Interview with Junior “Poison” Jones WBA champ and 2X Conqueror of Marco Antonio Barrera By Ken Hissner (Nov 10, 2009) DoghouseBoxing
Junior “Poison” Jones spent 13 years and 56 fights in boxing yet is most known for two fights within a span of 5 months. These are his two victories over one of Mexico’s greatest fighters Marco Antonio Barrera in November of 1996 and April of 1997 that stand out in everyone’s mind when you mention the name of Jones.
It’s been 7 years since Jones was in the ring and he looked trim and fit at a “signing” show I visited recently in Oaks, PA. He was next to his Brooklyn friend and fellow former world champion Mark Breland, who was about 6” taller, but by the length of those arms of Jones at 71” (reach), you knew he was an athlete of some kind.
Jones was a two-time New York Golden Gloves champion, trained by Ray Gazer, with a 150-8 record, and 81 knockouts before losing his last amateur bout in the 1988 Olympic trials against Kennedy McKinney. Like Barrera wants to forget the name Junior Jones, Jones would like to forget the name Kennedy McKinney. Every fighter has a nemesis.
“I signed with MSG and my trainer was Francis Romano in the beginning. Gary Gittelson was my manager and I trained out of Gleason’s”, said Jones. In his first fight he scored a 1st round knockout on June 8th of 1989 in his first of two bouts in Atlantic City. Two weeks later he defeated Quincy Pratt, 4-0. He made his New York debut in his next fight at the Felt Forum against future world champion John Michael Johnson, 7-2, winning a decision. It wouldn’t be the last these two would meet.
In his seventh fight Jones defeated Angel Gonzalez, 8-1, in June of 1990 over 6 rounds. “He was tough”, said Jones. Tough enough to warrant a rematch three fights and four months later with Jones stopping him this time in the 2nd round. His new trainer was Jerry Fariello. At the end of 1990 he stopped the Brazilian Claudemir Carvalho, 19-4 in the 2nd round.
Two fights later Jones won a majority decision over title challenger Juan Carazo, 22-3, of Puerto Rico, in his first 10 rounder. “I didn’t think the decision was that close. My next fight was tougher,” said Jones. Jones defeated the California super bantam champ, Jose Luis Vegagil, 18-8-2, two months later. He was 16-0 with nine of his fights now in Atlantic City. The following month he would make his lone appearance at the legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia stopping the five fight winning streak of Alejandro Sanabria, 26-6-1, of Mexico, in the 7th round.
In his 21st straight win Jones defeated Filipino Dadoy Andujar, 38-10-2, for the USBA bantamweight title, in the 9th round. He had Andujar cut and down once before the stoppage. In November of 1992 he defeated Jose Quirino, 32-8, of Mexico who lost in his previous fight over 12 rounds for the WBO super flyweight title to Johnny Bredahl. Jones cut him down in 3 rounds in his first fight in Las Vegas.
In August Jones stopped Francisco Alvarez, 33-7-4, in the 12th and final round with a four punch combination that had Alvarez reeling backwards when the referee stopped it. Alvarez was a two division title challenger prior to losing to Jones losing to Jorge Eliecer Julio in his previous fight.
Speaking of Julio, 26-0, he would be the next opponent for Jones, defending his WBA bantamweight title in October of 1993, in Atlantic City. Jones would defeat the Colombian after coming off the canvas in the 4th round. He came back to drop Julio in the 11th round and win a lopsided decision for the title in his 31st consecutive win. “He was tough and awkward,” said Jones. His first defense would be against another Colombian in Elvis Alvarez, 31-7-3, in Catskill, New York in January of 1994. Jones would put Alvarez into retirement after winning another lopsided decision improving his record to 32-0.
In April of 1994 In Las Vegas, Jones would have a defense against John Michael Johnson, 17-4, to whom he defeated in his third fight almost six years ago. Johnson had won ten straight coming into this bout in Las Vegas. Jones would come off the canvas in the 4th and 11th rounds before the referee stopped the fight in the 11th round. Jones was ahead on two score cards and even on the third. “I had a problem making the weight and would never fight at 118 again,” said Jones.
Jones did not pick on an easy opponent in moving up in weight in Orlando Fernandez, 19-6, the former WBO super bantamweight champion. He was on a six fight win streak winning a couple of nominal titles. This fight would be 10 rounds in Atlantic City. Jones would win easily. The next fight was something Jones would like to forget. It would be his fifteenth fight in Atlantic City. A place he had never lost. His opponent was Darryl “Nightmare” Pinckney, 18-18-2, a full fledged featherweight who had won three in a row and had a decision win over Olympian Paul Gonzales for the NABF super bantamweight title. “He hit me with a good punch,” said Jones. It happened in the 3rd round and Jones knew he had to start all over again in a new division.
Jones would win six in a row before meeting Orlando Canizales, 42-2-1, for the IBC super bantamweight title in MSG, March of 1996. The former IBF bantamweight champion posed as a worthy opponent, but Jones won by split decision over 12. A couple of more wins and Jones would face the WBO super bantamweight champion Marco Antonio Barrera, 43-0, in Las Vegas, April of 1997. Tommy Brooks would be working the corner for Jones with Lou Duva as the assistant.
Jones would land a big right hand in the 1st round to get Barrera’s attention. In the 2nd round Barrera seemed to have the edge thanks to several low blows that the referee seemed to allow. Jones seemed to take the 3rd round, but Barrera would land a couple of low blows without warning again. In the 4th round another low blow landed and Jones turned away from Barrera which caused the referee to call time, otherwise probably wouldn’t have acknowledged it. For some reason or other this fight ended up in Tampa and the WBO let the local Max Parker, Jr., be appointed as ref. It was evident he was over his head in this high caliber fight. Barrera seemed to take the 4th and even the score. The official scoring had Barrera ahead at this point on all official’s cards.
One minute into the 5th round the fighters would clash heads. Jones would land a solid right hand getting Barrera’s attention and in a clinch the two of them were hitting each other behind the head as the referee tried to separate the two and Barrera landed a punch causing Jones to try to retaliate but got reprimanded by the referee. Barrera landed a low blow and in a clinch their heads clashed causing a cut over Barrera’s left eye with Jones landing a solid uppercut. Barrera complained to the referee about a head butt. The referee at this point had lost control of the fight warning Jones of a head butt.
Barrera landed a right and ducked under a Jones left only to get caught with a counter right that dropped him on his back as the blood trickled down the side of his face. Barrera managed to get up with twenty seconds to go in the round. Jones drove him into the ropes landing a barrage of punches finally dropping him as the referee waved the fight off. There was confusion over the stoppage as Barrera’s people jumped into the ring before the round ended. The referee asked the timekeeper if the bell had sounded before he waved the fight off. The final decision was Jones declared the winner by disqualification. “I was told it was a knockout in 5,” said Jones.
The rematch would be five months later in April of 1997 this time in Las Vegas which would certainly favor Barrera. Jones had won ten straight at this point. Was their previous fight a fluke or did Jones have Barrera’s number? In this one it was close all the way through the entire 12 rounds with Jones retaining his WBO super bantamweight title by scores of 116-111, 114-113 and 114-112.
It would be eight months before Jones would meet his old nemesis from the Olympic trials, Kennedy McKinney, 32-3-1, at MSG, in December of 1997. Jones would rock McKinney in the 1st round and have the edge. Junior was cut under the right eye due to a head butt in taking the 2nd round. An uppercut dropped McKinney in the 3rd round. He would come back in the 4th and drop Jones with a straight right. The fight was stopped at 2:41 by the referee as Jones lost his title. “I fought with emotions in that fight,” said Jones.
Jones would be off again for a long period, of nine months and again come back against not only an unbeaten world champion, but go to his home country of Mexico. Erik Morales was defending WBC champion at 30-0 fighting at the Plaza deToros, in Tijuana and the place was packed. The 1st round started slow with the more aggressive Jones having an edge. The 2nd round was just as close with HBO judge Harold Lederman giving both rounds to Jones. Morales in the 3rd round had swelling under his left eye and his nose bleeding in the best round so far for action. Early in the 4th round Jones was ducking under punches thrown by Morales when he got hit with a jopping right hand and did a backwards somersault. He was up and holding his own until about 10 seconds left in the round when Morales landed three punches with the last one snapping the head of Jones back causing the referee to jump in and stop the fight. Though it seemed like a premature thing to do, Jones did not complain. “He hits harder than Barrera, but isn’t the better fighter of the two,” said Jones.
Jones would be back in February of 1999 and easily defeat the former IBF featherweight champion Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson, 47-5-2, of Detroit, in Grand Rapids for the IBA super featherweight title over 12 rounds. Less than two months later he would travel to the UK and meet Richard Evatt, 16-1, for the IBO International title. “I was losing big time. I wasn’t myself,” said Jones. Jones was dropped in the 1st round and came back in the 11th dropping Evatt with a left hook forcing the referee to stop it. Evatt was ahead on two of the three scorecards at the time. At the end of 1999 Jones won a majority decision over former IBF super featherweight champion Tracy Harris Patterson, 62-6-1, in Las Vegas. “I didn’t think it was that close, but he is a smart fighter,” said Jones.
In April of 2000, Paul Ingle, 22-1, came in to defend his IBF featherweight title at MSG, and was in for a tough night with the score about even when Ingle would stop Jones in the 11th round. This would be the last title fight for Jones as his career was winding down. He would come back a year later winning a pair of fights including the IBA Continental super featherweight title in 2001. In August of 2002 he beat Johnny Walker, 18-4, in Florida over 10 rounds. At the end of the year a loss to Ivan Alvarez, 18-12, at the Silverdome, in Pontiac, Michigan, over 10 rounds ended the career of Jones. “I just wasn’t mentally in the fight,” said Jones. He ended with a 50-6 (28) record.
“I’m a deacon in my church and have two sisters that are ministers. God blessed me before I was born,” said Jones. What better an attitude to go through life with. He’ll always be remembered by Brooklyn’s Junior “Poison” Jones, the two time conqueror of Marco Antonio Barrera!