Brooklyn, New York. Only the strong survive.
Drugs, guns, violence and death are common words that are associated with this infamous borough in New York. Love, greatness, toughness, swagger and legendary are words that are also associated with it as well.
For former, Brooklyn born, professional boxer Curtis Jones, he was on his way to his own level of his greatness, but like so many others, the streets of Brooklyn got their hands on him first.
Curtis Jones was first introduced to the sport of boxing by his mother. She wanted to find a way to turn her young sons aggression into something positive. The sport of boxing is a brutal one. Almost barbaric. Pairing up two individuals where the victor is determined by who can inflict the most damage on their opponent. It may seem crazy to most, but for Jones it suited him perfectly.
“I was always fighting as a kid. I just loved it. I’m not sure why but I was just mad at everything for no reason. I would definitely say I was a bully growing up.”
Jones was well known for his ability to beat up kids in his school and neighborhood, but he quickly found out that boxing is an entirely different level of fighting.
“I actually cried in the first round of my first ever fight,” said Jones as he recalled his first ever boxing match which took place when he was 8 years old. “My trainer at the time actually slapped me and told me this is what you asked for so suck it. It helped because in the second round I actually dropped the kid with my favorite combination which was double jab then a right hand. It was a good fight but I ended up losing a close decision.”
That loss didn’t dampen the ambition that Jones had to become a professional boxer. Instead, it propelled him to an amateur record that consisted of roughly 150 wins against just 20 losses. His impressive amateur record should come to the surprise of no one as he grew up training with some of the very best fighters of his generation including former two division world champion Zab Judah.
As the wins and trophies began to pile up, Jones realized that making a career out of boxing is exactly what he wanted. It wasn’t just because he enjoyed fighting, but it was also because of the perks that came with the territory.
“When we started going away to places like Lake Placid and Kansas City for the Silver Gloves, that’s when I really had it in the back of my head that this is what I wanted to do. I’m from Brooklyn and at the time, I had never been on a plane. I really enjoyed traveling and I knew that if I continued to not only box but win, that I could keep going away.”
The lifestyle of a young rockstar motivated Jones. As he plowed through his competition in his amateur career, the time was slowly coming for him to turn pro. At age 21, he officially made his decision to make the leap. When Jones made the choice to leave the amateur ranks and get paid for his abilities in the ring, he was given $50,000 to sign his name. It may sound like the best thing that could have happened to him, but in actuality it was the worse.
“That was probably the worse thing that could have happened to me. I was living more so like a rapper instead of a boxer. My first fight was on ESPN so I thought I was the man. I was 2-0 with 2 knockouts and I thought I was a world champion. I was just really ignorant.”
That aforementioned ignorance led to poor training habits. His lack of discipline began when he was an amateur but only worsened as a professional.
“In the amateurs I started winning tournaments without having to get in shape. I wasn’t always like that but, I learned how to win and not be in shape because I was fast, a good boxer and I could punch a little bit.”
The professional career of Jones got off to a blistering start. He managed to knockout both of his first two opponents. His third bout however, didn’t go according to plan as Jones picked up the first loss of his career. At that point, everything changed. Battles with depression along with managerial issues surfaced.
“After I picked up my first loss it took me a while to actually get another fight. It was about a year until I was able to get another opponent. I actually fell into a depression because I just couldn’t get a fight, I was literally partying all day. My promotional company also dropped me as soon as I took that loss so I had to do it all on my own. The combination of everything just sent me into a depression.
These issues reached its absolute worse as Jones made what seemed to be your typical late night trek into a corner store located in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York. What ensued now lives in infamy.
“I was going through a break up at the moment and I am a very emotional person. I think the majority of boxers are emotional because of all of the highs and lows that his game brings. I remember going into the store that night and somebody said something funny, it was two of them. I beat up one dude, I even remember exactly what I hit him with, it with a left hook, right hand and another left hook. He fell down on all of the cakes and cookies that were in the store and all of the girls were screaming in the store. His friend that was with him, didn’t wanna fight after he seen that.”
There is absolutely no excuse for it. As a professional fighter, the actions that were taken by Jones that night could have had a far worse outcome. Thankfully, no fatal injuries took place on that grim night. Many of Jones associates found it amusing. However, for the Brooklyn born fighter, there was nothing to laugh about as the criticism grew.
“I was actually embarrassed by it. I really felt bad that all of those things were said especially from Max Kellerman. A few dudes thought it was funny like Andre Berto but I did feel bad.
Now, over 10 years later, Curtis Jones has finally gotten a chance to speak his side of the story and explain why that notorious night happened.
“It was more than just a break up but that did play a part in it. More than anything, I was just angry. At the time I was only about 23 or 24 and my boxing career was already over. I was just so mad about that.”
It wasn’t the ending that he wanted, but Jones has learned to deal with it. At age 35, Jones is now passing on what he knows to the kids he teaches at the famed Gleason’s Gym, in New York. Unlike many former fighters who have faded into the shadows and forgotten, Jones is a constant fixture in the gym and well respected in the boxing community.
“A lot of people have an incredible amount of respect for me and show love such as Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr. I appreciate those guys looking at me with that level of respect because I know growing up I probably wouldn’t have had that same amount of appreciation for older fighters. It definitely means a lot to me and I got love for all of those guys.”
Curtis Jones didn’t accomplish the level of success inside of the boxing ring that he wanted but he has achieved something far more important outside of it, respect.
If you are in NYC, Curtis Jones is available for boxing lessons at the world famous Gleason’s Gym. [email protected]