Jones returns to Las Vegas for the second time in his career to meet Miami's Randall Bailey for the vacant IBF welterweight title at the MGM Grand. The bout is part of the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley card on pay-per-view.
Philadelphians will highlight three bouts on the undercard as Jesse Hart makes his pro debut against Manuel Eastman and Teon Kennedy faces WBA super-bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux.
"It's a big night for Philly fighters, whether or not Philly appreciates it," said promoter J. Russell Peltz.
The 37-year-old Bailey has staked his reputation and his well-earned moniker, "Knockout King," on his big right hand. All but six of his victories have come by knockout, most recently a first-round dispatch in March 2010.
"Bailey still does the same thing," said Vaughn Jackson, Jones' trainer. "He's an older guy stuck in his old ways. We're ready. Whatever he's going to bring, we'll be ready for it."
Jones hasn't produced a knockout against a credible opponent since September 2010. Instead, he's been able to stretch his fights the distance and score easy decisions. The most improved aspect of his approach has been his leg strength, which helps Jones both maximize his power and outmaneuver an opponent.
In his last three major fights, he's shown how well he can adapt to clashing styles. In his first fight with Jesus Soto Karass, he matched his opponent's speed and claimed a close decision. In the rematch, Jones slowed the momentum and made Soto Karass fight at his pace en route to an easy decision. In Jones' last fight, he battled through the awkward style of Sebastian Lujan and picked his spots accordingly, winning another clear decision.
"That's the plan," Jones said. "Each and every time out, the plan is to show the world something better."
In Las Vegas, welterweight fighters use 10-ounce gloves unless both competitors agree to use eight-ouncers. Jones agreed in May to use the lighter gloves, knowing they would likely benefit the hard-throwing Bailey. Most of Jones's fights have come with eight-ounce gloves, but he did opt for 10-ouncers in his rematch with Soto Karass, as a way to slow his opponent down.
"I was a little surprised," Peltz said. "But then I thought about it and said 'That's good for his head.' Maybe we're going to see a performance out of Mike that we haven't seen in a while."
In order to topple Bailey, Jones will key in on the first few rounds. An aggressive approach should keep Bailey off balance and less comfortable to throw the right hand. If the fight drags into later rounds, Jones' age and endurance should provide a distinct advantage over the veteran Bailey.
"Bailey has one shot," Jackson said. "He hopes to try to hit the lottery. But, you know what the chances are of hitting the lottery. Mike has too many skills, too many ways to win, and he adapts real well."
Along with Jackson, Jones has the assistance of local trainer Danny Davis. A mainstay at Joe Hand Gym in Northern Liberties, Davis learned under the well-regarded Bouie Fisher and has worked with Philly fighters Bernard Hopkins and Ivan Robinson.
But, it was the time Davis spent with Bailey that may have been most attractive to Jones' camp. Davis worked with Bailey when the fighter weighed in as a 140-pound light welterweight.
He said most of Bailey's knockouts came against opponents much shorter than Jones. Davis also noted that none of Bailey's four opponents since becoming a welterweight were "true 147 [pound] guys." Unlike Jones, the four opponents' weights fluctuated in their career, to as high as 153 pounds and as low as 134.
"Mike is big, he's strong," Davis said. "Too young, too elusive. I'm not trying to be overconfident and I respect Randall, but I see Mike winning in the sixth round."
Philly Fight Night in Las Vegas
Besides Mike Jones, two other Philadelphia fighters - Teon Kennedy and
Jesse Hart - will be representing Philadelphia on the undercard of the Pacquiao-Bradley main event in Las Vegas.
Kennedy (17-1-2, 7 KOs) takes on Guillermo Rigondeaux (9-0-0, 7 KOs) for the WBA super- bantamweight title.
Hart, son of Philly boxing legend Eugene "Cyclone" Hart, makes his pro debut against Manual Eastman (0-1-0) in a super- middleweight contest. The HBO pay-per-view event starts at 9 p.m.