PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                        February 19, 2011


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Mike Jones won a comfortable decision in his hotly anticipated rematch with Jesus Soto-Karass, the man who gave Jones the toughest fight of his blossoming career and in the opinion of many, exposed Jones last November as a spoiled hot shot with fatal flaws aplenty. That first fight, just three months ago, forced even the staunchest Jones fans to face the truth that Mike Jones, although talented, had a way to go before he could survive a battle with one of the welterweight champs or elite contenders. That night he showed toughness, grit, and an ability to fight back, but he balanced his strengths with a rookie mistake that left a big crack in his reputation as a fighter. It's amazing what three months can do.

With an onslaught of criticism still ringing in his ears, Jones prepared for the rematch and entered the fight with a desire to clear the air, erase the past AND win a fight against a very tough customer. After twelve fast-paced rounds, he accomplished all three. Where the first fight became a near life-and-death struggle for Jones, the rematch proved a showcase for his boxing ability and a springboard for all that may come his way in a potentially bright future.

The fight was a gory tussle. Jones got hit, got pressed, got lumped up, and was once again tested by Soto-Karass. But this fight was all Jones. He gave far more than he received and did so with the maturity and command of a real contender. There was no big blunder this time. He didn't look fragile or limited in any way. He faced a tough fighter and he handled him.

The most impressive aspect of Jones' second victory over Soto-Karass was the growth that he showed. All along in Mike's climb up the ranks, his development as a fighter was subtle. You had to squint to see the improvement. In fact, there were stretches when he even looked to be going backward. But with his strong performance Jones stated his case that he is for real, and that he is a true contender for one of the 147-pound titles.

The rematch started quickly with both fighters slinging punches. Soto-Karass took the opening round with his aggression, trying to send the message that this was going to be another long night for the young Philly gun. But Jones rebounded in the second by establishing his jab. He used it to control most of the rest of the fight.

In round three, another good one for Jones, the fighters bumped heads and Soto-Karass came away with a nasty gash over his left eye. Before the round's end, his right eye was also spouting, presumably from a punch.

Between rounds, it appeared the fight might end when Soto-Karass and his corner tried to play chess with the head-butt rules of boxing. Knowing that a stoppage caused by a butt before the end of round four would result in a No-Contest, the Soto-Karass camp balked at coming out for the fourth. However, when referee Kenny Bayless clearly indicated that a failure to answer the bell would result in a TKO - not a NC - Soto-Karass stood up and ended the strategy session. The fighter wanted to fight. He made the decision and it was the right thing to do.

Soto-Karass came out for the fourth determined to get things back on track. He won the round but it was a short-lived rally. Although he stayed competitive throughout, Jones took the rest of the fight - every round between the 5th and the 12th - on my scorecard (118-110). He did it with solid punches, good body work, the ability to stand the heat, and that terrific jab. Further, there was no big mistake that could jeopardize everything.

The official scores were closer (117-111, 116-112 & 115-113) but the decision was unanimous and there was no doubt that Jones had won the fight AND rehabilitated his reputation. The win also kept safe his three regional titles - NABA, NABO and WBC Continental Americas. 

It is not clear whether Mike Jones will eventually seize a world title or not. Becoming champion is never a given. But on this night, Jones showed true growth and for the first time, really displayed the skills that might make him a champion. He wasn't trapped in his own head during the fight. He didn't try too hard. He didn't think too much. He was confident and physical and things came naturally. He even seemed to enjoying himself. That was a first.  

This was not hype or good match-making. This was an improved fighter. Forget his three regional belts, Mike Jones was defending his reputation, his career and his future. And he did a beautiful job.

After the first fight, we all wondered what Mike Jones really had. We wondered if he was getting in over his head now that the competition was ramping up. Jones sent a mixed message back in November. His devotees felt he showed toughness and an ability to survive, but the doubters said he was finished.

In the rematch, Mike Jones proved to us that he is still in the game, and that HE continues to believe in himself regardless of what others say. That is a great place to be - whatever you do for a living. Jones took it upon himself to prove that he could do better, but I really believe that he was out to prove it to himself. It was a nice thing to see.

Up until now, Jones seemed to carry his standing as "Philly's top prospect" like it was a burden. He wore the accolade like a ball and chain. But in this fight, he embraced that title for the first time and seemed ready to make a run at the storied map of Philly boxing history.

Mike Jones has arrived and now seems to be ready to find out exactly how good he can be. He's getting closer and personally, I can't wait.


[NOTE: The Mike Jones vs. Jesus Soto-Karass bout was the semi-windup to the  Nonito Donaire vs. Fernando Montiel bantamweight championship bout. Donaire scored a devastating KO in round two. Both fights were held at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas and were televised live by HBO.]




John DiSanto - News & Notes - February 19, 2011