On April 3, the getaway driver in the murder of former world champion Vernon Forrest was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
On May 27, three-time world champion Paul Williams was paralyzed from the waist down in a motorcycle accident.
On June 16, 20-year-old lightweight Divante Jones won his professional debut in Columbia.
“Knocked the guy cold,” Albert Jones said of his son’s performance. “Wasn’t even 55 seconds into the first round.”
Officially it took one minute before the ring referee raised Jones’ hand. The former amateur star from Cross Creek High School thought nothing of his first time entering a ring without all the protective head gear he’s sported for 12 years up until that Saturday night. He took the stage at Township Auditorium and made quick work of dispensing Charlotte, N.C., pro Dontterreus Rogers.
“I punched him,” Jones said. “The experience was very exciting. I wasn’t fazed by it because long before I imagined it in my head. That’s where the amateur background comes in.”
Jones has long expected that he was better suited to the professional brand of boxing than the tightly formatted amateur style where the points at the end don’t always tell the true measure of the fighters.
But there was no arguing the result of this fight with Rogers on the canvas.
“To tell you the truth I didn’t know he was down ’til the ref told me to go into a neutral corner,” Jones said.
Jones barely had to break a sweat in what was supposed to be a four-round bout. Rogers went on the early attack but never landed anything. Jones threw a couple of jabs before catching Rogers with a left hook/right hand combo that ended the night.
“It didn’t matter to me,” Jones said of the premature conclusion that did nothing to test his stamina. “That’s what puts the behinds in the seats. Same thing worked for Mike Tyson. I’ve got a knockout punch with both hands.”
The takeaway from the evening was much more than the result. After so many years spent honing his skills in his Hephzibah garage or the Burke County Boxing Club, Jones has built up a local following that had no trouble making the short trip to Columbia to see his debut. His rowdy cheering section included Augusta-Richmond County commissioner Corey Johnson as well as Jones’ great grandmother Alma Knighton, who came from Buford, S.C., to see him fight for the first time.
“The highlight was after the fight was over seeing all the supporters and fans from Augusta,” Jones said.
His trainer/father agreed.
“To me, when we came out it was so loud in there,” Albert Jones said. “You couldn’t even hear the music. So many Augusta people were there it was exciting. The knockout was the icing on the cake. Couldn’t have been scripted any better.”
With his long-term goal of being the Augusta area’s next world champ, Jones is ready to get back into the ring and continue developing. His Palmetto Boxing promoters plan for another fight at Township Auditorium on Sept. 1, but there’s a possibility he might fight on July 28 in Charlotte, N.C., to keep him busy.
“It wasn’t very long, so he’s ready to go again,” his father said.
Jones is patient. He knows that one minute of work was reflective of years of training and months of focused preparation.
“I’ve been training for this fight for two months,” he said. “I’m ready to get back in but need to let my body recover.”
More results like the first one and Jones might help the local boxing scene recover from a tragic stretch.