Atlantic City, NJ—When one-time world-title challenger Mike Jones takes on Jaime Herrera on Aug. 23 at Bally’s Atlantic City, it will mark the former Philadelphian’s first fight in more than two years.
Jones, 31, is now living in Las Vegas. He has not boxed since June 9, 2012, when he was stopped in the 11th round.by Randall Bailey, of Miami, FL, in their fight for the vacant IBF world welterweight title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Far ahead on points, even after being dropped in the 10th round, Jones was less than three minutes, 20 seconds from the world championship when Bailey drilled him with a right hand.
It was Jones’ first loss in 27 pro fights.
“The last time I spoke with Mike was at the airport in Las Vegas the next morning,” said promoter J Russell Peltz, who was with Jones from his pro debut in 2005 before joining forces with Top Rank late in 2010 to further Jones’ career.
“I asked Mike to stop in my office after a few days and he said he would but he never showed up. I texted him, asking him to read a post-fight story from a Philadelphia-based website (www.phillyboxinghistory.com) which talked about unfulfilled promise and I felt that one story best described Mike’s career in a nutshell. Mike texted me back and said he agreed that the story was accurate.
“A few days later, I was contacted by Eric Melzer, an attorney from New Jersey, who asked me to handle all my dealings with Mike through his (Melzer’s) office.”
Peltz and Jones have not communicated directly since.
“I read a few stories on the internet that he was dissatisfied, not happy with me,” Peltz said. “I have never heard from him directly. To paraphrase the late Hall-of-Fame promoter Mickey Duff: There is nothing in my contract with Mike Jones that says we have to like each other. It only says that I have to do the best job I can to advance his career and that is what I have tried to do. I am excited about his return.”
For the last two years, Peltz has been trying to get Jones back into the ring. It almost happened in June of 2013 when Jones had agreed to box Ray Narh, of Ghana, at Bally’s Atlantic City, but managerial issues appeared to have stalled the comeback.
“His management issues are out of my control,” Peltz said, “but I cannot understand why Mike would waste two years of his career smack in the middle of his prime. He apparently moved to Las Vegas a few weeks after the Bailey fight. At different times, he was training with Floyd Mayweather, Sr., and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. Now he is with Ismael Salas and Miguel Diaz. I don’t think Mike has missed too many days in the gym in the last two years. I know Miguel spoke to him earlier this year about fighting again.”
There have been occasional stories on various websites and social media outlets about Jones, but Peltz has not spoken publicly until now.
“Mike was quoted once as saying he was 26-0 in the ring and 0-26 at the negotiating table,” Peltz said. “I have been in this business for almost 45 years and I know what kind of job I did (and with Top Rank’s help) in bringing Mike to the steps of the world title.
“We put him on three of the biggest stages where a fighter could perform: Cowboys Stadium (vs. Jesus Soto-Karass); Madison Square Garden (Sebastian Lujan); the MGM Grand (Bailey). His fights with Lujan and Bailey were not exactly barn-burners.
“He was in a good fight with Soto-Karass the first time, though it was a controversial decision in Mike’s favor. I was the one who went into Soto-Karass’ dressing room afterward and asked for a rematch. When was the last time the winning camp did that? To his credit, Mike agreed he needed to win more decisively and that’s what he did in the rematch in Las Vegas.”
After an easy K0 against over-matched Raul Munoz, of Kansas, Jones defeated Lujan in Madison Square Garden in a less-than-thrilling 12-rounder.
“It seemed like once Mike got to a certain level, he began to fight more conservatively,” Peltz said. “He was paid accordingly. He had two six-figure purses and he was unhappy with the Bailey money, but he took the fight and a shot at the world title and he was almost there.
“I remember walking out of the arena and into the dressing room during the fourth or fifth because of the lack of action and some booing from the crowd. I watched the rest of the fight on the monitor and I said to myself that we’re going to win the title but we’re going to have to defend overseas because US television wasn’t going to be banging down our doors. Then Bailey nailed him and it was over.”
It will be an absence of more than 26 months when Jones, now not ranked due to inactivity, gets back into the ring with Herrera on Aug. 23.
“This could have been done a lot sooner,” Peltz said. “Mike could have been right back in the mix at 147 pounds. Herrera is no slouch but if Mike can win and look good, he still can have a bright future. When he was coming up and knocking guys out, I thought he single-handedly would revive boxing in Philadelphia, but he lost his aggressiveness along the way. Mike has the size and the power and the athleticism to go all the way. He has been quoted as saying things will be different this time around.
“There are many in the media who couldn’t care less about Mike, but people have a way of changing their minds after one good performance--not only the media, but also the public. People are fickle. We’ll just have to wait and see.”