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Remembering the Fan Favorite Welsh Boxer Colin Jones


By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

In the United Kingdom right now we have a heatwave. People are confused by the sight of the sun in July and fear it may linger into August… There have been forest fires in Greece fears such things may engulf us as we don’t do well with extreme weather…

Some of us can cast our minds back the last time it was this noticeably nationally hot was the summer of 1976. I was 11 years old and thought the summer began in January and came to an end just in time for Christmas. Of course, I have 20/20 vision these days but then it was glorious…

It was also a significant summer for Welsh welterweight Colin Jones, 26-3-1, 23 KO’s, who was the youngest British Olympic boxer to represent Great Britain that year, in Montreal at the Olympics. It was a distinction he held until 2004 and it was taken by a very youthful looking Amir Khan.

Jones came from a family who were no stranger to the sweet science and he had boxing brothers, both of whom became Welsh Champions. Colin was to eclipse them by becoming, at age 16, a British contender by becoming Welsh senior champion before he was old enough to qualify! He then took, at 17, the British title. Despite his win, the people behind the Olympic team were nervous. Jones was too young they claimed. Send for the Americans they cried, and a crack team came over. Jones went in, beat a 23 year old Golden Gloves champion and proved he was more than ready for the Olympics. As he later admitted Jones, felt he was too young for either the finals in the UK or the Olympics, but he went. Who wouldn’t?

The Olympics that year were hitting the headlines due to an African boycott but the boy from the valleys got his head down and after a first round walkover faced Eamon McLoughlin of Ireland. Through that and into round three, he was stopped in the third round by Victor Zilberman of Romania. Zilberman, competing in his third Olympics went on to win bronze before defecting to the West right after Montreal!

As Zilberman was naturalizing Jones had gone pro and rather than chase bright lights and big cities decided that home was best, and he should make his base where he was most comfortable – it was where at the age of 8 he had been picked up by his trainer, Gareth Bevan, who stayed with him right to the end of his career at the age of 26.

What was interesting of the time and may be a key to the progress of quite a few fighters now, is that Jones began initially by knocking everyone placed in front of him out and then got taken the distance, notably by Frankie Decaestecker and Horace McKenzie. His team had guided Jones well for his first few fights and then purposefully stepped up the level of opposition to give him new experiences and a good enough grounding for what was coming next.

Now a more than competent boxer with an impressive array of firepower he knew exactly what he had learnt through that apprenticeship. Later in life he gave credit to those who faced him and schooled him in an interview from a few years ago when he said, “A lot of credit should go out to the boxers who get forgotten about, without them you don’t get your experience and your grounding.”

We all know that when you get bigger, you get noticed. When you get noticed, you get attention. When you get attention, people want to knock you out.

The big opportunity came for Jones in a British title eliminator when he convincingly beat Joey Mack. It set up the first of two marquee domestic fights for Jones against Kirkland Laing, 43-12-1, 24 KO’s.

Jones was to fight Laing twice and it is these two fights that we in the UK hold in high esteem. With his customary honesty Jones was later to concede that, of the 18 rounds he fought with Laing, “I only won two!” Fortunately, in both of those, he was to stop Laing.

In the first fight, in April 1980, Laing had set up a convincing lead that by the 9th was looking unassailable. Laing then unleashed what he thought were power shots, but were anything but and Jones knew… It was in the 9th that Jones who was always a later round fighter, knew that all he needed was to unload. So, he did, and it got stopped.

He faced Kirkland again in 1981 and we got Laing ahead, then Jones stopped him… in the 9th… Déjà vu!? This time though Jones tasted canvas though was unhappy at a few blows that were aimed and hit low – he even claimed one nearly broke his kneecap!

By now people not only knew him as a puncher but also as a decent boxer. Jones had a style that suited any number of rounds as he knew all about pace and its effect on the length of the contest. He was just as tactically comfortable in a 4 or 6 or 10 rounder a he would just fire up that wee bit earlier. After his second win against Laing, he was now the outright owner of the Lonsdale British Championship belt.

His first loss hurt in more ways than one. Against American Curtis Ramsey in September 1981 he was disqualified in the 3rd round for hitting Ramsey when he was down on one knee. Clearly more momentum than trying to gain an advantage by the time the decision was taken, protests were futile. Jones was no longer an unbeaten prospect.

He was, however still a big prospect.

Twelve days after that fight, the 3rd round was to be prophetic as Jones returned to the ring and knocked Milton Seward out in response to his previous disappointment. Jones was on the prowl and his route – British – Commonwealth – European – World… was back on track.
In 1982 Jones went in the ring against Sakaraia Ve in Wembley and took just two rounds to win the Commonwealth title; part two of four in the bag… he now needed to win the European title.

The UK was no longer baking in the summer sun of 1976, it was the cold and hard face of Margaret Thatcher, the imminent battle with trades unions, mass unemployment and a fight to come for some islands in the South Atlantic, nobody had ever heard of. For Colin Jones, his head was in Europe; his foe was Hans-Henrick Palm.

The first time he tried to fight the Dane the fight was called off on the day of the contest as Jones could not fool the doctor to allow him to fight because he had appendicitis. He got his chance later in 1982 and went all the way to Denmark where he stopped Palm to add European to the first two milestones. He was now number 3 in the WBC rankings.


Kronk, King and McCrory – the gym, the promotor, the fighter.

Jones had his world title chance – part four of his destiny was calling or so he heard…

Jones traveled again, this time to Reno, but this fight was not what it was in Denmark. Then again Milton McCrory, 35-4-1, 25 KO’s, was no Palm. Jones began in his customary low key fashion before a 9th round flurry had McCrory all over the place. Jones claims he was unaware just how rattled McCrory was at that point and not finishing him off led to a heart breaking draw.

He might not have won the judges but he won the crowd round. They appreciated a fighting man and Jones was that with bells on.

A rematch was ordered and in 100 degree heat Jones fought McCrory again, this time, in Vegas. In the first round Jones experienced something for the very first time in his career – hitting the deck. Caught with a counter left hook he fell to the canvas; it shook him and made him more determined.

After the knockdown, Jones had made most of the running but by the second half McCrory was in the swing. Jones’ heart was again broken as he lost on a split decision.

Jones never made or found any excuses. He went to America looking for a world title and didn’t manage it; fact. Whilst McCrory had not managed to beat Jones convincingly in the ring, it was suggested that Don King beat him outside it as he made sure the fight happened in the afternoon in conditions that would suit McCrory more than Jones.

Ever the realist, Jones knew he was back to climbing a mountain again – 10 round fights to rebuild towards another world title shot – and he got it.

By now though, the thought of getting out of bed to run in the dark and making the long day and hours in the gym pay dividend were becoming less attractive by those hours. For 1985 though his promoter, Frank Warren delivered his third title fight – against Donald Curry, 34-6, 25 KO’s.

Curry was 9 months away from losing his crowns to another British fighter in Lloyd Honeyghan in the USA but for Jones he traveled to the UK and Birmingham in January to put his IBF and WBA welterweight titles on the line.

Jones was not to fare well in the contest. Badly cut at the end of round 3 he was desperate and if his body had been silently screaming for him to stop it reached a crescendo in the National Exhibition Centre on the 19th January as Curry stopped Jones in the 4th round and sent him into retirement; he was 25 year old.

Jones passed on his love of the game to the next generation by working with the Welsh amateur set up. His love of the craft is matched by his disdain for the professional game. Looking on from the side lines, he sees “characters” with titles that could not lace the gloves of his idols, Ken Buchanan or Muhammad Ali. Many could not lace his gloves as he was a boxer of immense ability and guile. His proximity to world honors shows how tough it was to be a world champion at a time when being ONE was all there was to be.

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