Jones leaves the door open for Moore
Interview by Martyn Elliot (January 27, 2004)
Like it or not, Michael Jones is British light-middleweight champion. The amiable Scouser captured the belt in controversial circumstances in November when Jamie Moore wass disqualified in the third round of their eagerly awaited rematch. After the fight Jones endured a stream of accusation and insinuation about how he achieved victory. However, his conscience is clear and he has a message for the cream of the domestic 11-stone division - “I believe I’m the best in Britain and I’ll fight anyone.”
In the seven years since his pro debut Jones has established a reputation as one of the most accomplished performers on a competitive domestic light-middleweight scene. Despite contractual problems and a troublesome elbow injury earlier in his career the 30-year-old’s record reads 21-1 and includes some impressive victories. Notably a sixth-round stoppage of Joshua Onyango to clinch the Commonwealth title in 2002 and his personal favourites, a points victory against Delroy Mellis in 2001 and a third-round stoppage success against Darren Rhodes in a British title eliminator last year.
Unfortunately for Michael his career is seemingly inextricably linked with that of arch-rival Moore. In their first meeting, for the vacant British title in 2003, the awkward Moore was a late replacement for Paul Samuels and Jones paid the price for a lack of southpaw sparring as the Salford bruiser inflicted the only defeat of his career over 12 one-sided rounds.
Three fights and 19 months later a better prepared Jones resumed hostilities with Moore. However, after two-and-a-half all-action rounds the fight ended amid controversy and confusion when Michael was unable to continue after being floored with a punch thrown after referee Dave Parris called ‘stop boxing’. At first it appeared Moore was the victor, but after a few minutes it emerged he had been disqualified and the accusations started to fly.
The disappointed Moore claimed Jones was fit to fight on and branded him a coward. Michael categorically denies the allegations and insists that if the fight had gone on he would have taken Moore’s coveted belt anyway.
“He blatantly fouled me and after the ref shouted ‘stop boxing’ he hit me on the chin,” recalled Jones of the decisive moments of his last fight. “He got disqualified, people said it was controversial, but it wasn’t. Watch the video - he hit me low, threw the head in and hit me after the ref said stop.”
At the moment Parris waved the fight off Michael became British champion, but he was denied the thrill of victory and not just by the unusual circumstances.
“I thought he’d DQ’d me at first,” added Jones. “He asked me if I could continue and when I couldn’t, I thought he’d thrown me out. But there was no way I could carry on - I had a blur in my left eye. They (Moore’s camp) were saying I should’ve carried on, but why should I carry on with blurred vision?”
The allegations from Moore that he could have continued gave the impression that the Scouser was on his way to defeat. Certainly Moore started well and at a furious pace, but despite this Jones is certain his skills and fitness would have got the better of his opponent’s aggressive approach later in the fight.
“He was never going past five at that pace, he was just trying to unsettle me,” insisted Jones. “I saw Moore at the Ricky Hatton (versus Michael Stewart) fight a few weeks before and he looked really fat. He must be killing himself to make the weight. He was just trying to bully me for four rounds.
“The fight never really got started, but after two-and-a-half rounds he had a big lump over his right eye and a cut on his left - someone was definitely hitting someone. They can say what they like, but watch the tape it was one round each. Really it was a non-fight.”
Apart from Moore’s stamina, or perceived lack of it, there is another reason for Jones’ confidence about the outcome - he is certain his preparation for the contest was spot on. Michael openly admitted his first fight with Moore was a painful experience and did everything possible to ensure the same did not happen again.
“I made him miss more in two-and-a-half rounds in the second fight than in 12 in the first one, because I had the right preparation,” Jones explained. “Any fighter will tell you, you have to have specialist sparring for a southpaw. Moore’s even worse to prepare for - 99 per cent of southpaws are slick back-foot boxers, but he comes forward all the time. It’s very hard to find relevant sparring.
“In the first fight he broke my nose in seven places and I had a perforated eardrum. To get back in with him I had to be really mentally strong. It was like when you’ve been in a street fight and someone really hurt you, the last thing you want to do is go straight back out there and do it all again. I’ve not had any credit for that.”
Jones is now keen to get on with the task of defending his belt and proving that he is the best light-middleweight in the country. He hopes to be back in action in March and fit in four fights during 2005, but as yet he does not know the identity of his next opponent. That opens up the intriguing possibility of a third contest with Moore. Following his disqualification, the Salford fighter appealed to the British Boxing Board of Control for an immediate rematch. His request was rejected but he was installed as mandatory challenger after six months’ grace.
Directly after the fight Jones claimed he would make Moore wait 18 months for a rematch, but with tempers calmed Michael now insists he is willing to fight Moore next.
“If they put up a decent purse Moore can have next shot” he said. “I could make him wait, like he made me wait for my shot. But no matter what anyone says, I want him as much as he wants me. There are no guarantees it’ll happen, it depends what route he takes. But, I believe I’m the best in the country and I’ll fight anyone.”
Moore is not the only fighter hoping for the call to face Jones. Ex-IBO 11-stone champion Richard Williams and former WBO-light-middleweight title challenger Ryan Rhodes both recently told doghouseboxing.com that they would relish the chance to box for Jones’ belt. However, Michael believes neither fight is likely to happen.
“Ryan Rhodes hasn’t made 11 stone in a long time, years probably,” he explained. “And Richard was massive last time I saw him. He boxed on the same bill as me in November and he was heavy (160lbs). He looked good on it, I think he’ll step up.”
Another potential opponent is WBU champion, and arguably Britain’s hardest pound-for-pound puncher, Wayne Alexander. The Croydon battler is ranked six by the WBO and has one eye on a move into world-class, but the thought of facing him holds no fears for Jones.
“I’d fight Alexander, no problem,” said Jones. “He can bang, definitely, that’s his biggest asset. He’s not as good as he thinks he is though. We saw that against Harry Simon, who beat him at his own game. He’s a bit of a bully really, but he doesn’t take it well to the body. Nice guy, but I think I’d beat him.”
Unbeaten Mancunian Thomas McDonagh won an eliminator for the British title last time out and Michael may have little option but to face him in the future - not that the prospect worries him.
“McDonagh? He’s a bit of a joker - who’s he beat?” said Jones as he dismissed the 24-year-old’s chances. “He drew with Mark Richards (demolished in a round by Jones) and with Tomas da Silva.”
One boxer Jones genuinely rates is Commonwealth light-middleweight champion Ossie Duran. The teak-tough Ghanaian captured the belt by stopping Jamie Moore in three rounds in Belfast in June last year - although it should be noted that Moore’s performance was seriously hampered by a hip injury. Jones has experienced plenty of sparring with Duran and knows the Ghanaian would represent a genuine test of his ability if they ever met.
“Duran’s one of those fighters you avoid if you can,” joked Jones. “I said he’d knock Jamie out and he did. I done a lot of tough sparring against him and I did well. But he did well as well - it was very even. I said I’d fight him, so you never know. He’s a sturdy kid, it’d be a tough night.”
At the moment the talk about potential opponents is just speculation - a situation that must be frustrating for a dedicated full-time professional like Jones. He currently faces a daily commute from Liverpool to Manchester to train with Ray Farrell and earlier in his career spent three years staying away from home during the week in order to work with Bristol-based trainer Chris Sanigar. The travel and hours of hard work in the gym do not worry Jones as he works towards his ultimate goal.
“When I come into boxing I wanted to earn enough money to own a nice house outright,” he explained. “To do that I’ve got to keep winning in championship class. I’ll have to get another job when I retire, but if I own my house I’ll be set up.”
Jones does though allow himself one dream. He added: “It’s everyone’s goal to fight for a world title - a legitimate one. I’d love to have that opportunity, so when I retire I’d know where I was against the best.”
The days when Winky Wright travelled to north-west England to take on Britain’s best may be long gone, but even if the world number one is not in his sights just yet 2005 promises to be an exciting year for Michael Jones.
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