A Boxing Memory: Colin Jones

A Boxing Memory: Colin Jones

Herol Graham, Kirkland Laing, Alan Rudkin and a few other illustrious names are often thrown around in the mythical game of who is the greatest ever British fighter never to win a world title.

A big punching Welsh welterweight is often a forgotten addition to any such discussions on websites, forums and alcohol-fuelled discussions in the pubs across the land. But should he be, Colin Jones beat Laing on two occasions and stopped him both times. At the very least, he deserves to be in the conversation.

Jones was unlucky in many ways in that quest to become the welterweight champion of the world. Two fights with Milton McCrory, in both, Jones was one punch away from victory. Even on the cards, it could have ended with him having his hand raised. Trust me, in different circumstances, Jones could have won both of those fights.

Born in 1959 in Swansea. Jones was in the gym at 9, by 11, Jones had a Welsh title, British Schoolboy titles would soon follow. But Jones could have been lost to rugby. A more than decent hooker, Jones had a choice to make. Rugby lost out. Around 100 unpaid fights, two ABA titles, Jones competed in the 1976 Olympics, the youngest ever British fighter to do so until Amir Khan took that record away from him before his attention turned to the professional ranks.

He dug graves, he worked down the mines, Jones had to supplement many things in his chase for glory. Jones had a reputation, many wanted to test it, he had many fights in the streets they wouldn’t have liked what they found.

Jones turned pro in 1977 under the tutelage of Eddie Thomas a former European champion in his own right, by 1980 Jones was still unbeaten and was thrown to the wolves. Or so many people thought.

Kirkland Laing was the next big thing, a star in the making. Laing was some talent but lacked the required discipline to fully realise his potential. Jones was told he would get a terrible beating at the hands of Laing. The underdog had other ideas. But for 8 rounds, Laing was in total control. Jones couldn’t find him with what he needed. In the 9th round he did, and Jones was now the British welterweight champion.

Laing had a reputation for going missing in training but he prepared properly for the rematch, probably one of the few times he ever did. But the second fight was a mirror image of the first, and it ended in the exact same manner. In 18 rounds against the enigma that was Laing, he might have only won two rounds. But they were the rounds that mattered. By 1983, Jones had the British, Commonwealth and European titles safely secured and thoughts then turned to winning world titles.

Milton McCrory the Kronk fighter was 20-0, and was odds on to beat Jones for the the WBC welterweight title vacated by the retirement of Sugar Ray Leonard. Jones the 4-1 underdog started slowly as McCrory showed his obvious class. But Jones slowly but surely was getting to the American, and yet again, in the 9th round the Welshman sprung to life. McCrory was now fighting to survive and the boos rang loud in his ears. In a carbon copy of the two fights with Laing, Jones had McCrory teetering on the brink of defeat, but somehow he survived. The bell came to his rescue.

It was close at the final bell, McCrory saved his night by rallying in the 12th and final round. 116-113, 114-116 and a 115-115 card that meant they had to do it all over again.

The rematch took place outdoors in Las Vegas in an unforgiving brutal 106-degree heat and in a tsunami of back stage bickering over money and more. There were problems all week long for the Jones camp. A knock on his hotel room door and a loyal Don King employee asked Jones to take a £100,000 reduction or the fight would be off. McCrory was struggling to make weight and they wanted to weigh-in earlier to allow his body to fully rehydrate. Proposed rule changes in the event of another draw. Skullduggery and witchcraft, boxing at its worst.

There were options to have both the McCrory fights in London, but there was far money on the table to have the fights in America:

“If I hit him on the chin in Las Vegas or I hit him on the chin in London, we’re going to have the same result.” Jones later conceded he should have taken less money to fight McCrory in London.

Jones needed a fast start, he got anything but. McCrory cited an injured right hand in their first meeting, this time there would be no excuses. The Kronk star came out fast and dropped Jones in the opening round. For 4 rounds Jones couldn’t get near the American. Then things changed.

By the 7th, the ‘Ice Man’ was starting to melt and wilt in the searing heat. Yet again Jones looked only one punch away from victory, the bell almost certainly came to McCrory’s rescue again. McCrory was hurt again in the 9th, but yet again his fighting heart and survival instincts saved him and in the final round he went deep into his reserves to edge the round and the fight. It was close again, this time a split-decision. But McCrory got the decision and finally claimed the vacant WBC welterweight title. The final card of 115-111 for McCrory that gave him the fight was an awful representation of what had transpired.

The two fights in 1983 between McCrory and Jones are forgotten classics, and in both fights it was a case of so near but so far for the Welshman.

Jones carried on but even though he was only 24, the edge and fire had left his body. Two tune-up fights, one with Billy Parks was far tougher than expected and a clear sign the end was near. Jones wasn’t living the life, cuts were now becoming a problem. A lucrative ageed fight with Sugar Ray Leonard came to nothing when Leonard struggled to beat Kevin Howard in a comeback fight and promptly retired again.

But Frank Warren tempted Donald Curry over to Birmingham in 1985 for one last chance at winning a world title. Curry was at his physical peak, Jones admitted the fight was more about the money. In many ways, the wrong fight at the wrong time. Jones had his nose sliced open in the 3rd, it would later require 16 stitches, and a few seconds into the 4th the fight was waved off. Curry was sublime that night free from the weight making issues that would soon engulf him, but Jones was still very much in a fight that never had the chance to reach its natural conclusion. Jones was only 25, but he had reached the end.

Despite rumblings of a comeback Jones never fought again. Retirement was thankfully kinder to Jones than most. A spell in the car trade was fun he would say, he later managed and trained professional fighters before Jones settled into coaching on the Welsh amateur scene and helping bringing through the next generation of Welsh talent including the Olympic Gold medallist Lauren Price. In 2020, Jones was awarded the MBE for his services to boxing.

A fearsome puncher who could and did turn around losing fights with one punch. Out of his 26 wins all but 3 failed to last the distance, Jones said he knew it was his job to hurt people and said it felt good knocking people out. The fights with the enigmatic Laing will go down in boxing folklore and epitomise perfectly what Jones was all about. Jones was some fighter, a career too short in reality, but he achieved plenty and should be fondly remembered.

One thought on “A Boxing Memory: Colin Jones

  1. With respect to Graham & Rudkin, neither were given the opportunity to face No.1 contenders on 3 separate occasions, with 2 away from home. I was at all three fights. 1st in Reno, draw in America was unheard of, so good result. 2nd in Vegas, should never have been allowed in that desert heat. Barry Mcguigan made the same mistake a year later. I thought Jones did enough that day. The Don Curry fight, that horrendous cut on the bridge of the nose, the fight would always end there. Q. If that fight goes late, would Colin have taken him out. I believe Honegan answers that. DEFO.

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