Carson Jones didn’t always understand the sport of boxing, but he knew that he wanted to be a pro fighter from a young age.
Jones used to tell classmates that he was in fact a professional back when he was a 12-year-old elementary school student growing up in Oklahoma City, Okla. Six years later he made that fabrication a reality by turning pro just two months after his 18th birthday following a brief 30-bout amateur career.
Jones was naturally gifted and tough as nails, but he lacked the guidance to understand the politics that go into constructing the kind of eye-catching records that attract television programmers and major promoters. After remaining unbeaten through his first eight contests, Jones lost his first bout to Favio Medina and would lose five more times over the next two years, relegating him to “opponent” status.
His lessons on the way the boxing industry works were learned tough, but they were learned.
“I was young and ignorant of the business,” said Jones (33-8-2, 22 knockouts) of the decisions that led him to take fights that were not in his best interest. One match, against Alfonso Gomez in 2006, sticks out in particular.
“I was 19, just a baby” remembers Jones. “It wasn’t just the age; it was the ring maturity.”
Jones was stopped in the eighth and final round of the ESPN2-televised bout.
“I remember (former world title challenger) Allan Green used to always tell me, ‘You know you don’t have to take that fight if you don’t want to, I don’t think you should take that fight.’ Well, I didn’t listen and now I know why he would say what he did.
“I say the same thing to the kids around my way. All of the youngsters want to go pro as soon as they turn 18 either because they think it’s ‘cool’ or maybe because they only see the glamour.”
Against the odds, Jones has risen to contender status, currently holding the no. 3 spot in the IBF’s welterweight standings. The vacant IBF belt will be claimed by the winner of the Mike Jones-Randall Bailey bout on the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley undercard on June 9. Jones hopes to schedule an elimination bout for the mandatory position shortly after, possibly against the no. 4-rated Hector David Saldivia of Argentina or the no. 5 rated Kell Brook of England.
For now, Jones will remain busy when he faces Allen Conyers (12-6, 9 KOs) of the Bronx, N.Y., on Thursday night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Tulsa, Okla. Jones is heavily-favored, but it’d be foolish to overlook the 36-year-old New Yorker, considering that his rocky career is reminiscent of the path Jones took early on.
After just two years as a pro, Conyers faced Delvin Rodriguez in a six-round bout, suffering his first loss. Rodriguez is now a relevant junior middleweight contender. Carlos Molina and James Kirkland, both of whom stopped Conyers, are also top contenders.
Conyers, who is known as “The Dream Shatterer,” has inflicted the first defeats of Derek Ennis and James De la Rosa.
“I know that Conyers is standing in my way of an eliminator, so it gives me just that much more motivation knowing that he can take it all away or ‘shatter my dreams’,” said Jones.
Jones’ ranking isn’t the only part of his career that has been upgraded; so too is his training. Jones has been training for the last few fights away from home in Big Bear, Calif., at the high elevation training camp The Summit, which is owned and operated by his trainer Abel Sanchez. Jones says that he wouldn’t be where he is now had he still been training back at home.
Jones has been sparring with WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin (22-0, 19 KOs) to prepare for the hard-hitting Conyers. Golovkin, who also trains with Sanchez, is two divisions larger and has more power than anyone Jones is likely to face in the near future.
“Take it from me, it’s the best work out there,” said Jones. “Of course he doesn’t try to kill me, but I learn quite a bit from him. I’m glad I moved (down from middleweight) to 147, I wouldn’t have to fight that monster.”
Jones knows a bit about the sport’s history, and when asked which fighter’s career his most resembles, he pointed to former IBF lightweight champ Freddie Pendleton. Pendleton, who overcame early mismanagement to win a world title, retired in 2001 with a record of 47-26-5 (34 KOs). Like Jones, Pendleton also annexed the USBA title, which is associated with the IBF and earns its holder a top-15 ranking.
When people tell Jones that he won’t be able to make it to the next level, he remembers that others have traveled the same path as well and made it.
Photo / Chris Cozzone-Fightwireimages.com
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.