AFTER 18 months out of the ring, boxer Damon Jones is relishing the chance to make his long-awaited comeback today.
Jones hasn’t been in action since suffering a brutal sixth-round knockout defeat to unbeaten Liverpudlian James Metcalf at The Leeds Arena in October 2017.
After a long time out of action – which Jones attributes to falling out of love with sport and going through some personal issues – the former ABA champion returns at the Elland Road Banqueting Suite today aiming to kickstart his professional career.
“I had a few issues outside the ring and I needed a break from boxing to be honest,” Jones told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“I’ve been in this sport since I was eight years old and this has been the longest time I’ve had out of the ring in almost 20 years of being in the sport.
“Having been in the sport for so long, it’s like riding a bike, so I don’t think that the break will have affected me too much.
“After all of the hard training, I feel like I’m back to my best. It’s just about showing that in the ring.
“I’ve been in camp for around three months, which is quite a long time. The start of the camp was about getting some weight, having been out for so long.
“Getting the weight was just about dieting well, running every morning before work and training hard when I’m in the gym. It was certainly tough.”
Jones is one of many boxers who are ‘professional’ by name only. Alongside his boxing training, the 26-year-old works a full-time schedule running his own plastering company. It’s a testing lifestyle not only physically but mentally, he admits.
He explained: “I’m up at 4.50am in the morning to go out for my run, then I’ll come home and have a quick shower and then it’s out to work – I run my own plastering company, which is hard graft too – then you’re training on an evening.
“By the time you’ve finished training and eaten, you’re ready for bed and then the process starts again.
“It takes a lot of dedication to be a professional boxer. But I don’t want to come across like I’m complaining. I love this sport and I can’t wait to get back in the ring.”
As mentioned, the Metcalf fight was Jones’ last ring appearance. For the bout, Jones had to weigh in at 154lbs, something he hadn’t done in four years and which proved to be a defining part of his struggles on the night.
“Making weight for that fight wasn’t a nice experience, to say the least,” explained Jones. “Two days out from the fight, I still had to lose four pounds, having already lost a fair amount of weight.
“It’s tough on the body and mentally it’s draining too.
“I remember being over-weight at the weigh in at the Corn Exchange. I went out and had to put plastic bags on my bottom and top and start skipping in order to get those last few pounds off.
“That was one of the reasons that I fell out of love with the game and had the time out that I did. It’s not a mistake I’ll make in the future. It was a good performance by JJ Metcalf, I take my hat off to him for that. I just knew when I was making the weight for the fight, I had nothing in the tank going into fight night.
“I could tell once I stepped in the ring and it showed in my performance. But Metcalf boxed really well and good luck to him in his career.
“In boxing, you can get seriously hurt, so I won’t be draining myself like that in future.
“I’m in this sport to enjoy it now. Making a weight that I feel good at is important to me, so I’ll probably be at middleweight from now onwards.”
After such a lengthy absence, Jones sees himself as the dark horse in the British middleweight division at the age of just 26, he stills believes he’s got a lot to give in the sport.
“I do feel like I’ve got a lot to prove still,” said Jones, who is sponsored by Servo Group.
“I don’t think people have even seen me at 50 per cent of my capabilities yet and it’s up to me to show that moving forward.
“I’m 26 now, so I’ll be hitting my prime years very soon. I want to capitalise on that by staying in the gym, staying active and hopefully picking up some titles.
“I’ve had 17 professional fights and I’ve won an ABA title and a Commonwealth youth gold medal as well. That experience stands me in good stead.
“I know my ability and I know my body better now as well. I know that I can still push on and win titles.
“I do feel like a dark horse in the division. After having the time out of the ring and losing my last fight, I think people will be underestimating me. People didn’t know my circumstances that night and I’ve learned a lot from it.
“The city of Leeds is thriving when it comes to boxing at the moment. Josh Warrington’s world title win has put Leeds on the map and he’s been able to bring some big shows to the city, which is great.
“It’s not just Josh though. On the Bateson Promotions shows, you’ve got some real talent coming through.
“Jack Bateson, Billy Pickles, Ishmael Davis. Whether it’s at Burmantofts gym or here at Camp Detox, there’s some great fighters in the city. Hopefully I can be a part of that too.”