IT'S NEVER a good idea to look too far ahead in boxing.
Even a momentary lack of focus on the task at hand could end up in a costly setback at the wrong time.
Still, it doesn't take much connecting of dots to see that undefeated Philadelphia welterweight Mike Jones could be in line for some special opportunities if he is succeeds in becoming the International Boxing Federation champion on Saturday in Las Vegas.
Ranked No. 1 by the IBF, Jones (26-0, 19 KOs) will fight No. 2-ranked Randall Bailey (41-7, 36 KOs) for the vacant title on the undercard of the WBO welterweight championship fight between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Take note that the class for both title fights is welterweight.
That's significant for Jones, 29. If he wins his first world title belt, he could position himself to headline a big-money, mega-fight show instead of being on the undercard of one.
"This is a huge opportunity for me," said Jones, who scored a unanimous decision over Jesus Soto-Karass when he was the co-feature in Las Vegas in February 2011. "This is something I've been wanting since I started boxing. This is the ultimate goal for me.
“This the biggest fight of my life, so my thoughts going into it is take care of business."
Business is always an important word in boxing, and it's never far from the equation when matchups are made.
Stay with me on this.
For several years, there has been one superstar fight the public has called for — Pacquiao against WBC welterweight and WBA light middleweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. So, naturally, for a host of created issues that won't be slogged through right now, that fight has not come off.
With Mayweather, 35, starting a 90-day jail term last Friday because of a domestic-abuse charge and his recent hinting at retirement after beating Miquel Cotto in May, there's a solid chance that fight will never come off.
"The Pacquiao-Mayweather fight is not going to happen," Mayweather said. "It's not my fault."
Does it really matter whose fault it is?
Both Pacquiao, 33, and Mayweather have pursued other lucrative purses while trading verbal insults and accusations at each over their yet-to-be encounter.
Both are huge draws in person and on pay-per-view.
That's where the opportunity for a guy such as Jones comes in. He's on a card being promoted by Top Rank.
Top Rank patriarch Bob Arum has been in this game a long time. He knows that if you can't put together one "super" fight, a few "big" fight cards eventually add up to the same money.
If Jones beats Bailey, he becomes an undefeated world champion — just like Bradley, who is 28-0 (with one no-contest) and has defended his WBO junior welterweight title four times.
Pacquiao (54-3-2, 38 KOs) is the draw. As long as Top Rank puts him up against a highly quality opponent, it can easily make millions.
Seats for Saturday's card go from $200 to $1,200. Then there is HBO Pay-Per-View.
If Pacquiao beats Bradley for a welterweight world title and a Mayweather fight is still blowing in the wind, wouldn't a logical pick for Pacquiao's next fight be against a guy who just won a welterweight title fight on the same card?
Arum has boasted that Bradley will be able to take care of his kids for life with the money he'll earn for this fight.
That kind of payday could be on the horizon for Jones if he wins.
"Absolutely, we see that," said Doc Nowicki, who co-manages Jones with Jim Williams.
Arum has included a clause for a November rematch should Bradley win, but an impressive win by Jones should put him in the mix, no matter who is the other champion.
Of course, the danger is that Jones could get caught up trying to look impressive winning the fight instead of just concentrating on winning the fight.
After Jones' last fight, a decision over Sebastian Lujan in December, Nowicki conceded that he had heard from people with Top Rank that "Mike needs to let go."
"Our thought was you're in a world title chance fight, you want to win a world title. What do you do?" Nowicki said. "You do whatever it takes to secure that opportunity.
“Now you're going to see a different Mike Jones against Randall Bailey. He's gonna make a statement."
Wanting to "make a statement" has been the kiss of defeat for many fighters.
Bailey, 37, goes by the moniker "The Knockout King" and does have 36 knockouts in his 49 fights. He is your classic big-swing fighter who is always one solid connection from a win.
Jones said he is "not a slugger but pretty much a smart fighter." He has 19 knockouts.
"My knockouts, I basically sum it up as accurate punching. It doesn't take a devastating puncher to get knockouts. You just got to be accurate with your shots."
Jones' goal is to win a world championship, and, if a knockout comes, it will come.
"I know that [Bailey's strength] is that he is strong," Jones said. "He has a strong right hand, and his left hook is not weak.
“He's a power guy who tries to sneak it in. But I know what he has to offer. I know what I am up against and I've been training for it.
“I'm a speed guy, so I pretty much want to handle this guy by using my speed. My goal is to win the championship, no matter how it comes."
Something that could also work in Jones' favor is that he's experienced being on the undercard of a Pacquiao fight and the big crowds and high atmosphere that come with it.
Jones won his first fight with Soto-Karass on Nov.13, 2010, when Pacquiao fought Antonio Margarito in front of 41,000 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The MGM Grand Arena sits about 17,000, but it is still Las Vegas.
"Anytime you're going somewhere and you're used to it," Jones said of returning to Las Vegas, "you don't get nervous, because you know what to expect.
“There were so many people in Cowboy Stadium, it was kind of surreal, but after that, everything else seems to be a little bit ordinary.
“But this is my moment. This is what I joined up with boxing for, to become a world champion." n