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Vacant IBF title within Jones’ reach

He’s on the verge of realizing a lifelong dream and winning a world championship. But Mike Jones refuses to get ahead of himself.

“It’s still a process,” said the 29-year-old from Philadelphia, who will fight Randall Bailey for the vacant IBF welterweight title Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley main event. “I’m still learning, and I’m still getting better.”

Jones (26-0, 19 knockouts) has the NABO and NABA welterweight titles, but a world championship has been his goal since he turned pro in 2005. He knows that a win over the 37-year-old Bailey (42-7, one no decision, 36 KOs) changes his life dramatically.

“It won’t change who I am, but it will make life more comfortable,” said Jones, who will make $105,000 (Bailey’s purse is $100,000). “I didn’t do it for the money. I did it to be great. That’s been my motivation for getting into boxing.”

Jones is coming off an impressive performance Dec. 3, when he scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Sebastian Lujan at New York’s Madison Square Garden. That win elevated him to the IBF’s No. 1-ranked contender and set the stage for Saturday’s title shot.

He used his left jab effectively against Lujan, and look for him to do the same against Bailey, the IBF’s No. 2-ranked welterweight who last fought Sept. 3, 2011, winning a 10-round unanimous decision over Yoryi Estrella.

“Randall Bailey is a veteran guy, but I’m not concerned at all,” Jones said. “If I fight at my best, no one can beat me.”

Jones said he has thought about the proper way to conduct himself as a world champion, and the model he chose was mixed martial artist Anderson Silva, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight champion.

“I like the way he handles his business,” Jones said. “He’s a humble guy, and he always comes to fight.”

A win will give Jones something else besides a belt and more money. He’ll get newfound respect.

“I didn’t have a big amateur background like some other guys,” he said. “I didn’t start at the ground floor. I had to start below ground. I was making like $400 and $500 when I first started. But you have to grind it out and keep believing in yourself, and that’s what I’ve done.”

Also on the undercard will be a 12-round fight between WBA super bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux and Teon Kennedy and a 10-round junior featherweight bout between veteran Jorge Arce and Jesus Rojas.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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