All Colin Jones had planned was a quick trip to pick up an accessory for his record player, but for this newest prince of Wales there is no longer any such thing as a simple errand. As soon as Jones parked his unpretentious Renault on a side street in the village of Gorseinon in Glamorgan, South Wales, he was inundated by people who just wanted the chance to wish well for something in their lives now that the steel mills and coal mines have closed. As the WBC's No. 6-ranked welterweight walked down the gray main street in thin summer sunshine, the tribute came disguised as banter in the mock-severe Welsh style. "Get out on the road, boyo!" admonished an ex-miner. "You are in training aren't you, Colin fach?"
Colin fach—little Colin is actually 5'8"—quickly countered, "Want to run with me tomorrow morning, then, do you, Will? Up Graig Merthyr? See you six o'clock sharp."
Formalities satisfied, the old man softened. "Wish I were going to America with you," he shouted. "When you off, boy?"
"Four weeks time," Colin said, and suddenly in a clear tenor he started caroling a pop song recorded in the early '60s by Gerry & the Pacemakers, You'll Never Walk Alone. "Walk on, walk on, with hope in your heart," he sang, and the villagers grinned at him and whispered, "Good luck, Col."
He sang his way to a record shop and dickered with the clerk over the price of a Pavarotti cassette. "Two quid?"—about five dollars—"Pavarotti'll have to sing along with it live for that money," he said.
The clerk rolled with the punch and said slyly, "There's a video system they're bringing out now that costs £13,000, Col, you interested?"
"Got one in stock, have you?" Jones asked. "No? Pity...." And then he was moving along the street again.
All Wales will be walking with him when the 24-year-old Jones steps into the ring in Las Vegas on Aug. 13 for a return bout with Milt McCrory of Detroit—whom he fought to a draw five months ago—for the WBC welterweight title vacated last November by Sugar Ray Leonard. Jones was slow to warm up in that fight, in Reno, appearing to justify the 4-1 odds against him. "I let him get off too quick, those first five rounds," Jones says. "Only then I started to realize how much ahead he was, and my corner was yelling, 'You got to start working!' "
Work he did, taking over in the sixth round and punishing McCrory thereafter in an astonishing turnaround. Jones castigates himself for letting McCrory off the hook in the 12th and last round. "It's maddening when I look back," he says. "I think all the time of that last round. If I'd given a bit more I could have had it all. He stole it. All respect to him, he was bloody clever. He wasn't touching me but he made himself look good with all that fast stuff. I tried to match him for speed when I should have been just banging him."
"Twelve rounds of good experience," said Eddie Thomas, Jones's manager, a Welshman who has handled world champions Howard Winstone and Ken Buchanan. "Just a rehearsal."