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Mike Jones Returns To Ring; Will Comeback Lead To Glory, Or “What Might’ve Been” Last Chapter?

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Amidst the grey skies of closing casinos, and other bad news in Atlantic City, hides a potentially promising comeback story. After a 26-month layoff, Mike “Machine Gun” Jones, a Philadelphia native, will be returning to the ring this Saturday August 23rd at Bally’s Atlantic City to face Jamie Herrera of Chicago, Illinois.

In a fairly shocking turn of events on June 9, 2012, after 26 consecutive professional victories, 19 by knockout, Jones was stopped by Randall Bailey in their vacant IBF World Welterweight contest in Las Vegas, Nevada. After ten hard-fought rounds of consistent domination by Jones, with inevitable victory less than three short minutes away, a patient and calculated Bailey was finally able to hone in and deliver a perfectly-timed right hand. After suffering the first knockdown of his career, with seconds left in the 10th, it was clear that an entirely different Jones had returned to the ring in the 11th round. He hesitated for just an instant, allowing a fatigued, but poised Bailey to connect with a razor sharp upper cut, leading to a second, but devastating knockdown. Official Tony Weeks quickly stopped the fight immediately after Jones hit the canvas.

The next morning, following some small-talk with his promoter, Russell Peltz, and awaiting his flight home to the city of brotherly love, it seemed as though things were business as usual for Mike “Machine Gun” Jones, or as much as could be expected following a KO loss. The boxing world would soon find out, that business, and life, had changed for Jones.

“Not a single offer had come to the table for Jones after the Bailey loss,” Peltz told me during my interview on August 21st. “We had come close to deal in June 2013, but the money just was not there for the type of comeback he wanted.”

When asked what made the Bailey fight different than his 26 prior victories, Peltz said, “He wasn’t the Jones we all knew. He was fighting not to lose, not as the fighter that we all knew was in that ring.”

So, the question is… what happened to Mike Jones?

Haunted by the unexpected defeat, Jones vanished from the public eye. As a 29-year old boxer, in his prime, Mike Jones stood 26-1. In his hometown of Philadelphia, a city full of arguably the most robust and intense sports fans any athlete could hope to experience, and one of the best promoters in the region working on his behalf, Mike Jones had disappeared from view. It seemed as though, perhaps, the loss had crippled boxing’s next big welterweight hopeful. The remainder of an interview with Peltz revealed further insight.

“How soon after you spoke with Jones did he move to Vegas?” I asked Peltz.

“As far as I know, just about immediately,” he said. “The last I spoke with him, directly, was June 10, 2012. We spoke that morning. I asked him to swing by my office, he said he would. Then, I was contacted by Mike’s attorney and all further business went through him. ”

“You haven’t seen Jones since that morning in the airport?”

“That’s correct,” Peltz said. “It was the last time I saw him. I will see him Friday night for the first time in two years at his weigh-in in Atlantic City.”

“What has taken him so long to return to the ring?” I asked.

“I think fighters were afraid to fight him,” Peltz said. “I think the fighters we were trying to work with were afraid of taking a loss to him. They were afraid of being hurt, of being knocked out. Mike has a lot of power that other fighters in his division simply don’t have. We were close to a deal in 2013, but there were some management issues. I have nothing to do with the management issues, and the fight fell through. It just didn’t happen.”

“How did you know he was ready to return?”

“I got a call this spring saying he was ready to return,” Peltz said “and I couldn’t be more excited for this fight.”

“What is your confidence in his conditioning and his new trainers?”

“I have never met Ismael Salas, but I have tremendous respect for him,” he continued. “I have known Miguel Diaz for years. I also have had great interaction with his liaison and confidant, Michelle Rosado. She seems to be a tremendous support to him. Michelle shared the plane ride with him to Atlantic City. She tells me his spirits are high and that he is ready for this fight. I believe her.”

“Do you think this is a Mike Jones that is capable of making a comeback at this stage in the game?”

“Absolutely. One-hundred-percent. All we need to see is the old Mike Jones. People used to compare him to Sugar Ray Robinson, and he was all of that and then some. That is the Mike Jones we need to see, and the Mike Jones I believe we will see.”

“What is your prediction for Saturday night?”

“I think it will end with a knockout. Simply winning is not enough and he knows that. He will need the knockout to truly make a comeback. That’s a knockout that I think he is absolutely capable of. Anything short of a knockout on either end would be a disappointment. We’d all be in trouble. I think the comeback will be a big one.”

“At age 31 and after 26 months without a fight, do you think Jones will be able to make bigger moves throughout the welterweight division if he wins on Saturday?”

Peltz answered with certainty: “Without a doubt. He is an incredibly talented fighter and we are all looking forward to seeing him back in the ring.”

Over the past two years Jones has spent countless hours training in the city that handed him his first defeat. Re-dedicated to endurance training and mentally having overcome he challenges that come with an unforgettable loss, according to his crew, Jones is now trained by Ismael Salas and Miguel Diaz. After a lengthy layoff, one a skeptic might say could point to Jones’ focus being suspect, Jones needs a knockout to prove he is ready to return to the stacked welterweight division.

Could this be a triumph of will and a royal battle cry from a long-lost fighting spirit? Absolutely. It could well be… or it could be an “I told ya so” moment for the skeptics, the ones who labeled him a hype job and heavily critiqued his resume and some of his so-so outings.

Looking to blow past the “comeback hype” and retire Jones for good will be Jamie Herrera. Herrera comes off of his most significant victory, a fifth-round knockout of Michael Finney this past March. Herrera, at 25 years old, is 11-2-1. He has been hungry for and insistent upon the fight with Jones since rumors circulated about the Philly boxer’s return to the ring in May 2014.

Only Jones, quite likely, however, can determine whether we will see a classic and overdue comeback from the once and perhaps future “next big thing” amongst the welterweights, or another disappointing chapter in a “What Might Have Been” boxing tale.

Tickets are available at www.peltzboxing.com or by contacting Bally’s Atlantic City Box Office.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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