Pugilistic Adventures – Ed “Too Tall” Jones was a whale of a football player. The first overall pick in the 1974 NFL Draft, the six-foot-nine defensive end spent 15 seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Jones appeared in three Super Bowls. He was one of the cornerstones of the Dallas team that defeated the Denver Broncos 27-10 in Super Bowl XII.
Jones played in 232 NFL games, the most of any Dallas player. The number would have been higher if he hadn’t missed an entire season while off on a quixotic quest to become the next heavyweight champion of the world.
Too Tall shocked the sporting world when he announced that he was switching sports, abandoning football after only five pro seasons. The announcement came at a press conference in New York on June 18, 1979. Heavyweight champion Larry Holmes was on the podium with him, as was his manager, David Wolf.
Wolf was a novice. A journalist by training, he was an assistant sports editor at Life magazine. If his name resonated, it was because of a book he had written (a splendid book) about Connie Hawkins, the basketball star whose career was unfairly disheveled by a point-shaving scandal.
Wolf consigned Too Tall Jones to Murphy Griffith, the house trainer at the Times Square Gym. Periodically Griffith would issue progress reports that told of the great progress that Jones was making. “He can hit like a mule,” pronounced Murphy in one of his dispatches.
During his early years in the NFL, there was talk that Too Tall wasn’t maximizing his talent; he just wasn’t properly dedicated. As a fledgling prizefighter, there were no such qualms. After each session in the gym he went running in Central Park, never quitting until he had finished eight miles. “There has been the occasional athlete from another sport who gave boxing a try, but no one has ever tried with the planning and dedication of Jones,” wrote William N. Wallace of the New York Times.
For Jones’ debut, Wolf looked toward the southwest where the Dallas Cowboys had a loyal following. He settled on the basketball arena on the campus of New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, a venue that seated 14,400. For his sacrificial lamb he chose a fighter from Mexico, Abraham “Yaqui” Meneses, who was garbed with a record of 10-4 with all 10 wins by knockout. (In documented fights, Meneses was only 5-6, but records – in particular records of Mexican fighters – were routinely embroidered.)
Jones vs. Meneses was only a six round fight, but it was televised live on CBS. The match was entertaining, but not in the way that Too Tall and his handlers envisioned.
In the first three rounds, Too Tall used his long jab to good advantage. The fourth round was basically even and then things went haywire.
When the bell sounded for Round Five, Meneses rushed out of his corner, full of bravado. During the round, he taunted Jones, dropping his hands and presenting his chin as a target. In the final round, the spunky Mexican had Jones on his heels. The bout ended with Too Tall looking dazed with one hand clutching the top strand of rope.
In Honor of Super Bowl 50 We Look Back At the Pugilistic Adventures Of Ed “Too Tall” Jones
Meneses won over the crowd with his rally. They booed loudly when the decision was announced. The referee called it a draw, but the two judges gave the fight to Jones.
Too Tall was back in action 10 days later, appearing on the undercard of a show in Phoenix. His opponent, Abdullah Muhammad (aka Lee Hollomon), was 4-3 according to the Associated Press. More trustworthy sources would peg his record going in as 1-14-2.
Jones dismissed Muhammad in the sixth round and went on to have four more fights in quick succession. In the final encounter, in Jackson, Mississippi, he scored a first round KO over an opponent making his pro debut.
At this juncture, Jones was having second thoughts about his second career. Boxing was no bed of roses; indeed, he found it harder than football. He hung up his gloves, leaving undefeated (6-0) but with the catcalls from the Meneses fight still ringing in his ears. In the ensuing years, a few other gridiron stars would take a stab at boxing, including another outstanding defensive end, Mark Gastineau (and if you thought Too Tall Jones was ungainly, you should have seen this guy).
Too Tall’s manager David Wolf must have lost a bundle, but Wolf had the last laugh. He built another promising specimen, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, into a huge gate attraction. Somewhat later, he piloted Donny LaLonde to the WBC light heavyweight title and a lucrative payday with Sugar Ray Leonard.
As for Too Tall Jones, his detour into the fight game was salutary. He returned to football with a deeper commitment. His three Pro Bowl selections came after his fling with boxing; not before.
In his last Super Bowl, Too Tall recovered a fumble by Terry Bradshaw to set up a Dallas touchdown, but the Cowboys ultimately came up short, losing 35-31. Here’s hoping that you land on the winning side on Sunday. May all of your wagers yield happy returns.
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