Meet Sam Jones, the old school boxing manager proving critics wrong with heavyweight Joe Joyce
On Saturday night Joyce fights German Michael Wallisch and he will hopefully get a few rounds. Jones might not be there, a victim of the tight numbers, the necessary restrictions that need to be in place before the Board sanctions a show. “I understand, I will be mature,” added Jones, who is still only 31 – he is three years younger than Joyce.
Jones fell in love with boxing dressing up as Naseem Hamed and vaulting over the sofa wearing a pair of leopard-print shorts his mother put together from an old carpet or rug or towel. It’s a fine story and it’s true. “I think my mum still has a pair of those Naz shorts. Glued together. I loved that. That was the start for me.” And now he manages fighters, good fighters.
“I get them the most amount of money, I protect them,” Jones added. “They are the boss. That is how it works. I do a job and I do a good job. I work for the fighter. That is my job.” It might sound simple, but it is hard to do well and prevent your fighter or fighters from walking away when the whispering starts in boxing’s universe of fools. So far, Jones is doing fine and so is Big Joe. A win in three or less rounds on Saturday will help.
Sam Jones is a fedora shy of looking like a boxing manager from the 50s, pushing his fighter, selling his fighter, getting his fighter crumbs of exposure and swinging at the great windmills that run the boxing business. He is hard to dislike.
In early March, Jones and Joe Joyce, the heavyweight he manages, were getting ready to finish their training camp in Las Vegas, getting ready to fly back to London and fight in front of 11,000 people at the O2 against Daniel Dubois. That fight was scheduled for 11 April and became the first big casualty of the lockdown.
Jones started talking, looking for dates, trying to get information – he stayed busy, he had to.
This Saturday inside the BT boxing bubble, a studio of scrubbed floors, glistening ropes and yellow wheelie bins, Joyce fights, but not against Dubois. It is Joyce’s first fight since last July and he badly needed the rounds before the eventual, and now re-scheduled, fight with Dubois, which will – hopefully – be in front of a live crowd at the O2 on 24 October. It is an exceptional fight.
“The camp in Las Vegas was perfect,” said Jones.
“It had cost us about 50 grand, but I came back when this got serious and had meetings. It was quickly obvious that it was off, but we all expected it to be back quicker.”
Jones is right, in those lost, dark and cold days of March there was an aggressive delusion that all the May fights would survive, that June and July were safe. That denial tumbled badly and we soon lost Anthony Joshua outdoors, some big British fights and the third Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury was booked for Las Vegas last Saturday.
“Back then there was so much confusion,” added Jones. “I left Joe in his own world. He was just thinking about fighting – it was my job to find out what was happening and that was not easy.” A new date was suggested in July, that vanished and then, as the months slipped by, there was a sensible and urgent need to get Joyce out, get Joyce some rounds.
Dubois last fought in December and he will also have a tune-up fight inside the BT boxing bubble at the end of August. Jones has done his job and it is a job that a lot of people in the boxing business are not comfortable with.
Jones, you see, does not hold a British Boxing Board of Control licence and boxing is a sport rich on tradition, heavily connected to a history of licence holders, a sport where the old-fashioned way works and works well.
“I will probably get a licence from the Board, a matchmaker’s licence,” added Jones. “You have to hold a licence three years before you can get a manager’s licence – I feel like I have put 25 years into three years and I have seen some so-called Board licence holders destroy fighter’s careers – I do a good job and I made that happen.”
It is to be continued.