Philly boxer Mike Jones on the brink of a title fight

Welterweight Mike Jones, training at Joe Hand Boxing Gym in Northern Liberties, holds two minor belts. As the No. 1 contender, a big payday against Manny Pacquiao is not far-fetched.
Welterweight Mike Jones, training at Joe Hand Boxing Gym in Northern Liberties, holds two minor belts. As the No. 1 contender, a big payday against Manny Pacquiao is not far-fetched. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 19, 2011

Mike Jones knew at a very young age that he was packing a punch.

"I noticed that I'd hit somebody one time and the fight would be over," he said with a laugh. "I never lost as a young kid out there."

Now, a professional boxer at 28, Jones is still ending fights early and winning.

A native Philadelphian who grew up in Mt. Airy, Jones stopped 19 opponents on the way to reaching a 25-0 record in the welterweight division. His first 12 bouts ended with his opponent down for the count, and the first seven did not go beyond the third round.

More recently, Jones dispatched Raul Munoz in two rounds at the South Philly Arena on June 25.

At 5-foot-11 and slim - 147 pounds is the weight limit in his division - Jones hardly looks the part of a knockout artist.

"Punching power is natural," said Jones, who has a tentative date to fight in Atlantic City in September. "You could be ripped up and all muscles and not have any punching power. It's genetics. I've always been skinny, and I had it when I was a kid. I took it to the gym to make something of it, instead of into the streets."

Where Jones took his weapons was to Joe Frazier's Gym.

"Joe taught sitting down on your punches and throw power shots," said Jones' manager, Doc Nowicki of Cherry Hill.

Frazier began working with Jones when the teenager was 15.

"Smoke himself told me I was strong," Jones said. "They just threw me in with the wolves, and I did pretty well."

After an amateur career of more than 70 fights and a state Golden Gloves title, Jones went to Nowicki when he decided to turn pro in 2005. Nowicki, who was also working with other fighters, decided to back Jones after watching him spar.

"We didn't know anything about Mike," the 64-year-old Nowicki said about himself and his partner, 74-year-old Jimmy Williams. "As soon as we saw him, we said, 'Hey, this guy has some potential.' "

After leaving Joe Frazier's Gym to train under Vaughn Jackson at Joe Hand Boxing Gym, Jones said he began to learn how to box.

"We knew always knew he could punch, but we didn't know his skills would develop the way they have," Nowicki said.

Jones, who holds the minor North American Boxing Association and North American Boxing Organization titles, has yet to get a shot at one of the major belts. But he is a the No. 1 contender in the WBO, where Manny Pacquiao reigns.

Ring magazine, which lists the linear champions in each division, has Jones slotted at seventh. The IBF rankings have Jones at 11th, and the WBC has him fourth.

Until last year, Jones was supporting himself and his two daughters, Myana, 7, and Alyza, 5, by working at the Home Depot. He had always held a job from the time he was 15 and only now has he been able to rely on his income from boxing to pay the bills.

The laid-back Jones, who is buying a house in the Northeast, reportedly received a purse of $75,000 a couple of fights ago that was his largest to date.

He worked at the Home Depot for four years. His girls live full-time with their mother, Marisol. In recent weeks, it's been Jones who has had the duties of getting Myana and Alyza to and from camp and babysitting.

"It feels good," Jones said about how his life and career are going. "But I still have a long way to go as far as a finished product. I feel like I'm still learning a lot, and I have a lot of boxing skills yet to learn. I am right there. I can get a phone call at any time. It feels pretty good. But I'm not secure. There's no pension or retirement in boxing. In boxing, you're taking a chance. I'm taking a chance on my future. But I'm at the point where I can survive fight to fight without a nine-to-five."

Nowicki has little doubt about where his man is headed.

"Not everybody becomes a world champion, but Mike lives, trains and thinks boxing," Nowicki said. "And if he stays on course, he has the ability to go all the way."


Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.

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