Former WBO super-featherweight king Barry Jones is habitually
more chipper than he has cause to be.
It is now 15 years since the affable Cardiffian was cruelly
stripped of his world title, before he had time to reap the
material benefits, after an anomaly was found in a routine brain
When finally cleared to fight, the twinkle-toed stylist was cast
against ferocious Brazilian banger Acelino Freitas...and on
He copped a beating and initially struggled to come to terms
with the injustice of it all. However, it came as no surprise to
those who knew him well that the bitterness proved short lived and
it wasn't long before he was again contributing productively to the
community, working with disaffected youth.
And after fading from the scene for a decade, Jones the Jive
made a welcome return last year as a knowledgeable and insightful
analyst and co-commentator with BoxNation.
Over the holiday period, boxing writer Glynn Evans caught up
with him to reflect and pontificate.
You were just 25 when you retired from boxing, following the only
loss of your career to Freitas in a January 2000 WBO super-feather
challenge (RTD8). Why depart so early? Were you ever tempted to
I just gave up. I'd had enough, run out of love with boxing,
more or less. I'd forfeit my world title following a query with a
brain scan and, when another query arose, after the Freitas loss, I
just couldn't go through all the aggravation again.
At the time, I felt I'd been cheated on, used as a scapegoat for
the Board to show they were serious about tightening medical
safeguards following the injuries to Michael Watson and Spencer
Oliver. I consciously stayed away from gyms. Having won a world
title, you want to lose it in the ring, not by default. It left a
real bad taste. It still upsets me when you ask me to talk about it
Jones (R) suffered a torrid time against
Then around 2004-5, I started training again at the TKO gym in
Canning Town and ironically, discovered something I'd never had
during my career....a punch! (Barry scored just a single stoppage
win, on cuts, in his 20 fight pro career). Physically, my body had
matured but I'd still have made super-feather.
I sparred the likes of Ashley Theophane, Ross Minter and Dave
Stewart, who was training for a British lightweight title shot.
Though I was rusty, I'd retained enough moves to compete and,
remember, all those guys were quite a bit heavier.
But after a real good think about it, I just didn't bother. I
never wanted to be famous. I'd already achieved my boyhood dream of
winning a world title and, after Freitas, wasn't too confident I
was good enough to repeat that. I was always a realist.
What have you been up to in the subsequent 13 years?
I moved over to London way in 2000 and, for the first five
years, I managed a wine bar in Twickenham that was owned by (ex pro
featherweight) Wally Angliss.
Since then, I've mainly being going into schools and working on
Self-Esteem Through Sport projects. Basically, I work with
teenagers who are on the verge of exclusion. It's hard work and
getting harder due to government cuts but absolutely brilliant.
Richmond Council initially provided most of the funding but now I
work a lot in conjunction with John Holland, son of the boxing
promoter Harry Holland.
Quite recently, a 15 year old kid we were working with was shot
dead for dealing drugs but if we get them young enough, we can
hopefully give them a chance. It's very rewarding.
How did your opportunity to work in the media materialise?
Whilst I was world champion, and shortly after, I did a few bits
as a panellist for Sky Sports. Spencer Oliver was around the same
weight, had a higher profile and was probably more confident at the
time so he got a lot of the jobs for fights in the lighter weights.
I never pushed it.
Then, last year, out of the blue, I was invited onto The Bunce
Hour to discuss my career and had a good time, a good laugh.
Shortly after, Jim Bentley the BoxNation producer, asked me to help
out with the Kevin Mitchell- Felix Mora show at the York Hall last
February and, a month later, I was chucked into the
co-commentator's job for Ricky Burns' WBO lightweight title defence
against Paulus Moses in Glasgow. Thankfully, they've stuck with me
What was your view of the boxing media and commentators when
you were fighting yourself?
I see it very differently now! I always remember Jim Watt saying
I'd never win a world title boxing back foot. Well, he did! But I
weren't too bothered by criticism and in fact most of the time the
media were quite kind to me. The one thing is, there's no
hindsight. You have to call it as honestly as you can, as you see
it at the time. It's more difficult than it looks.
As an ex-fighter, what specifically can you offer to a
It's impossible for me to be as articulate as someone like John
Rawling but us fighters have been there. To my knowledge, John has
never been punched in the face by a boxing glove.
Having boxed at the highest level, we understand the pressures.
We understand the frustrations a fighter might be feeling mid-fight
and can probably identify quicker when a fighter is hurt.
Most fans might know what a fighter needs to be doing but an
experienced fighter might be able to explain why the fighter is
unable to implement his plan because there's so many variables.
The boxing community is very tight knit. Do you find it
difficult to be objective in fights where you might know the
principals on a personal level?
It could be. A case in point was when Liam Smith beat Steve
O'Meara for the Commonwealth light-middle title in December. With
Liam being Paul's brother, and me working with Paul at BoxNation, I
was very conscious of being seen to be fair to Steve so ended up
talking almost exclusively about him... even though I was scoring
the fight in favour of Liam!
Thankfully, I've not been too close to the 'scene' since I
retired so I'm not 'pally' with the current crop of boxers. It
would be hard to be objective if it's a fighter you really like
personally but you just have to be professional and give your
honest opinion. I never feel pressure that something I might say
might offend somebody. It certainly wouldn't be intentional.
What research do you do?
I'm not a great one for stats, I don't watch those 24-7 'fly on
the wall' documentaries, give no credence to who said what at press
conferences or weigh-ins, and I don't talk to the fighters involved
before they fight. I don't want to get to know them. You expect
fighters to turn up in best shape and confident of victory
otherwise they shouldn't be doing it.
During the day, I'll watch DVDs of the recent fights of the
boxers involved so they're fresh in my mind. I'll have
mentally established the strengths and weaknesses of the boxers and
how they compare to their opponent. That's my big strength. Once
I've seen a fighter live, I always remember them and believe I can
make accurate assessments from that.
What new skills did you need to acquire? What did you find
Two things. Firstly, being from Wales, I'm very conscious of the
need to talk slower. I'm actually proud of my Cardiff accent and
wouldn't want to lose it but try to eliminate some of the slang and
colloquialisms, such as saying 'like' after every sentence!
Secondly, I do find it quite hard to judge a fight. You really
have to judge each round as an individual fight. I now understand
how you can get a very wide scorecard in what seems a close fight.
Every round can be extremely close but if the same fella is edging
them, you can end up with something like 118-110.Commentating has
made me far more appreciative of our officials. Refereeing or
judging wouldn't be for me.
I do record and watch back my broadcasts to hear how I sound and
see how close I was with the judging. Mostly, I'm not too far out.
If I was, I'd be man enough to admit it. You're only human.
How have the team you work with been helpful and
Jim Bentley, the producer, always gives me little pointers to
improve me but he always does it in a lovely way.
(Commentator) John Rawling helps me a lot. He's a brilliant
professional who, in contrast to me, is very articulate. He
physically grabs hold of me if I'm talking too much - something
I've asked him to do - and he's just so experienced, has covered so
many huge fights. John and I get along great but don't always agree
on boxing matters, like the outcome of a fight. But I like
that. It's healthy.
Steve Bunce is just a great guy who'd do anything for you and,
in my opinion, should have an MBE for what he does for boxing in
this country. He'll go out of his way to give a little 'gee up' to
trade fighters no one else bothers with.
What's your normal routine on the day of a broadcast?
I'll arrive an hour before going on air and I'm never late. I
always give myself plenty of time to prepare and familiarise myself
with my notes and stats which I keep on my iPad. You have to have
thoroughly researched both fighters, even if one is from overseas.
I'm conscious that not every viewer is rooting for the home
Who are the best fighters and what are the best fights that
you've covered so far?
The best fighter, potentially, might be George Groves. I really
like his commitment and he's developing with every fight. I had
reservations that he might be a bit frail after Kenny Anderson
dropped him but I think he proved against that Mexican (Francisco
Sierra) over in the States that he can take a big shot.
My favourite fighter, which is a different thing, would
definitely be Frank Buglioni. I love everything about him. He
enters to a great song 'Seven Nation Army' by The White Stripes and
has an 80s style thing about him; high shorts, no sparkly dressing
gown....He punches very hard and excites me.
Choosing a best fight is very hard. Leo Santa Cruz has been in
some great fights and Marco Huck against Firat Arslan was pretty
special. I covered the European bantam clash between Lee Haskins
and Stephane Jamoye for ESPN. That was brilliant. Haskins showed
more in defeat than he's ever shown in victory.
How would you like your career in the media to develop?
I could happily carry on doing what I'm doing now for the rest
of my life. I'm not a qualified journalist. There's no way I could
ever do what Steve Bunce does.
I'd perhaps like to go into gyms and do some 'colour' pieces on
the fighters, try and get inside their heads, perhaps train
alongside them. I'm probably still fit enough. That'd be
What are the best and worst bits about the job?
The best would be the buzz you get when you finish a really good
show. Sometimes I just can't sleep after, I'm so high. All the
people on the team always make you feel so good. I've not really
found any worst bits yet. For any ex-fighter, it really is a dream
job. You actually get paid to sit ringside for all the best
In your opinion, is British boxing presently in a healthy
Absolutely. I think sometimes your memory plays tricks on you
and you remember past times to be better than they really were. We
could obviously do with a bit more terrestrial TV to supplement Sky
and BoxNation but ESPN and Channel Five are getting involved.
Also, the top fighters are slowly starting to fight each other...
more so than I can previously remember. We've great rivalries
developing at middleweight between the likes of Darren Barker, Matt
Macklin and Martin Murray and we'll probably be able to add Billy
Joe Saunders to that later in the year.
At lightweight you've got Ricky Burns and Gavin Rees who,
believe me, will give Adrien Broner a fight. Gav's really
underrated. So things are good.
Name one prospect that BoxNation viewers need to follow closely
Mitchell Smith, without a doubt. His coach Jason Rowland has got
a good camp going over in Essex.
Mitchell's debut last year was as good as any I've seen and, at
just 20, he's only going to get better once he develops his full
strength and power. I love the way he stands in front of opponents
and makes 'em miss, slips when he's in the pocket.
Mitchell Smith (R) is one to watch out for
He's got a bit of the Mayweather defence, attacks the body like
a little Mexican and can already throw every shot in the book.
He'll lose the puppy fat, tone up and be unstoppable at
super-feather. It's gonna be hard to hold him back. The sky's the
Finally, how do you pass your time away from boxing?
Boxing is my life, really. I've a daughter Aimee, from a
previous relationship, who's now 19 and lives up in Cheshire with
Travel is my new hobby. My missus Amanda has worked at Virgin
Airlines for eight years and often gets us cheap deals so I've been
away to the likes of Mauritius, Jamaica and all over the US. I'm a
big NBA fan and, in November, went to see my team the (LA) Lakers
for the first time.
I used to follow Cardiff City, home and away, back when they
were in the old third division. They've improved drastically since
I stopped going, so I'm staying away!