Preview: Jones and Lilley’s tasty Welsh title fight goes under the radar

Preview: Jones and Lilley’s tasty Welsh title fight goes under the radar

It’s placed as the fourth priority on the official poster for tonight’s ‘Past Present Future’ show but the Welsh Area title bout between Barrie Jones (21-10, 8KO) and James Lilley (7-5, 2KO) could be the best of the 11 fights at the Newport Centre.

It was undoubtedly disappointing when African cruiserweight Benki Mwakalebela (13-1, 10KO) failed a British Boxing Board of Control [BBBoC] medical, forcing yesterday’s cancellation of his clash with Cardiff’s Craig Kennedy (12-0, 6KO).

However, the super-welterweights and their fans at home will benefit as it frees up enough of Eurosport’s time to guarantee it’s included in their broadcast schedule. It’s not the first time that an injury has affected the match-up, which was originally scheduled for June. 12 days before, Lilley met with his trainer John Kaighin for a routine pad session but left the gym with chronic neck and back pain. Two trips to a chiropractor over the next week couldn’t fix the crippling injury and Jones was left without a challenger or fight at all.

Jones, who had just kickstarted a once stalled career and begun his second title reign with a knockout of Jerome Samuels, said: “I was a bit gutted because it was so close to the fight. There’s not a lot you can do, though. You’ve got to dust yourself down and get on with it again. I didn’t train for a few weeks, give myself some time out because I trained so hard in the gym. It was deflating.”

28-year-old Lilley, who had twice seen opponents [Luke Osman and Tony Pace] withdraw from unofficial eliminators, now found himself on the other end of a luckless conundrum and questioned if he’d ever get his dream title shot.

He said: “I’ve had some bad luck over the last couple of years, if I’m honest. I’ve had some eliminators fall through, a couple of guys pull out of fights and I thought I’d never get a shot. I thought I’d lost my chance in June. I was worried and I was sure I’d go back to a four or six rounders but lucky enough, it was a fight that could be remade.”

When Sanigar Events confirmed their Halloween date, it was remade and both boxers re-prepared, albeit with different approaches at their respective gyms. Jones, a skilful southpaw who trains near his home in Ferndale, said: “When I found out about this show, we went back to it and worked hard all the way through then. Training’s gone brilliant. There’s not a lot to say but I’ve got a lot of experience now, so I know what works for me and what doesn’t.”

Steps have been taken by Lilley to avoid repeating his injury and he believes he’s been smarter this time around. He said: “We’ve got Jimmy Broomfield [trainer of numerous British champions] on board now. It’s been the same sort of training but more quality. Last time, I over trained. I was in the gym for 12 weeks and I think it was the over training that injured me. This time, it’s only been eight weeks but it’s been more quality from what we did last time.”

Both remained tight lipped on their tactics but admitted they’re unsure what to expect from each other. Jones has typically been a back foot counter puncher but stormed out of the blocks against Samuels, while Lilley is partial to an early ending too, taking just 112 seconds to dismiss Ameen Alkailany.

It’s generally accepted that Jones is the favourite but he’s unfazed by the expectation, admitting that he prefers to remain relaxed and adapt in the ring rather than work on a set game plan. The 30-year-old champion will be aided by 31 fights worth of experience at a higher class and against a number of former and future world champions. Jones’ record includes the likes of Souleymane M’baye, Kell Brook and Liam Smith – it’s a list that commands Lilley’s complete respect.

The Swansea native, who is in the ninth year of his career, said: “Barrie’s a quality operator, he’s been here before and fought some of the best welterweights and light-middleweights in the country. I’ve got a lot of respect for him, he’s got one hell of a CV.

“It’s a big fight for me, though. It means a lot and it is my biggest fight yet, so I know it’ll be tough. I’m looking forward to the opportunity and taking the title home with me. I’m not in this game for the money, fighting week-in week-out just for a pay cheque. I want to do something you can remember, I want to look at the books and see ‘James Lilley – Welsh Champion’. That’s what I’m fighting for.”

For Jones, a win could mean a meeting with another countryman who happens to be very close to home. Unbeaten Commonwealth champion Liam Williams (12-0-1, 7KO), who is being lined up to fight for the British belt too, lives a matter of miles away from Jones and has expressed interest in a local derby.

Speaking of the possibility, which some may view as a distraction, Jones said: “Liam could be fighting for the British title, so I’m not sure what’s happening now. It could still happen, though. “I’d love a chance of to fight for a big title. I like Liam, he’s a good guy. We’re friendly but that would be a big opportunity for me. It would be big for our area because we live quite close but I’ve got to win tomorrow first.”

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