The sound of junior Tyler Jones’ alarm on the day of a fight means one hard-boiled egg, half a glass of water, weigh in.
The scale reads 158. Perfect.
After a month of eating strictly grilled chicken and salads with hardly any dressing, running three to six miles in two layers of sweats weekly and limiting himself to one gallon of water the week prior, Tyler weighs in two pounds less than he allotted for. His diligent eating and exercise routines prior to the boxing match paid off and now he goes home and prepares for his 18th fight, only four hours away.
Tyler was first taught to box by his uncle when he was just three years old. He comes from a family of boxers – great-grandfather, grandfather, uncle – and he’s the next one to fill the gloves.
Will Becker, a student-coach at Tyler’s gym, was impressed by Tyler’s skill in the first MMA class Tyler attended at Brass Boxing last August.
“I was watching him warm up and I was like, ‘This kid knows what’s up,'” Becker said. “[…] And no sugar-coating it, he’s a monster.”
But, unless you asked, Tyler wouldn’t tell you that he’s traveled to Chicago, Tennessee and all over Kansas and Missouri for tournaments and matches. He wouldn’t tell you that he won the Ringside World Champion tournament in the Bronx, New York this summer. He wouldn’t tell you that his standing record is 17-1 – the one loss being his 18th fight this October, a “shocker” according to junior Harrison Gloe who attended the match after hearing about it in American History AP.
The 18th fight. He touched gloves with his opponent to initiate the bout, then Tyler had three rounds – one minute each to prove himself the stronger and smarter fighter.
“I’m the best out here. I’m gonna kill him,” Tyler repeated to himself.
In the first round he knocked his opponent down within 45 seconds. His mouthguard forced his upper lip to puff out and the dark gym full of other competitors and spectators studied his threatening gaze. After each hit, Tyler’s hands quickly retracted to protect his own face. The second round came, and Tyler continued to “destroy the guy” according to Gloe.
Finally, the third round. Gloe compares Tyler’s fighting to world champ Floyd Mayweather: defensive. Dancing throughout the ring lightly on his toes, he dodged swings and protected his face–Tyler especially doesn’t like getting hit in the face.
“The only way to describe it is that [Tyler’s] glove was always on the other guy’s face,” Gloe said. “The other guy didn’t even have time to get his hands up because Tyler was hitting him so much.”
Tyler won the first two rounds with ease, but after his third round the judges saw enough to give the win to his opponent. When there is no knock-out to solidify the winner, the winner is determined by collecting points for form and hitting target spots. As much as Tyler loves the sport, he finds it “historically corrupt” in many scenarios.
“Something I started noticing is that his mind is coming into the game. It’s athleticism with a small version of chess,” his trainer Michael Hughes said. “Chess pieces, metaphorically speaking for hands, what combination is he going to throw? What angle is he going to come at? What punch is next? He’s developing his mind more than he is his physical body.”
Tyler “got robbed” during that 18th match according to Gloe and Becker, but the loss didn’t detract from his clear confidence in the ring according to Hughes. Tyler works on this confidence at Brass Boxing. There, it’s not uncommon for strangers to feel inspired by his presence and agility according to Hughes.
Not only are his trainers complimentary of this trait, but so is a mother of four young boxers, Husseena Maya, whom Tyler doesn’t know personally. The mother watches outside of the gated mats in Brass Boxing, adjusts her white headwrap and points.
“He motivated my son to win,” Maya said. “It was [my son’s] third time fighting and he hadn’t won yet, but he watched Tyler, and I think he saw he just couldn’t give the judges a choice but to give [the win] to him.”
Tyler bobs his head behind his laced black gloves and dodges a right hook while sparring, or essentially scrimmaging, with Maya’s 13-year-old son. Tyler inches lightly on his toes toward his temporary opponent. He quickly jabs at him before breaking and dropping to the floor for a set of push-ups.
“You’re grinding all year round and you don’t get any breaks,” Tyler said. “You’re constantly going and that can be the toughest thing – it’s really easy to quit.”
Tyler hasn’t always been the dedicated fighter he is. After his first 10 matches when he began competing at 15 years old, he quit to spend time with friends and play lacrosse. But a year later, he found himself shadow-boxing in the halls again, thinking about boxing. Now, Hughes describes Tyler as a “perfectionist.” His diligence and passion for the sport and training makes him a silent leader amongst the other boxers, like Maya’s son in his weekly sessions.
“He’s comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Hughes said. “Every single time you go into the ring, it’s a true test of self. Tyler is on the right path wherever he’s going he’s not afraid to face what could potentially hurt him and gain from it. […] You would have to pick his brain to know it.”