Hailing from the great fight city of Philadelphia, Jones is a prospect who has been on the radar for most writers and informed fans for a few years now, while the 37-year-old Bailey has recorded some of the most exciting knockouts of the past decade.
I have heard Bob Arum describe Jones at press conferences as "somebody we are interested in developing into a potential opponent for Manny Pacquiao." That's a big reputation to step into, and Jones has had mixed results in measuring up.
Jones was given a prominent spot on the Pacquiao-Margarito undercard in November 2011 against Jesus Sotos Karaas, a fringe contender who entered the fight with a 24-4-3 record. Jones was lucky to escape the night with an unblemished record, coming away with a razor thin majority decision that was even on one judge's card.
Jones beat Karaas decisively in a rematch. But to put Karaas in some context, his next fight after the two-fight series with Jones was a fifth-round TKO destruction at the hands of 18-5 Gabrielle Rosado. He followed that with a split-decision squeaker against 10-1-1 Said El Harraak,
So one way to look at Jones is that he struggled at times against a guy who is not exactly a world beater.
Last December, Jones won an IBF title eliminator by outpointing former world title challenger Sebastian Lujan on the Cotto-Margarito undercard. It was another high-profile fight where Jones looked less than dazzling.
Jones won easily. His superior footwork and jab alone were enough to outclass Lujan. But he hit the rugged Argentinian all night long with flush shots and just couldn't put him away.
Down the stretch, especially, his punches lacked authority. I covered the fight live and this is from my blog notes:
I'll give Lujan's chin some credit, but Jones just wasn't throwing with authority and bad intention. I think fatigue contributed, but I also think he is an overly cautious fighter. To get the the next level as an attraction he will need to follow up better and more aggressively.
A lopsided decision for Jones. Greeted with lackluster applause.
Even Jones' promoter, Bob Arum, was quoted by Ringtv.com as saying that Jones "will need to put a little more fire in his game."
His opponent, Randall Bailey, is a fighter who has a reputation for explosiveness. With a 72 percent KO ratio, Bailey has recorded one-punch knockouts with both fists.
The 37-year-old Bailey fought just once in all of 2011, earning a unanimous decision against 10-5-2 Yoryi Estrella. In 2010, he fought a grand total of three rounds: a first-round TKO of Jackson Osei Bonsu and a two-round no contest with Said Ouali.
So the aging slugger has not exactly been active in recent years. In his career, Bailey has been in the ring with some pretty big stars. He fought Miguel Cotto for the WBO light welterweight title in 2004, a bout he lost via TKO in six, when the fight was stopped on cuts.
Still, at this point Bailey is an opponent Mike Jones should be able to beat. If he is anything close to what Top Rank hopes he is.
Bailey has always been an exciting fighter, and since the punch is the last thing to go on a fighter, he will be dangerous, at least for as long as Mike Jones lets him hang around.
I expect Jones to walk away Saturday night with his first world title. I am hoping that I will be excited about it.
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