Sonny Jones & Joe Louis

Fallen Soldiers: In Remembrance of Jordan "Sonny" Jones

Jordan “Sonny” Jones, the globetrotting welterweight contender from Vancouver, was killed in action while serving with the Canadian army in France on August 28, 1944.  After paying his dues with little monetary reward for almost a decade as a prizefighter, Jones, along with long-time stablemate Katsumi Morioka, had enlisted in the army a couple of years before he died.  He was 29 years old at the time of his death.

Image Courtesy of Antiquities of the Prize Ring

Jones started on his boxing travels almost immediately after turning pro, heading across the border to Washington with his uncle Jimmy Jones, who doubled as trainer and manager.  While the arrival of the frail-looking teenage featherweight went mostly unnoticed at first, it didn’t take long for Jones to become a fan favorite thanks to a crowd pleasing style.  Within a year, having filled into a solid lightweight and a win over Cecil Payne to his name, Jones had risen to main event status in Seattle.  Payne, who had been in with many of the sport’s best, marveled at the unique way Jones used his left, moving it up and down, rather than snapping it straight out, before exploding with follow-up rights.

Payne wasn’t the only one to rave about the Canadian youngster’s talents, as no less than Joe Louis had been certain that Jones was a coming world champion.  Despite having the all-around skills and reputation as a clever fighter, Jones could never quite move beyond contender status.   On three occasions, he challenged Gordon Wallace for the Canadian welterweight title, and while the fights were all closely fought, the best Jones could gain was a draw in the second meeting.

A trip to the U.K. followed, in which Jones acquitted himself well against a couple of future British champions, scoring a victory over Ernie Roderick, while losing two competitive bouts to Jake Kilrain.  His reputation enhanced from the journey, Jones returned to American shores with the chance to challenge for another title, this time the “colored” version of the welterweight crown.  While Jones gave a game effort, standing up bravely for several rounds after his vision was badly compromised by a cut over his left eye, he would come up short, losing via sixth-round TKO to the Cocoa Kid.

In a bout that perhaps summed up his career, Jones took on Charley Burley in January of 1939.  Meeting the great Pittsburgh fighter head on, Jones engaged in a toe-to-toe struggle, and while he took a pounding at times, he also rocked Burley back on his heels with a number of right hands.  It was an action-packed, crowd-pleasing affair, in which Jones proved his courage and skills, though came out on the losing end after a nasty gash above his left eye forced a TKO stoppage in the seventh round.

After facing a lineup of middleweights during an unforgiving trip to Argentina, Jones returned to Canada for one last crack at the Canadian crown, this time against Dave Castilloux.  Before the bout, Jones had wistfully pondered a future that included better paydays and a title, knowing another loss could mean pugilistic oblivion.

As always, he fought admirably, pressing the action throughout, trying desperately for the punch that would change his fortunes – only to fall short on the cards.  It would be his last bout before volunteering for duty.

e-mail Andrew Fruman

Tags: Cecil Payne Charley Burley Cocoa Kid Dave Castilloux Ernie Roderick Gordon Wallace Jake Kilrain JOE LOUIS Katsumi Morioka Sonny Jones Uncle Jimmy Jones

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