By Eric Raskin
The term “Philadelphia fighter” conjures up images of never-say-die warriors who know their craft but, when necessary, eschew technique and simply try to knock the other guy’s head off. Although there aren’t as many great Philly fighters as there used to be, two of the most promising current boxers from the City of Brotherly Love are set to ply their trade in pursuit of title belts this Saturday. They’re joined on the intriguing Pacquiao-Bradley undercard by a couple of veteran warriors who fight like they could be from Philly, plus an amateur legend rapidly making his mark in the pros:
Mike Jones (26-0, 19 KOs) vs. Randall Bailey (42-7, 36 KOs), 12 Rounds, Welterweights
This is not the 29-year-old Jones’ first opportunity on a Pacquiao pay-per-view undercard. A couple of hours before Pac-Man took on Antonio Margarito at Cowboys Stadium in 2010, Jones stepped into the spotlight against Jesus Soto Karass and stayed unbeaten—but not with a lot of room to spare. The six-foot-tall Philly welterweight nearly punched himself out in the second round, and barely hung on to win a majority decision. Since then, Jones has continued winning and continued trying to restore the buzz he enjoyed before the Soto Karass struggle.
And “buzz” is an operative word for this fight against Bailey, because Jones is either going to get his buzz back or get buzzed trying.
Bailey has reigned as one of the great knockout artists of his generation, and at age 37, for whatever flaws the former junior welterweight titlist may have, he still packs volatility in his fists. Bailey is unbeaten in his last four bouts. In theory, Jones should be able to keep Bailey at the end of his jab and outbox him. But no matter how disciplined Jones tries to be, a little Philly always comes out – and if a little becomes a lot, Jones vs. Bailey could steal the show.
Guillermo Rigondeaux (9-0, 7 KOs) vs. Teon Kennedy (17-1-2, 7 KOs), 12 Rounds, Junior Featherweights
You would think it’s insane to call a boxer entering his 10th professional bout one of the greatest fighters of all-time. But that’s precisely what Rigondeaux is—one of the greatest amateur fighters of all-time, anyway.
The Cuban defector won two Olympic gold medals while compiling a staggering amateur record of 374-12, and he’s enjoying similar success thus far in the paid ranks. Behind exceptional hand speed, deceptive power (especially to the body), and the advantages of boxing out of a southpaw stance, Rigondeaux, 31, has already captured a belt, earned by dismantling talented Rico Ramos in January.
So Philly fighter Kennedy, a skilled boxer in his own right, enters as the clear underdog. Can he outbox Rigondeaux? Can any 122-pounder outbox Rigondeaux? The 25-year-old Kennedy’s best shot at victory might be to force an old-fashioned gym war. The ever-present question about the Cuban is whether he can go 12 hard rounds (against Ricardo Cordoba in 2010, he faded and retreated as the rounds wore on), so a long, grueling fight would appear to give Kennedy the best chance at an upset.
Jorge Arce (60-6-2, 46 KOs) vs. Jesus Rojas (18-1-1, 13 KOs), 10 Rounds, Junior Featherweights
Over the course a 68-fight career filled with countless brutal blood-lettings, the beloved Arce has been written off several times—but here he is at age 32, still fighting world-class competition and still winning, having put together a nine-fight unbeaten streak entering this showdown with the 25-year-old Rojas.
As a general rule, Arce’s name alone should be all it takes to get you pumped for a brawl. But for an added guarantee of drama, this bout offers another chapter in the storied Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry. If Arce and Mexico prevail, it could be on to a shot at pound-for-pounder Nonito Donaire next.
But with Arce, it’s never wise to look ahead. Fight fans know by now to just enjoy the ride, one exhilarating slugfest at a time.