An Interview With Unbeaten Prospect Otha Jones III
By Oliver McManus
Softly spoken and self-aware, Otha Jones III is into his second successive day of interviews having made himself publically available to all who wished to speak to him.
Despite handling dozens of phone calls, many repetitive in nature, Jones spoke as freshly as though this was his first.
Jones who is only 19, is smart in every sense of the word – a naturally gifted boxer from the streets of Toledo looking to better himself, his family and his beloved city. A city that, for decades, has struggled to cement itself at the heart of anything, really, not least the sport of boxing.
For a while boxing has dropped far down the priority list with Toledo, and Ohio itself, a city betrothed with struggle. Few were hit worse than proud Ohioans when the economic slumber sank deep throughout America in the 20s and 30s so sport, naturally, wasn’t on the top of the agenda.
A sporting renaissance has ignited the State, the next generation in particular, with inspiration and dedication now reaching the crux – sporting accomplishments rightly sit pride of place on any mantelpiece and this young 19 year old is already having to think about a ‘trophy room’ such are his achievements.
He began by talking about the new-found buzz of attention which came hand-in-hand with endless buzzing on his phone.
“There’s so many (interviews), more than I thought. I’m not really well known and that’s a big part of the sport so I wanted to get my name out there. I’ve found most of you (interviewers) are from the United Kingdom, not America, that feels good. I really appreciate that people from another country are taking an interest in me; especially a country with the knowledge of boxing.”
A global fan base stemming from his exceptional amateur career – 21 times a national champion, distinguished wrestler, and a final record of 283-13. The sort of numbers to produce dropped jaws before you even account of the limitations of his youth.
The David McWater managed fighter is open to a ‘world tour’ of sorts to expand his horizons and continue the cultural experiences he enjoyed as an amateur.
“I was on the USA team so I’m used to travelling. I’d been to Germany, Russia and Argentina and they were great experiences. I’d love (to revisit) Argentina because that was really cool – I went for the Youth Olympics (in 2018) and I got to meet a lot of different people from different countries. I tried the different languages, too, not so much learn them but I gave them a go.”
“They already had an Olympic team pick”, the Matchroom fighter continued as he explained why he skipped over the Tokyo Olympics, “but if I wanted to make the team I would have to beat this one guy about four or five times. What’s the point in that when I can live my dream and turn professional, it has always been my plan to go pro when I was young and it felt the right time.”
Trained in-house by his father (Otha II) and brother (Roshown) the family affair took their adventure across the Atlantic for an exhilarating UK debut in June. York Hall, where else, welcomed the American contingent on a Friday night that seemed bizarre for Otha to appear on.
With all due abandon he promptly set about attempting to steal the show with a pulsating two round pulping of Michael Horabin – the highlight of his three fights so far.
“I’ve very much enjoyed these first few months, very much indeed. Instead of doing four rounds I went straight into six which was another little challenge but a relief when I got through those six. I wasn’t even really tired, that surprised me, I felt like I had more in the gas tank so now I want to go eight rounds! The second fight was very good – the whole arena went crazy when I got the stoppage and standing on those ropes afterwards with all that noise, man, it was a feeling I’ve never felt before. It felt like more of a statement, it felt like the real thing, because of the smaller gloves, no head-gear, you can really feel the punches as a pro.”
Chicago is the next stop for the latest, brightest, product of hope from Toledo. At the Wintrust Arena on October 12th he’ll fight Eric Manriquez in a scheduled six rounder in a supporting role to Oleksandr Usyk’s heavyweight debut.
Not content with going 4-0, if successful, Otha is full of optimism as he looks to remain busy over the remainder of 2019 and into 2020.
“I want to be 11-0 looking for my first title and staying busy (over the next 12 months). I’m used to being busy as an amateur, I want to keep it that way whilst I’m doing six and eight rounds to keep me learning. It’s not really hard because as an amateur if you weight class was packed you had to fight, fight, fight everyday so I’m used to it and I don’t have a problem. I sleep great, I train hard, I’ll fight whenever Eddie (Hearn) wants and wherever he wants me to go.”
Throughout the conversation we kept on coming back to Toledo, Ohio; what it means to Otha and vice versa. Major events featuring local fighters have been few and far between not just in recent history but for a fair while. Otha, alongside the door-opening Eddie Hearn, is confident he’ll be the man to lead that revolution – even if it does mean playing the long-game for now.
“Bring some fans to Toledo and let us sell out the SeaGate centre. I’m not only hopeful but I’m confident in the power Eddie has and I know he wants to bring boxing to different areas of America. I’m happy going under the radar because when I finally blow up it’s going to be like ‘dang, who is this kid, where did he come from?’ I want it to be a surprise but once I do blow up then I’m here to stay”