By Keith Idec
Mike Jones respects Randall Bailey’s power, but the undefeated welterweight contender from Philadelphia still doesn’t think their fight tonight will be as difficult as some suspect.
“I know I’ve got to go out there and be relaxed, poised,” Jones said. “That’s how I fight my best, when I’m relaxed. If I’m fighting my best, the fight should be no problem.”
Jones (26-0, 19 KOs) and Miami’s Bailey (42-7, 36 KOs) will fight for the vacant IBF 147-pound title in one of three bouts broadcast by HBO Pay-Per-View before the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley main event at MGM Grand in Las Vegas ($54.95; 9 p.m. EDT/6 p.m. PDT).
“I’m looking to show people just another side of my boxing ability,” Jones said, “show them that I can really box and I can box at an elite level, win and not make it so hard on myself. I want to look fantastic out there, show people I’m one of the best in the world.”
Most observers didn’t walk away from Jones’ last fight feeling as though they had seen a star in the making. Jones comfortably beat Sebastian Lujan (39-6-2, 24 KOs) in a 12-round IBF elimination match on the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito undercard Dec. 3 at Madison Square Garden, but the fight lacked action and Jones appeared content to coast to an unremarkable decision win.
The 29-year-old Jones doesn’t believe he got enough credit for winning virtually every round against an awkward, rugged opponent who was on a 12-fight winning streak entering their bout.
“I thought I did well,” said Jones, who won by wide margins on all three scorecards (119-109, 119-109, 118-110). “The guy was real awkward. After the fight, I don’t think anybody gave him credit for the type of fighter he was. He was on a nice winning streak and he broke guys down. He had a real awkward style.
“It wasn’t pretty, but not a lot of people can handle that, because pressure busts pipes. He brought a lot of it and he was real awkward with it. I couldn’t really get a good, clean shot on him, but I thought I did well under the circumstances.”
Nevertheless, Jones wasn’t completely pleased with his performance, either.
“I’ve got the biggest finger and I’m always pointing at myself,” Jones said. “I just want to work on my craft each and every day and try to get better.
“I wish I would’ve just sat down on my shots a little bit better, and maybe I could’ve got him out of there. I should’ve thrown some real hard shots to the body.”
Jones knows Bailey will throw real hard shots toward him tonight, yet is certain he can frustrate one of the most dangerous punchers in the sport.
“I think I can exploit that he doesn’t bring too much energy into this fights,” Jones said. “He’s pretty settled down in his approach. He sits down on all his shots, tries to measure you. If you’re right in front of him, he can get you with a good shot. But I think with me being elusive and staying away from being squared in front of him, that’ll give him a lot of problems.”
He hopes that approach helps him become another in a long line of world champions from Philadelphia.
“For me to be a world champion from Philadelphia, with no big-time amateur experience, it would be very big,” said Jones, who began boxing at 15 and had about 70 amateur fights. “It means that I’m a symbol of hope for people out there who are trying to do what I did and come where I came from. That’s what I want to be.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.