MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. – She’s had plenty of title shots and, apparently, plenty of time to contemplate more.
Eva Jones-Young hasn’t stepped foot in the women’s boxing ring since losing a unanimous decision to Michele Aboro for the Women’s International Boxing Federation super bantamweight title in 2000. She was 36 years old at the time, a prime age for some of a fighter’s greatest pursuits; it’s also prime time for a fighter to think about retirement.
Jones-Young is a three-time boxing and karate world champion. She stepped under the ropes for a paycheck for the first time at 29 and earned her first world title, the IWBF bantam belt, a year later. As Cheryll Robinson fell to a technical knockout a year later, Jones-Young won the WIBF. Her second championship lasted a few bouts until Margaret Sidoroff snatched it by split decision in 1999.
Waiting on the other side of that loss was yet another title shot: An IFBA bout against unbeaten Leona Brown. Jones-Young attached champion to her name a final time with a unanimous decision.
Her name disappeared from women’s boxing in 2000 and reappeared as an amateur trainer in Goshen, Ind., at St. James Boxing Club. She trains anywhere from 20 to 25 teenagers and adolescents from the small Indiana town located 2 ½ hours north of Indianapolis. She spars with them – boys and girls.
“I always sparred with guys,” Jones-Young said. “We had to be careful. A lot of guys have ego problems.”
The now 41-year-old has a daughter, Eva Marie, who also trains at St. James. She, too, hopes to fight her way into the professional ranks, although that goal is long-term.
“She’s had one amateur fight, and she’s got a better right hook than me,” Jones-Young said. “She says she’s going to be a professional singer and fighter.”
Jones-Young exudes a soft motherly sense, no doubt endearing her to the young men and women she trains. There’s still a keen look in the eyes behind her glasses that commands enough respect to get results, which she’ll want this weekend when Goshen plays host to the Indiana Junior Olympics.
“I love the pro scene, but the amateurs are so much fun,” she said.
Mean or docile, Jones-Young is trying to be smart. Her comeback will be measured, although she said title shots were being offered. She refused to divulge the names on the offer sheets, noting it didn’t matter anyway since she wants a few tune-up fights before any belts are distributed.
The path back to the prize ring is one traveled by many men, but very few women. As for squaring off at the age of 41, Jones-Young needs only to look at George Foreman’s late-life rally into a title. Experience, in this case, wins.
Other boxers have dusted off their careers for one final taste of a championship or money, They don’t leave until the taste of one or the other has been knocked out of their mouths. Even so, many of them retreat from boxing after the final bell. The occasional fight analysis on HBO, Showtime and ESPN lures them ringside, but nothing substantial until the Hall of Fame beckons from Canastota, N.Y.
Even if Jones-Young doesn’t win another title, her plans are completely wrapped up in the fight game. Her goals have her staying in the ring, except she’ll trade her leather gloves for hygienic Latex.
“My goal is to referee a pro fight,” she said. “The big goal is going to be to referee a men’s world title fight.”
Will she ever get away from boxing?
“Nope,” she said. “I’ll be 76 and I’ll be judging.”
BELOW THE BELT
The National Hockey League and boxing often tagged as one in the same (Example: I went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out). Boxing’s traditional main stage, the heavyweight division, and hockey’s premier event, the Stanley Cup Playoffs, now have something in common: A lot of new names that are generally unrecognizable. A meet and greet may be necessary in this case:
Let’s have everyone get to know one another.
New Jersey Devils goalie Martin Brodeur, you already know IBF-IBO champ Wladimir Klitschko. Actually, I think everyone here knows both of you.
World Boxing Organization Champion Sergei Liakhovich, meet Stanley Cup contending goalie Ilya Bryzgalov of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Do accept my apologies for not having nametags large enough to accommodate your names.
San Jose Sharks goalie Vesa Toskala, this gargantuan man hovering over you with the WBA belt is Nikolay Valuev.
Everyone be sure to get they’ve got the correct pronunciation, lest we incur the wrath of WBA champ Hasim Rahman. No, Ilya, it’s not pronounced like the noodles.