Boy wonder targets first title
Rising super-featherweight talent Boy Jones Jnr speaks to Luke Byron about his upcoming Southern Area title shot, his catchy ring name and much more ...
At just 19 years old, Boy Jones Jnr (real name Ben Jones) is scheduled for his twelfth professional fight and a shot at the Southern Area Super Featherweight Title.
On 25 November, Jones will face off against Martin Hillman as part of a stacked show at the Brentwood Centre in Essex. Before leaving to start his training camp in sunny Spain, I was able to steal some of his time to talk about his career so far, and his impending title shot.
The teenage star turned professional in February 2015 and his first tough decision concerned what name he should fight under. At the same weight there was already another fighter named Ben Jones - and Jones decided that going by the same name would thus be impractical. ‘Boy’ was a nickname that he had developed as a youngster and it just seemed to fit when he began his fighting days.
It has no doubt helped his cause commercially, paying homage to the great Roy Jones Jr of course, and often causes fans who are not familiar with him to double-take, and then hopefully become new fans after watching Jones fight.
It turns out that boxing wasn’t always a natural choice for Jones; he told me: "My mum and older brother always wanted me to do it, but I never liked it. They kept taking me down the gym when I was like 12 and 13. Then when I moved down to Chingford, I tried it again with Dom's gym [Dominic Negus] and it just stuck from there."
At just over 6 feet tall, you could be forgiven for assuming that Boy would simply fight from range and use his significant size and reach difference to his advantage; instead, though, he often opts to fight inside and mix it in the pocket with his opponents. This stylistic emphasis owes much to years of watching his hero Ricky Hatton.
After his second professional bout, trainer Dominic Negus promised Jones a trip to visit Hatton’s gym, something that the chirpy lad from Chingford had to see to truly believe. Clearly still overjoyed by the experience, he told me: "It was like being in Madame Tussaud's! I couldn’t believe it was him. He’s exactly as you’d imagine he is. He was taking the piss out of me, it was wicked!"
Jones has been kept busy since his pro debut, he’s fighting frequently and getting exposure on some big cards, which is exactly how he likes it.
"I like being active, because it means I don’t sit there getting bored," he tells me. "It means I get more publicity and I’m still getting on them big shows. I’m being put in with southpaws, orthodox fighters, people that can box, people that are rougher, people that can take a shot etc. Last fight I had a guy who couldn’t stand still. I came out slow in the first round and then I quickly adjusted in the second and got the job done from there."
Before turning professional, Jones tried his craft on the unlicensed circuit where, as a 16-year-old boy, he was often pitted against fully grown men. He admits amateur boxing never suited his style of fighting and believes that most of his learning has taken place around the gym and in sparring.
Recounting some sparring memories, Jones told me the tale of when he found himself gearing up for a sparring session with former IBF super-bantamweight world champion Kiko Martinez. "It was mad because me and my brother watched him on TV when he won the world title, and the next thing you know, we were both in the gym getting our sparring gear on, it was phenomenal! I phoned my brother straight after and said: ‘guess who I’ve just sparred?’ and he couldn’t believe it."
A little closer to home, Jones has also sparred fellow highly touted prospect Ohara Davies. "With Ohara Davies that was a horrible spar, he’s a proper banger and a nice kid as well," he reveals. "And he gave me a nice jig-up after saying I was good."
I questioned whether it was advantageous that Jones had a few fights away from the heat of the television cameras between his appearances on the big shows. "That helped big-time," he agreed. "I learned a lot there, I did my first full six rounder (at the Prince Regent Hotel, Chigwell, Essex). It was at the same venue that I had my unlicensed fights, so it was nice to be back there."
Next is a real test for the touted talent as he faces the first title fight of his career; squaring off against Martin Hillman for the Southern Area Super Flyweight Title. Jones describes this opportunity as "like a Christmas present" and admits he didn’t expect a title shot this early in his career.
At the age of 19 and still growing, it remains to be seen how much longer he’ll be able to make super-featherweight, despite the fact that he makes it comfortably at the moment. After glancing at their respective records, Jones will be filled with confidence; the pair have shared several opponents – Tamas Laska, beaten on points by Hillman and stopped by Jones, and Michael Stupart, who was knocked out by Jones and has faced Hillman twice, winning one and losing one.
No matter how good he looks in his upcoming fights, though, it will be a while before we see Boy Jones competing for British title honours though; as he reminded me you can’t compete for the British title until you’re 21 years old.
Expect Chingford to come out in their masses at the Brentford Centre for the Southern Area title shot; Jones is a huge ticket seller, especially for someone so early in their career.
After only a few minutes speaking with him it is clear why: Jones is incredibly easy to talk to and conducts himself with a certain charm that has won over fans in his hometown, as well as countless others who have watched him consistently improve during his appearances on Boxnation.
He certainly welcomes any new fans wishing to get on board for the journey ahead. "They [the fans] really get you through it, [and] give you that extra buzz and motivation to win the fight," he emphasises.
In an era when teenage sports stars let success go to their heads all too often, it’s refreshing to speak to a talent with his feet still planted firmly on the ground.
Despite his abundant confidence, Jones clearly still knows how much work remains to be done if he is to reach his ultimate goals and go all the way in this tough sport.
First things first, though, and Boy Jones Jnr needs to come through his test on 25 November. If he does, then his legion of fans can begin to really get excited about what’s to come in the future.