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Jones Pushing Toward World Title Fight

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Junior middleweight Rodney Jones of San Diego goes for his 15th consecutive victory when he faces Luis Vazquez of Culiacan, Mexico, tonight in the 10-round main event at the Arrowhead Pond.

Jones (19-2, 11 knockouts) is the North American Boxing Organization’s 154-pound champion and the World Boxing Organization’s No. 2-ranked contender, but it wasn’t long ago that Jones was struggling.

But late in 1993, after being knocked out in the third round by Alfred Ankamah, Jones made a move that changed his career. Jones’ trainer, Ernie Sanchez, retired and he hooked up with Rudy Elias, who was training world champions Terry and Orlin Norris. Elias kept Jones’ awkward style, but he has changed his fighter’s attitude.

“A fighter or athlete has the talent, the only thing a trainer can do is bring him up,” Elias said. “When I first saw Rodney in San Jose, I saw things he had that a lot of other people didn’t see.”

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Joe Sayatovich, the Norris’ former manager, was one of those people who didn’t see much in Jones, a lanky left-hander.

“Joe didn’t like him,” Elias said.

“He was considering managing Rodney but he didn’t like his style and he didn’t think he was a prospect.”

Some five years later, Jones is on the verge of getting a title shot. Elias, who is also Jones’ manager, said his fighter is owed a mandatory title fight with WBO champion Ronald “Winky” Wright within seven months. Elias believes Jones also could land a World Boxing Assn. title fight.

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“Rodney’s one of those difficult fighters to hit,” Elias said. “Anybody that hits him doesn’t get him flush. He’s always slipping punches, making some weird moves. He’s developing a lot of power. He always had the power, but he didn’t know how to use his upper body and move his feet.”

Vazquez (28-15, 23 knockouts) will be tough to put down. He has sparred with Terry Norris and Julio Cesar Chavez. Elias calls him “a hard journeyman.”

In the co-main event, junior Eric Vazquez (8-8, eight knockouts) of Laredo, Mexico, will fight San Diego’s Pat Coleman (24-5, 18 knockouts). The undercard begins at 7:15, the co-main event at 8 and the Jones fight at 9. Tickets are $100, $75, $65, $45, $30 and $15.


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