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He's A Brit Who Can Hit
Clive Gammon
August 08, 1983
Colin Jones of Wales takes his countrymen's hopes and a powerful left into his welterweight title rematch with Milt McCrory
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August 08, 1983

He's A Brit Who Can Hit

Colin Jones of Wales takes his countrymen's hopes and a powerful left into his welterweight title rematch with Milt McCrory

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By the time Jones met McCrory, his record was 24-1-0, the single loss being a disqualification caused by a late punch he threw at Curtis Ramsey of Portland, Oregon in their bout in September of 1981. Twenty-one of his wins have been by knockout. "It's the old left jab and wait for it, isn't it?" Jones says in summing up his style. "I used to be bomb-happy. One-handed—my left. But Eddie turned me round from that."

All the same, Jones's main assets are still his power and his stamina, developed on hills like Graig Merthyr. Lately, in anticipation of hot weather in Las Vegas, he has run at noontime to catch as much sun as can be found in Wales, where 70° is a heat wave.

One recent day it hit a spectacular 75° along the estuary of the River Llwchwr near Jones's home. "Another beautiful day, boyo!" a fan yelled at Jones as he set off. "I'll tell you in a half-hour," responded Jones, loping past a bridge and some archaeological students excavating a Roman fort; this is about as far west as the Romans got in Europe.

Jones paused briefly and then resumed at a cracking pace back toward the village, past row houses and the gaunt chapels that witnessed the great religious revivals of the 19th century. Running by Capel y Bedyddwr, the grass high around the tombstones, Jones said, "One of these days this whole bloody place is going to collapse, they've burrowed under it for coal so much." Toil in the mines and the steelworks was hard, if prideful, but "the money stopped here four or five years ago," the boxer said later. "Do you know who the biggest employer is round here these days? 3M. They make video cassettes."

Dylan Thomas, born about eight miles away in Swansea, once said memorably of that city's museum that it ought to be in a museum. Alongside it, as another exhibit, could well stand the Penyrheol gym where Jones has worked out since he was nine. A single-story, prefabricated shack with a corrugated roof, the gym has walls liberally daubed with the nice old kind of graffiti in which Jane loves Anthony. Inside there are mirrors that would be an insult to a tag sale and curtains so tattered that they would surely disintegrate if the doors were slammed.

Through the windows children peer at Jones, who at the moment is hammering the heavy bag and uttering ferocious karate cries. "A bad habit," comments Thomas. Very much a traditionalist, he abhors the snorting expulsion of breath favored by many contemporary fighters. That's not the way they did it in the '50s, when Thomas was a welterweight ranked fifth in the world when Sugar Ray Robinson was champion.

Though Jones was born with a heavy right cross, it is the powerful left hook that you notice in the gym—the short shots to the chin that put out Palm, and the body blows that got to McCrory.

Thomas takes some credit for developing that left. "I had a hell of a job with him at first," Thomas says. "He was knocking people over and forgetting his boxing." For a time it appeared that Jones's hands were too brittle—he sprained them repeatedly—but the enforced layoff after his appendicitis apparently cleared that up.

"His left hand has come on a ton in the last year," Thomas says. "Isn't he in the Marciano mold, the LaMotta sort? Going forward all the time...that yelling now—I suppose it's a kind of pent-up thing he's trying to get rid of in the gym."

The gym is crowded with shadowboxing teen-agers, crop-headed clones of Colin, like the 17-year-old that Gareth Bevan, who assists Thomas in Jones's training, points out as a prospect. "Name's Floyd," says Bevan. "His father was a big fan of Patterson's." He looks back at Jones. "Never been afraid of any work, Colin," he says. Somehow the eager spirit in the air transcends the surroundings. "The people of the village gave the money to buy this place," Bevan says. Later Jones would say, "I wouldn't have it any different. If they put up new curtains it would spoil it, see?"

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