A career middleweight, Ralph “Tiger” Jones just might have been one of the top-ten finest 160 pounders to have never won a world title. Trained by the great Gil Clancy, New Yorker Jones went pro in May of 1950. Less than five years later, “Tiger” was beating the one and only Sugar Ray Robinson. Soundly.
Born in March of 1928, Jones was a tough, clever and extremely hungry, and determined fighter. Possessor of one of the finest, yet far from celebrated, chins in the history of the middleweight division, Jones was stopped just once in his 89 fight pro career – this by a fellow named Henry Burroughs, in Jones’ tenth fight; Tiger having beaten Burroughs in a slightly earlier meeting. The top names Jones faced during his 12-year pro career include Rocky Castellani twice (L pts x2), Johnny Saxton (L SD), Kid Gavilan (L UD), Joey Giardello (L UD), and Ray Robinson (W UD). No wonder Jones was a hugely popular fight on TV.
After scoring the upset over a comebacking Sugar Ray, this in January of 1955, Jones faced the likes of Bobo Olsen (L UD), Saxton again (L UD), Gene Fullmer (L UD), Fullmer again (same result), Giardello again (same result) and Kid Gavilan twice more; Jones winning a split decision over Gavilan and then dropping a split decision to Kid in their third fight. Indeed, the number of greats Jones went in with, often more than once, makes the reading of his pro record a quite mindboggling thing.
In the later years of his career, Jones fought Giardello again, this time winning a decision in 1959. Tiger also took Paul Pender the distance that same year. In his final fight, in March of 1962, Jones lost a decision to Olympic great Laszlo Papp; Tiger being decked three times but refusing to stop fighting until he heard the final bell. In all, Jones fought six world champions, over the course of no less than ten fights.
Today, Jones would be a world champion, no doubt about it. Not a big puncher, Jones nevertheless had a fan-friendly, aggressive style, with smooth defensive moves also at his disposal (Sugar Ray never came close to figuring him out during the course of their ten rounder). Unfortunately, big money eluded Jones, and he was never a rich man.
In fact, quite shockingly, this fine fighter had to make ends meet by working as a taxi cab driver after he quit the ring. Jones, who deserved far better, passed away at the relatively young age of 66, in August of 1994. Jones’ final ring record reads a less than impressive looking 52-32-5(13). He is not in The Hall of Fame.
However, a closer look at Jones’ record, and the names he faced, lets a fan know he was, in fact, a very good fighter with a most impressive record. All those greats shared a ring with Jones, yet when it came to stopping him, only a virtual nobody ever managed the job. Interestingly, Burroughs (who scored a one-round TKO over Tiger) vanished after going just 3-4.
Fighters really did have things tougher back in the golden era of the sport. How big a tip would you have given Jones if he was driving you someplace!