Suffolk’s Landon Jones fighting his way to the top

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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SUFFOLK, Virginia – Suffolk’s Landon Jones is on the rise. After graduating from Nansemond River High School, the 18-year-old Muay Thai fighter has already won the World Boxing Council (WBC) World Championship as the youngest in the Adult Elite Division. This follows Jones’ move to Phuket, Thailand, where he lives and trains at Phuket Muay Thai to hone his abilities while studying the Thai language and culture at the local college.

Chairman of WBC Muay Thai USA, Patrick Rivera, spoke highly of Jones, saying he has “always been a class act” and was “not only a beast in the ring – but respectful and kind outside of the ring.” Senator Emily Jordan says she is “overjoyed” to learn that Jones won the gold medal and calls him a “true ambassador not only in Suffolk but across the country for students competing at such an incredibly high level.”

In a Feb. 23 interview during his visit back to Suffolk, Jones talked about his new life in Thailand, studying the martial arts and his new experiences. He reflected on the fight that netted him the gold medal as he represented Team USA.

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“All the fights that I had leading up to it were difficult, but this was definitely the hardest because he was a very, very strong fighter and I could feel the strength. So I had to think about how can I use that against him and once I figured that out, I found the tool or the weapon… and that was my knees,” Jones said. “I’ve trained a lot throwing my knees and using that as a weapon and once I found a home for those knees, my opponent started wincing and he didn’t like it. So I just kept going and it also ended in him not wanting to continue.”

Jones reflected on the moment the referee raised his hand in victory.

“I felt like the world was lifted off my shoulders and all I could do was just… I cried, I did everything. It was just an amazing feeling. It was definitely a very tough fight, probably the toughest fight that I had while in Thailand,” he said.

Talking about his new life in Thailand, Jones spoke highly of the “amazing” people and culture, noting their values of family and respect.

“I think what I liked most about Thailand is how appreciative the people are of the things that they have. And they work so hard,” he said. “They work from [when] the sun comes up until the sun goes down. So I really admire that about the culture and the people in Thailand. It’s just how hard they work and how kind and respectful they are.”

On the transition into his new life as a young adult in Thailand, Jones talked about how “tough” it has been mentally for him due to his family-oriented personality.

“…It was very hard to be separate from them because I love to do everything with them: with my mom, my dad, my brother, all that. So mentally, it was tough being away from home, but I know I needed it because I needed not only to grow as a fighter, but grow as a person and Thailand really helped me to learn how to be independent and provide for myself,” Jones said. “That’s kind of what everyone goes through at the age of 18: they might go away to college or they might leave and move out on their own, but not only was it hard to provide for myself, but doing it in another country where not everyone speaks English, that was kind of a challenge of itself.”

Jones also talked about how difficult it has been physically as well. He detailed his daily routine, which sees him getting up at 5:40 a.m. for a running and training schedule on Monday through Saturday.

“It’s very regimented. In Thailand, you’re running all uphill. Where I was living, it was all uphill and you’re running up to about 37, 40 miles a week. So definitely rough on the body, but it’s rewarding because you did all that training and then once you fight and then you win, it’s definitely worth it,” Jones said. “It was tough, I won’t lie, it was very tough, but it was the most rewarding thing I think I’ve ever done in my life.”

Despite the challenges, Jones notes that he made a few friends along the way, from a woman serving him a Pad Thai dish to 7-Eleven workers recognizing him after routine visits. 

“Because in Thailand, when they have fights, they have posters…There’s posters of me and all the other fighters. So they recognize me from the posters. And I get to make connections with all the people, so you have little kids coming up with posters and they’re pointing at me. And they’re like, ‘Is this you? Is this you?’ and I’m like ‘Yeah, that’s me.’ It’s awesome,” Jones said. 

He continued. 

“Muay Thai and fighting, that’s their national sport. So whenever they see a fighter, it’s kind of like meeting Superman and the fact that I got to be that for so many people, it’s an honor. I really, really take that as a big responsibility, and I love it,” he said.

Excluding the jetlag, Jones says it’s the “greatest feeling ever” being back home in Suffolk and says he missed grocery shopping with his mom, forests, scenery and even experiencing the seasons.

“Right now it’s cold and rainy, well in Thailand all year round, it’s just 90 degrees and hot. If it rains, it’s like a monsoon. I think with Suffolk, I really just missed the simple things,” he said.

Jones talked about the importance of keeping things normal throughout his constant training, expressing how he leaned on his friends to have fun on his Sundays off. 

“They helped me come out of my shell a bit. And they were like, ‘Hey, come out with us. Let’s go to dinner, Let’s do this,’ because if they didn’t do that, I’d honestly just be thinking about fighting, watching fights…,” Jones said. “Honestly, the one thing that I lean on my friends the most and my family the most is to keep things normal. Like, ‘Hey, let’s go out to dinner, let’s go see this movie or anything really.”

Jones says he wants to enjoy a month of spending time with his family while continuing his training. But what’s next on his list of goals?

“…the biggest goal for me is to win the WBC belt. I won the World Championship medal, but I want the big green belt. That’s what’s next for Landon and after that, it’s really just taking any opportunity that comes my way and just staying busy,” he said. “I think that’s my biggest goal is just to keep fighting and be my absolute best.”