May 11, 2016
May 11, 2016
Ben Jones

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A LOSS inside the professional ring is a hard feeling to accept; it goes against the DNA that makes up a fighter. It effects pugilists much the same, regardless of the manner of defeat or the calibre of opponent that bests them. A loss is a loss. But what sets the protagonists of our sport apart is the way in which they deal with defeat in the days, weeks, months and sometimes years that follow.

Ben Jones is no stranger to this philosophy. The 33-year-old carries the nom du guerre ‘Duracell’ – appropriate in this case because he keeps on going. The Sussex featherweight has been around long enough to see his sport evolve into a business, where success is measured in unbeaten records, and defeat seen as an admission of vulnerability.

But in this ever-changing landscape, Ben is one who refuses to pay heed to the masses, and has instead identified a suitable mantra for dealing with defeat. Honesty.

“Look, I can be a sore loser, and miserable in defeat”, the Crawley native admits.

“But I’m a very honest man, and I’m very critical of my performances. I’ll look for the positives, learn from the negatives, then draw a line under it and go again.”

Ben’s bounce-back mentality is well documented. After suffering a loss to Lee Selby in 2010, it took him 14 rounds, spanning two fights, to clinch the English super-featherweight title. And when a first-round-knockout [courtesy of Stephen Smith] ended their bout in 2012, it served as the blueprint for his next two title contests. A sixth round stoppage of Jamie Speight was next, followed by a unanimous points decision over Kris Hughes, for the vacant WBO European super-featherweight bauble.

“Those losses played a crucial role in the victories that followed; they spurred me on,” Ben reminisces.

“I still draw inspiration from them now, especially the Selby fight; it reminds me that I’m able to mix it with the best.

“I’ve experienced my fair share of disappointment in boxing, but I’ve dealt with it, and now I’m stronger because of it.”

The bulk of disappointment Ben refers to, can be attributed to events that took place between 2013 and 2014, when back-to-back losses handed him a catch 22. He had been riding the wave of success, where performances in the ring had been rewarded with a Top 10 world ranking from the WBO. But one night in October 2013, marked a change in the tide, when Jones travelled to Spain to take on unbeaten Cataluñian, Juli Giner. What seemed like a formality, was to end in shock defeat, as Giner bested Jones over eight stanzas.

“I was sick with the sport after the Giner decision, disgusted something like that could happen. I felt robbed,” Jones elaborates.

“But I just had to accept that it had happened, and move on.”

The once sensitive subject, has since been treated with Ben’s remedy, and from it, a silver lining has emerged.

“Giner is now the European champion, so that’s a positive. It doesn’t vanquish the memory of the loss, but it reinforces the belief I have in my ability. It acts as another reminder that I belong at that level.”

Following the Giner loss, Jones underwent surgery for three slipped discs in his back, it was an injury – which after rehab – kept him out of the ring for 13 months.

Ben recounts: “In that absence from the sport, all I kept thinking was that I didn’t want to be remembered as the nearly man. I wasn’t happy for my career to end like that.”
But end it nearly did, as his return to boxing in November 2014, was met with yet another defeat, this time to unknown novice Santiago Bustos. The points loss handed to Ben inside the Bluewater venue that night was a shuddering blow.

“Of the five losses on my record, that’s the one I can’t justify. I’ve always said that if I come out of any fight thinking my opponent has completely outclassed me, and is genuinely better than me, I’d hang my gloves up. I couldn’t admit that after Bustos.”

Instead, Ben sat down with his team and initiated an open discussion, nothing short of a therapy session. It was mutually agreed that he had one of two options. Either become an opponent and fight on short notice, or go back to square one and rebuild. It was an easy decision for Jones to make.

“I’m not in boxing to make up the numbers, I’m a good fighter and I wanted more time to prove it,” he admits.

It meant fighting on the road, on different promoter’s shows, for little and sometimes no money. As he juggled full-time training with family life, which included the addition of a newborn, Ben went about rebuilding his fan base. It was hard; he had gone from selling 600 tickets for the Bustos fight, to 150 when he fought at the Camden Centre at the beginning of 2015.

“I had to fund ticket sales early on, because my fans had lost faith in boxing,” Ben explains.

“Some of them just didn’t want to watch it again, and I couldn’t blame them.”

But with help from his promoter, Kaz Evans, PR manager, Graham Wright, as well as family and friends, Ben was able to get back on track and rebuild a stagnant career. Weekends consisted of visits to shopping centres and local businesses, all in a bid to sell tickets and boost his popularity to a wider audience.

Changes were also made to Ben’s coaching staff. In-stepped longtime friend, Ross Payne, as head trainer. As well as, old amateur coach, George Brown and Lee Wilkins of Bodyshots Gym.

“The team has a great dynamic. It’s funny; you’ve got three completely different characters, with different ideas, but they work so well together,” Ben adds.

“I’ve always been a fitness freak, but George provides and puts me through the best conditioning I’ve ever had, he gets me into tremendous shape, which helps me get the best out of sparring when over with Lee.”

It would seem that the changes have worked, as the recharged team Duracell enjoyed an unbeaten 2015, that culminated in lifting the WBO Intercontinental featherweight strap, after outpointing tough Czech, Martin Parlagi. The win acted as vindication for Ben, as he re-entered the world rankings.

He now finds himself on common ground, in a similar position to where he was three years ago. A sturdy platform from which he intends to launch an assault on world honours.

“People ask me am I nervous? The answer is no; I’ve been here before, difference is, I’m more prepared this time. I’ve been given another chance and I’m not going to waste it,” he explains.

“I’ve learnt from my losses.”

Ben is currently ranked seventh with the WBO, in a division where Vasyl Lomachenko rules as king.

“I was offered to fight him [Lomachenko] on his debut back in 2013, but it fell through at the last minute. Maybe that’s a fight that can now happen. Fighting at one of the big venues stateside would be a dream come true,” Ben adds.

“The plan for the time being though, is to defend my title a few more times, and work towards a mandatory spot.”

The 126lbs division is stacked full of talent, with plenty of options for Jones, and he’s not ruling-out fights closer to home.

“Domestically, I’d like to challenge Josh Warrington; I think it would be a great fight for UK boxing fans,” he explains.

“Otherwise, I want a rematch with Lee Selby. We had a close contest in 2010 over six rounds, and I’d like to see what would happen over twelve. Styles make fights and we’re so different. I just think I’m his bogeyman, I have him sussed out and he knows that. He’s a great fighter, but I’m confident I can beat him.”

Protecting an [0] is a familiar narrative that has crept into boxing. Fighters get caught-up in this contagious culture, where one cannot boast to be the best, without providing evidence of a faultless record. Ben Jones challenges this theory however, proving that if responded to correctly, loss can act as a trigger for success. Honesty really is best policy in his case, where resolve, heart, perseverance and tenacity in the face of adversity have been qualities that will define his career far beyond any statistic.