Bernard Fernandez: Expect Philly's Jones to come out Smokin'

Posted: November 22, 2011

THE DEDICATION will be private and unannounced. Maybe it will come in the form of trunks and shoes that resemble those worn by Joe Frazier in one of his biggest fights. It could be a subtle gesture toward heaven before the opening bell.

Or possibly Mike Jones (25-0, 19 KOs) will simply try to close the show in his Dec. 3 bout against Argentina's Sebastian Lujan (38-5-2, 24 KOs) the way his first boxing mentor, the great Smokin' Joe, might have, with double left hooks delivered downstairs and then upstairs in one continuous motion.

"Joe always put his imprint on everything," Jones, from North Philadelphia, said in recalling Frazier, who died of liver cancer on Nov. 7. "He wanted all his guys to be modeled after him. He'd say, 'You want to plant those feet and get those knockouts. Be grounded and have that foundation first. Sit in the pocket and really dig it out.'

"And his left hook? Oh, my. He'd say, 'The left hook, the double hook, it's not a 1-2. It's all one shot.' "

At 6-feet tall and with the spindly legs of a thoroughbred, the 28-year-old Jones has the build and the style more reminiscent of ring great Thomas Hearns, than Frazier, a short and short-armed heavyweight who constantly moved forward, taking three and four punches to land one because he knew his one could do more damage than your four. But knockout punchers come in all shapes and sizes, the gift of power not always packaged in a particular body type.

The scheduled 12-rounder with Lujan, on the televised undercard of the HBO pay-per-view rematch between WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto (36-2, 29 KOs) and former WBO/IBF/WBA welter titlist Antonio Margarito (38-7, 27 KOs), quite likely is the most important of Jones' professional career. He is rated No. 1 in the 147-pound weight class by the WBO, No. 2 by the WBA and No. 3 by both the WBC and IBF. If Jones impressively takes care of business against the 31-year-old veteran, who has twice fought for a world championship, it could catapult him into a matchup with Randall Bailey (42-7, 36 KOs) for the IBF welter crown recently vacated by Andre Berto.

It also could move him closer to the front of the line for a megabucks showdown with the world's most bankable attraction, Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao. If another round of negotiations to pair Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (42-0, 26 KOs) falls through, as have so many in the past, the competition for the right to next mix it up with "PacMan" could come down to Jones, WBO junior welterweight champ Timothy Bradley (28-0, 12 KOs), WBA lightweight ruler Brandon Rios (28-0-1, 21 KOs) and old reliable Juan Manuel Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KOs), who already has squared off against Pacquiao three times, including a hard-fought, majority-decision loss on Nov. 12.

No wonder Jones, who learned his trade through a series of scraps at the gritty, 1,100-seat Asylum Arena (formerly the New Alhambra) in South Philly, wants so much to impress in his first ring appearance in one of boxing's holy shrines, Madison Square Garden.

"A lot of great fighters fought there," Jones said. "So much history. Muhammad Ali fought there. And, of course, Joe Frazier."

As of yesterday, though, it still was undetermined if the card would be staged in New York. If Margarito is not licensed, and soon, by the New York State Athletic Commission (which has concerns about Margarito's surgically repaired right eye), Top Rank founder Bob Arum could change the venue to Denver, Phoenix or Arlington, Texas.

Jones is now trained by Vaughn Jackson, and his evolution as a fighter is such that his style is less Frazieresque than Jacksonian. He'll move forward as needed, but he jabs more than Smokin' Joe did and makes more liberal use of his right hand. He's not adverse to occasionally taking a backward step or two if it helps his cause. A lot of boxers shift into reverse gear now and then for strategic purposes.

But a little bit of Joe Frazier will forever be embedded in Jones, who is appreciative of what he learned from the quintessential Philadelphia fighter.

"I was born with Joe Frazier DNA and when I went to his gym - my dad took me there when I was 15 - I got even more of that tough Philadelphia heart and the desire to go in and dig out a knockout," Jones said.

Wilson wins wild one

South Philadelphia's Garrett Wilson (11-5-1, 5 KOs), who was trailing on two of the three official scorecards at the time, retained his USBA cruiserweight title on a 12th-round knockout of Chuck Mussachio (17-2-2, 5 KOs), of Wildwood, N.J., on Saturday night at Bally's Atlantic City.

A crushing overhand right put Mussachio down, where he was counted out 41 seconds into the final stanza by referee Earl Brown.

Why, Roy, why?

The faded remnants of the once-great Roy Jones Jr. (54-8, 40 KOs) takes on Camden's Max Alexander (14-5-2, 4 KOs) for something called the UBO Inter-Continental cruiserweight championship on Dec. 10 in Atlanta.

Jones, 42, has lost three straight and is 5-7 in his last 12 bouts. But at least he probably isn't as far gone as . . .

The portly and 45-year-old Eric "Butterbean" Esch (77-8-4, 58 KOs), who ends a 2-year retirement from the ring when he takes on Curt Allan (7-1-1, 3 KOs) on Jan. 13 in Elizabeth, Ind. Allan, 47, was stopped in three rounds by The Bean on Jan. 18, 1997.

This day in history

On Nov. 22, 1986, 20-year-old Mike Tyson displaced Floyd Patterson as the youngest man ever to hold a heavyweight championship when he stopped WBC titlist Trevor Berbick in two rounds at the Las Vegas Hilton.

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