So far, so good.
Off 26 months, but it looked like Mike Jones wasn’t working to shake off a thick layer of rust as he dominated Jaime Herrera in the first and second rounds at Ballys in Atlantic City on Saturday night.
The aisled were jammed up, the fans in attendance were on their feet prior to this main event, pitting Jones against Herrera, an 11-2 guy invited to the dance to test Jones, to give a good account of himself, but not, at the end of the night, have his hand raised.
Jones, the 31-year-old from Philly, had the footwork edge on the less experienced boxer. He stung the underdog from Illinois, shook him with crisp connections. With seconds left in the second, Jones scored a knockdown, which had the Ballys brigade amped. It seemed like Herrera might not recover. But he was working off a different script…
You wouldn’t know it by watching the third round, though. Herrera took yet another trip to the canvas. Jones backers were jazzed, as it looked to even an untrained eye that the end was near for Herrera. He got out his red pen, scratched out what had been written by the Jones gang, the best case scenario for the comebacker, and he started to re-make the tale.
Well-timed combinations consistently connected, and most meaningfully at the right eye of Jones, which had begun to swell after a clash of heads in the second round. Minute by minute, Herrera gained momentum and gained control of the fight, as Jones seemed to fade with each passing round.
Controlling the action well through the sixth round, Herrera was pulling ahead in the fight, as Jones was bloodied and struggling with an eye that was now part of some bad math. Eye in rough shape, put together with waning stamina…
A visibly deflated Jones barely remained on his feet at the end of the seventh round. The lungs, the legs, the eye, all were betraying him. He went back to his corner, and his condition, and probable prospects to be able to escape from Herrera’s blows, were noted by the ringside doctor. Referee Earl Jones waved off the fight.
You’ll maybe recall that Jones’ promoter, Russell Peltz, told me that a KO by Jones was needed to give the comeback a proper shine. I had to check in with Peltz, get his response to the shocker loss.
What are your feelings on the outcome of Saturday's match up?
"As a promoter, I could not ask for a more terrific fight,” Peltz said. “You can't do any better than that. It was a great fight with two talented fighters who were well-matched."
Did the stoppage surprise you?
"No, I thought it would end in a knockout, and that's what happened,” he said. “Had the referee stopped the fight after the big knockdown in the second round, and I think 99% of referees would have, we would be talking about the exciting comeback of Mike Jones, but that's not how it went. I can't take anything away from Herrera. He picked himself back up after two knockdowns and got right back in the fight. When you see a fighter wobbling and taking a beating early, then rise to the occasion and come out victorious, that's impressive. The fans couldn't have asked for a better fight and I'm happy about that."
How did you feel about Mike's conditioning? He looked out of shape from where I was sitting, I told Peltz. It looked like he ran out of gas.
"I think he was conditioned well, but he told me he ran out of gas,” Peltz said. “Between the hard hits he was throwing early in the first few rounds, the ring rust, and his nerves, he got beat. He had two problematic cuts, one over the right eye earlier, which was from a clash of heads, and one over the left eye. The thing about cuts from head butts are that you don't see them immediately. The swelling catches up with the fighter in the next rounds. It's hard to say if both of the cuts were from head butts. I will have to take a look at the tape to see when both cuts occurred, but it wasn't called a head butt."
How is Mike feeling now, I wondered.
"I talked to him at the airport before he was ready to return to Vegas,” Peltz said. “He didn't remember scoring the second knockdown, which is odd. It is strange that a fighter wouldn't remember that. He went for his catscan after the fight and everything was alright. He said he's alright. We've got to wait our sixty days, and see what happens."
What's next for Jones?
"We'll see what happens,” he said. “He's interested in getting back in the ring and I hope to see him there shortly. Now that he's made it back to the ring, he'll fight again. We will see what happens."
Though the fight had a dramatic beginning, Jones, now 26-2, was still a far cry away from the fighter he used to be, to my eyes. He was visibly exhausted and stopped pressing the action after the fourth round. He was unable to capitalize on the two big knockdowns earlier in the fight, and his defense was not good enough to hold off a determined fighter like Herrera. To my surprise, Herrera was able to turn on a speedy offense and land numerous combinations that Jones had no energy left to answer.
Jamie Herrera advances to 12-2 in a loaded welter weight division and I am excited to see what he will be able to do in the future, and will monitor his matches moving forward. Depending on how he looks in the near future, it could tell us that he was underrated going in, or, maybe, be used as evidence that Jones’ best days are too far gone for him to be able to clamber back to the big stages.