PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                             June 09, 2012


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Randall Bailey scored a brutal KO of then-undefeated Mike Jones to capture the vacant IBF welterweight championship Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. For Bailey, 37, it was a sweet return to the top of the heap, having held a title belt about ten years before. For the heavily favored Jones, it was a bitter lesson learned. A heartbreak. Instead of adding his name to the elite list of Philadelphia champions as expected, he instead etched it to the list of good fighters who just fell short of boxing's ultimate goal.  

For almost ten rounds, Mike Jones was beating Randall Bailey, a renowned slugger with nothing but a puncher's chance in the fight. Granted, Bailey represented a threat, but Jones' decision to fight so cautiously left viewers completely cold toward him, and the arena crowd booed throughout the match. This was supposed to be the coronation of Jones, his entry into the lucrative sweepstakes of the 147 pound class, but his overly careful approach left everyone uninspired. It wasn't the first time he erred toward caution, a far cry from the fearsome puncher he was once known as.

Once again, Jones picked and poked at his opponent, and although at times he seemed to have Bailey in a vulnerable position, he failed to press the matter and let several opportunities pass. Bailey did as little as Jones, making the fight difficult to watch. However, the action took a sudden change of direction in round ten.

As the tenth round wound down, Bailey landed a clubbing one-two combination that sent Jones to the canvas near his own corner. Jones stumbled a bit as he climbed off the floor, but he made it to his feet. Fortunately for him, the bell sounded to end the round.   

But Bailey was back on his case in the eleventh, and the suddenly engaged Jones fell into the trap of the old bomber. With time running out in round eleven, Bailey blasted Jones with a right uppercut that would have felled a brick wall. Jones collapsed on his back, his head jerking violently, and his face a mask of blood. Jones tried to get up but could not beat the count by referee Tony Weeks. Jones' title dreams were dashed at 2:52 of  round eleven.   

Thought to be a sure bet, Jones ignored his obvious advantages over Bailey that included height, reach, age, career momentum, ranking, speed, size, strength, promoter affiliation, and just about everything besides one punch power. But in the end, Bailey's power advantage was the only one that mattered in the fight.

With everything going against him, Bailey found a way to pull out the win. Jones was the perfect counterpoint to the new champion. With just about everything in his favor, Mike somehow managed to find a way to lose. It was truly something to see.

Young fighters today seem to think that championship belts are meant to come their way. They may work hard and want it badly, but they must also execute in the ring. Risk is part of boxing at the elite level. Playing it safe may be smart, but only to a point. Jones lost this fight by trying to be safe when he should have been fighting. Trying to be perfect, rarely leads to perfection.

There was a major disconnect to the plan that Team Jones carried out against Bailey. It seems they attempted to mathematically lock down the decision before trying to make something happen in the  fight. After nine rounds of coasting, Jones began fighting with some urgency in the tenth, as if it was finally time to go for a KO. But over the first nine rounds of the fight, Jones did virtually nothing to set Bailey up for the knockout. He did not back Bailey up, or wear him down, or work the body, or tax Bailey's old legs.

By coming out more aggressively in round ten, against a big puncher who is hopelessly behind on the cards, Jones played right into Bailey's hands, making the KO inevitable.

It would be easy to wish that Jones had milked the last three rounds, and come home a champion. But that would have been no way to win a title. The idea that he might have been crowned champion with such a tepid performance is hard to take. It was a passionless attempt that was not of championship caliber. In a way, Bailey, 43-7, 37 KOs, saved the day.

It is easy to find fault with Jones or his trainer Vaughn Jackson. The finger can be pointed nowhere else. The fight was theirs to lose and they did. They must feel crushed by the result. So there is no joy in this account of their bad night. It was our bad night as well.

For Jones the silver lining came after the fight when he handled his loss with class and maturity. The pain was evident, but his words of acceptance were sincere. He praised Bailey and made no excuses. It was commendable.

The following day, Jones was still disappointed but was friendly and philosophical about the fight.

"We came this close," Jones, 26-1, 19 KOs, said with a pinch of his fingers.

Hopefully, he can rebound from the loss and make another run at the top. Boxing gets really interesting when a fighter's future is up against the wall, and for the first time in his professional career, Jones finds himself an underdog. Perhaps that role will fit him better.


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John DiSanto - Las Vegas - June 09, 2012