Mike Jones looks to make his mark at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night when he faces Sebastian Lujan. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
With an undercard loaded with action star and lightweight titlist Brandon Rios, plus the rematch of a Fight of the Year candidate between Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez, the "other" fight on the Miguel Cotto vs Antonio Margarito pay-per-view show has gone largely overlooked.
In that fight, welterweight prospect/contender Mike Jones (25-0, 19 KO) will fight an IBF eliminator against Argentina's rugged Sebastian Lujan (38-5-2, 24 KO). Why is this fight, which will go on second on the PPV broadcast, flying under the radar?
Star power and buzz. The fight has little, as Jones, 28, is still just getting his feet wet on major shows, and the 31-year-old Lujan is a foreign fighter with limited U.S. TV exposure. As for buzz, well, there's only so much to go around for a single show, and people are already talking about three of the four fights, which is nearly unheard of for a boxing pay-per-view these days.
[ Related: Pawel Wolak vs Delvin Rodriguez II Preview ]
But don't sleep on this fight. It's got potential.
Jones hasn't had an easy rise to this level, and there's still plenty of work to be done. Any six-foot tall welterweight is going to find it hard to get the right fights without a power promoter in his corner, and for years, Jones was working with Russell Peltz, the veteran promoter and matchmaker who soon will be part of the team putting together the NBC Sports Network's new boxing series, serving as "quality control" and trying to help put together compelling, action-packed fights.
And while Peltz has a lot of respect in the boxing industry, his Peltz Boxing outfit is a small-time unit -- he does OK, but on a local and club level. Jones has the sort of talent and potential that required more.
So Peltz entered into a deal with Top Rank, and Jones finally got some real TV exposure.
From 2007 into mid-2010, Jones was beating high-level club fighters and gatekeeper sorts, professional battlers that any top prospect needs to defeat in order to learn and improve.
Then in November 2010, Jones went to Cowboy Stadium for his first shot on a big stage, facing tough Mexican veteran Jesus Soto Karass on the undercard of the Pacquiao vs Margarito show.
To say that Jones nearly blew that chance would be an understatement. Going for the kill early, Jones punched himself out and had to survive the remainder of the fight. I actually wound up scoring it 96-94 for Soto Karass, and while not feeling it was a true robbery or anything, I definitely believe Jones got the benefit of the doubt, especially on the absurd 97-93 scorecard in his favor from judge Sergio Caiz. In the end, Jones wound up with a majority decision victory, with the other two cards 95-94 and 94-94.
And to Jones' credit, he didn't take that and just move on. With unfinished business against Soto Karass, a rematch was lined up for February 2011. The second time around, this time in a 12-round fight, Jones fought smarter (not that that was too hard to do), and took home a clear unanimous decision win on scores of 115-113, 116-112, and 117-111. Soto Karass again showed his toughness, fighting through a pair of bloody eyes, but Jones corrected some of his mistakes and was the better man on the night, showing increased effectiveness punching to the body, especially.
In June, Jones took a pointless stay-busy fight at home in Philadelphia against Raul Munoz, winning easily in two rounds against a grossly overmatched opponent. His name came up in talks to face Manny Pacquiao in November should a deal with Juan Manuel Marquez have fallen through, but more likely than not, that was Top Rank's way of getting Jones' name out there: Attach a name to Pacquiao, and you've got instant news stories around the world.
After the club fight, Jones was slated to feature on either Pacquiao's November 12 card, or the Cotto vs Margarito pay-per-view. He wound up in New York, closer to home, and fighting for the first time on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
His opponent is about as tough and determined as they come. Lujan once famously had his ear nearly torn off of his head but Antonio Margarito in a 2005, but up to that point gave Margarito a pretty decent fight, though Lujan was losing clearly.
His other noteworthy losses have come against Marco Antonio Avendano (KO-2, 2005), Sergiy Dzinziruk (UD-12, 2006), Jamie Moore (PTS-12, 2007). But right now, Lujan is working on a 12-fight win streak, and one only needs to look back to his July 1 fight on Friday Night Fights against Top Rank's Mark Melligen to see what he's all about.
After a slow start in the fight, as he had come in on short notice for the ESPN opportunity, Lujan dug down and started tearing into Melligen, a fighter not good enough to keep the relentless Argentinean brawler off of him. Eventually, Lujan wore out the Filipino, flooring him in the sixth, seventh, and eighth rounds, before finally knocking him out 45 seconds into the ninth round.
[ Related: Lujan vs Melligen Post-Fight Recap ]
It was the sort of performance where you know that yes, Lujan is a flawed fighter, but no, he doesn't go away easy, and he doesn't show up to be anyone's stepping stone.
He won't come tomorrow to be Mike Jones' stepping stone, either.
What to Expect & Prediction
If Jones is smart, he'll just look to improve on what he did effectively against Soto Karass in February. Like Soto Karass, Lujan is double tough, but very limited in what he can do, and not a big puncher.
Against the Mexican, Jones was facing another big welterweight, as Soto Karass is 5'10" with a 73-inch reach. Lujan, on the other hand, is all of 5'6", and won't be able to physically match up to Jones. If the Philly fighter chooses to box from distance, well, I won't say he'd have an easy night, because Lujan doesn't make things easy, but he probably will be able to control the fight without a ton of trouble.
For Lujan, he obviously has to pressure and try to break Jones down, and get Mike to fight inside. Jones, like many other recent abnormally tall fighters, is actually an OK inside fighter, but it's not really his forte, and unlike Paul Williams, it's not what he's wound up being best at.
Lujan's only shot is to get in close, break down the body of Mike Jones, and get Jones to fight as stupidly as he did at Cowboys Stadium last year. Otherwise, it's hard to figure Lujan winning this fight, because he's going to have serious physical disadvantages.
If Jones were willing to get rough and a little dirty, this could wind up sort of a welterweight version of Celestino Caballero vs Jorge Lacierva, where the mean little Lacierva consistently flung his body toward Caballero from distance, and both guys got messy.
But I figure this one's a little prettier. Lujan will try to ugly it up and keep Jones from using his reach, but in the end I figure he's unsuccessful, and gets stopped not because he's not good enough to go the distance, but because he's going to take enough risks that Jones will catch him desperate at some point. Mike Jones by TKO-9.