Making of a champ

Benjamin Small Jr. has always been a boxing fan, even though several factors prevented him from stepping into the ring to fight.


The man who prides himself on being a good judge of talent says he reached that point by watching every big fight since the 1950s.

Even with that experience, Small admits his first impressions of one particular boxer were off the mark.

That boxer is his grandson, 15-year-old Divante Jones, whose rise from a modest 7-year-old to a bronze medal winner at the U.S. Junior Olympics has Small perplexed.

"Well, I saw him start off kind of shaky, but as the years went on, I saw him stick to it," Small said. "I saw his discipline and his eating right, his training regimen. I saw his dad stick by him.

"When he first started out, I just didn't think he was going to go too far in it. But I was impressed with his sticktoitiveness as time went on, and he proved me wrong."

The bronze at the Marquette, Mich., tournament catapulted Jones to No. 3 in the nation in his 119-pound weight class.

"(That ranking) made me feel like I did something no one else did," said the soft-spoken rising sophomore at Cross Creek.

The win wasn't the first for the Augusta Boxing Club member. The secret of Divante Jones' success is his tremendous support system. Albert Jones was a celebrated amateur boxer, reaching as high as No. 5 in the country. He parlayed that success into two professional bouts, one of which was held at Bell Auditorium and televised on ESPN.

When Divante was born, Albert knew he had to support his newborn son and wife, Adrian. He was throwing in the towel.

Thinking his days in boxing were over, Albert was surprised to discover his son wanted to be a boxer.

"Divante is a student of the game. We watch fights all the time, trying to pick up techniques," Albert said. "My wife was against it at first. But when she realized that he would have somebody helping him who had that experience, she agreed to let him to do it."

According to Small, "there's no fan in the world, no greater fan than (Divante's) mom."

Divante also has support from North American Boxing Organization flyweight champion and Hephzibah resident Rayonta Whitfield. The pair spar sometimes, which helps because Whitfield can point out mistakes.

Lately, Divante has had to venture out of Augusta for sparring partners . According to Albert, sparring against a pro isn't as helpful because amateur and professional boxing are as different as night and day. Pros box over 12 rounds, so they can wait out their opponents, while amateurs only three rounds.

Another factor Divante deals with is finding comparable opponents in his weight class.

"We have to go to a city like Atlanta to find somebody at his level," said Albert, who splits his time working as a nuclear security officer at Plant Vogtle and training his son.

Divante took a few weeks off after the Junior Olympics, but he has begun training for the National Police Athletic League Tournament, which will be in October in Oxnard, Calif.

That training has the teenager in bed by 10 p.m. and awake by 7 a.m., when he'll run about two-and-a-half miles of sprints, hit the bag for a while and spar on certain days.

On the horizon are the 2012 Olympic Games in London, where Divante would love to compete.

If a compliment from a referee in a recent fight means anything, he's on the right track.

"He told me I reminded him of Floyd Mayweather Jr.," Divante said. "He said he was a referee in some of his junior fights and I have the same style."

Reach Justin Williams at



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