PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                        February 10, 2011


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Mike Jones Prepared For Rematch With Soto-Karass

Mike Jones, Philadelphia's top welterweight and emerging star of the moment, held an open workout for the press Thursday at the Joe Hand Boxing Gym. The occasion was the wrapping of camp for next Saturday's rematch with Jesus Soto-Karass in Las Vegas. The fight, televised by HBO, will open the Boxing After Dark telecast and serve as the preliminary for a bantamweight world title bout between Nonito Donaire and  Fernando Montiel. However for Philadelphia boxing fans, Jones-Karass II is not only the main event of the evening, it may tell the tale of Philly's immediate championship future.

Of course cruiserweight Steve Cunningham currently holds a world title belt (IBF). Heavyweight Eddie Chambers fights a world title eliminator on Friday (2/11) that could land him another crack at a Klitschko, and that old mongoose Bernard Hopkins is never that far away from another title chance. But Mike Jones was the fighter Philly was banking on for big fights and real potential at boxing stardom. He's big, he can punch, he's undefeated, and he's backed by a solid team.

In 2010 Jones made his move, rising through the ranks and reaching as high as a number two world rating in one of the alphabet organizations. He's ranked highly by all of them. But Jones closed out 2010 with a victory that perhaps raised more questions than it answered. He faced tough Jesus Soto-Karass and ran into a little trouble.

Jones must be getting tired of hearing about the mistake he made in his high-profile step up. With the entire PPV world tuned in for the most popular fighter in the world today - Manny Pacquiao, a looking-to-impress Mike Jones fought Karass and was cruising along. However when he hurt his foe in round two, Machine Gun Mike proceeded to punch himself out trying for the quick win. What followed was a living nightmare for Jones, his team, and his fans. Badly fatigued,  Jones struggled to make it through round after round. But he did make it.

Jones lived through the third, existed through the fourth, showed a pulse in the fifth, began to wake up in the sixth, competed in the seventh, and was back in control in the eighth. Jones rallied to win the final three rounds and salvage the fight with a majority decision.  It was a hard earned victory and a priceless life lesson.

But Jones' reputation suffered a setback with that performance. Suddenly many could only see the big mistake he made and the near disaster he almost created for himself. The local boxing scene was buzzing that Jones had exposed a fatal flaw that would keep him from ever becoming champion.

Although it is true that Jones displayed inexperience and a mysteriously small gas tank, he also showed a toughness and grit that the same local doubters never thought he had. Perhaps the big stage and the pressure of his first world-stage opportunity also played a part. It wasn't the coming out party Jones had hoped for. He readily admits that it was disappointing.

"I was disappointed, but that's the type of fighter I am. If I see an opportunity to take a guy out, I'm going go after it with everything I've got", Jones said at his open workout.

Went for it he did, and in doing so Mike Jones learned something about himself and about the sport. 

"I made it harder than it had to be. I had to fight him and fight myself that night" Jones said. It sounds like the right assessment and the right attitude.

I always wonder how a fight like that affects a boxer. It can go either way. Sometimes such a struggle can strip a fighter of his confidence and make him reluctant in future bouts. But near disasters can also turn a fighter into a real tiger - teaching the boxer that they are capable of surviving - and winning - even while the wheels are falling off. 

Which direction Mike Jones will go remains to be seen. We very well may find out on February 19th when Mike gets back in the ring with the guy who almost derailed him just three months ago. But I haven't given up on Jones yet. I like fighters who take risks in the ring, and feel confident that the lesson he learned in his last fight can make him better.

Yes, the struggle with Karass exposed that Jones is vulnerable. But it is a giant myth that some fighters aren't. When you make mistakes in the ring, you usually pay for them.

When he was coming up, Jones had one of those "indestructible destroyer" images. But it didn't quite fit. Jones seemed more complicated even early on. Only the uninformed believed Jones couldn't be touched. Every fighter has to struggle when the water gets deep. And it is at those moments that we learn who they really are.

Last November, Jones escaped his toughest night in the ring, and despite the fact that everyone was watching, it came at the right time. He needed to learn that lesson before he made it against a real killer. Jones showed weakness that night but he also showed strength.

Whatever hit his reputation took, Mike has a chance to rehabilitate it in the upcoming rematch with Karass - and that is exactly what Jones will be looking to do next Saturday. His fans will be glued to their televisions looking for signs of improvement, proof of growth, and a solid return to the road toward a title shot. The question is, as always, "Can he do it?"

Hopefully Jones and his fans, myself included, get what we want.




John DiSanto - Northern Liberties - February 10, 2011