Work hard. The boxing game is crazy. He used to always say “you can get your brain shook, your money took, and your name in an undertaker’s book.” You have to do all the right things and never slip up. You can’t go outside yourself, you have to stay true to the game to be treated right. The best advice was hard work every time I stepped in the gym.
There was no talking. You got in there and got your stuff together. You train non-stop. When it’s all done, then you can start talking [laughs].
AllHipHop.com: We all have our favorite fighters. Who are you top five all time?
Jones: I’d have to start with Muhammad Ali. He was very fast, smart, and he put his punches together. One thing I loved was that he was very tough.
I love Joe Frazier because he had a lot of power and was persistent. He had a great left hook, and I know him [laughs].
Tommy Hearns had a great jab and a wicked right hand.
Georgie Benton was a great defensive fighter. Guys like Floyd Mayweather roll with their shoulders like Georgie Benton used to do. I think he started it.
Evander Holyfield, I love his toughness and countering ability. Georgie Benton trained Evander Holyfield for a little bit.
Bernard Hopkins for how great defensively he is. He always executes his game plan to perfection. I loved the way he took apart Felix Trinidad.
Was that five?
Beats, Boxing & Mayhem: That was six, we’ll count B-Hop as a bonus. Any closing thoughts?
Cool. [laughs] I’m very excited and have been training very hard. I can’t wait for the world to see me in action. I know for a fact they will say I’m one of the best out there.
Pacquiao-Margarito will be live from Dallas Stadium on November 13. The entire fight card can be ordered through HBO PPV.