Editor's note: The Rough N' Rowdy boxing contest originally scheduled for this weekend at the Charleston Civic Center has been postponed due to the State of Emergency and as a public health consideration. It has been rescheduled to Friday & Saturday, Jan. 17 and 18. Tickets will not be reissued. You may use your ticket on the following Friday or Saturday, good at the same time, next week.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fists wrapped and gloves tied, tomorrow night Zac Jones, the often-troubled son of Charleston mayor Danny Jones, will duck through the ropes at the Charleston Civic Center for his first ever boxing match.
He's been training for months, running, lifting weights and learning the fundamentals of the sport from his coach at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center.
"I'm not nervous now," he said. "I'm sure it will change by the time the event comes around, when I step into the ring with thousands of people watching."
Jones, 24, is among the dozens of men and women signed up to fight in this year's Rough N' Rowdy amateur boxing contest, which begins Friday night.
He initially signed up because he needs the money.
The winner of each weight division gets $1,000, a substantial sum when you're working two low-paying restaurant jobs to make ends meet.
But over the last month, Jones became more sincere in his training. He doesn't know if he'll win, but he believes there's a chance.
And if he loses . . . well, he's been there before.
This is Jones' first boxing match, but it's not his first fight.
And while thousands will see him step into the ring, millions were watching the last time he went to the mat.
This time, Zac Jones is fighting for $1,000, a championship jacket and a trophy.
Last time, he was fighting for his life.
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It was 6:30 on a chilly March morning, and Jones was speeding down Interstate 77 in a white Mazda 3 with Moldavian Harris, 24, of Detroit.
Metro Drug Unit Detective O.B. Morris spotted the car, followed it off the Washington Street exit and turned on his blue lights.
Mayor Danny Jones had informed Charleston Police of his son's whereabouts so he could be arrested.
Officers found 25.7 grams of cocaine in the vehicle. Jones and Harris were charged with possession with intent to deliver cocaine. A judge set their bonds at $25,000 cash. The mayor refused to pay his son's bail.
National media outlets picked up the story after the elder Jones released a heartbroken statement declaring his son a "hopeless drug addict." He said he was thankful for Zac's arrest.
"If in jail or prison, I know that Zac has a better chance at living than on the outside. This is because Zac is a hopeless drug addict who has broken the heart and the will of everyone and anyone who has tried to help him," he wrote.
The stories all mentioned the younger Jones' previous run-ins with police, a 2008 DUI arrest and a 2011 bust for heroin possession.
No one knew his struggles with substance abuse had started much earlier.
"I always felt I was different. I think I was born with this disease of addiction," he said.
He began smoking marijuana at age 12, a year before his father was elected mayor.
"There was something just attractive about it. I don't know if that makes sense to somebody that's normal," he said.
Things got worse as he got older. Jones estimates he got high every single day from the time he was 14 until his first stint in rehab at age 20.
He got his first taste of painkillers at age 16, after breaking his feet in a skateboarding accident. He began abusing Vicodin before moving onto Oxycontin, which eventually led to heroin.
"The opiates are where I really found what I was looking for," he said. "Cocaine was always in there, too."
He was arrested for the first time in 2008, after crashing his car in South Hills.
Jones, just 18 at the time, ran from the scene. Police found him a short time later in wet and dirty clothes. His blood alcohol content was 0.122.
At age 20, he decided to get clean. He was spending all his money on drugs while his bills and rent were falling behind.
"I could tell I had a problem," he said.
His father sent him to a rehabilitation facility in California, where he successfully kicked his habits and graduated the program. The sobriety only lasted a few months, however.
Jones had hoped rehab would cure his addiction to "heavy" drugs, but wasn't ready to give up alcohol.
"I was 20 years old. I wanted to drink," he said.
He underestimated the strength of his addiction. Jones was soon using drugs again, and was arrested for heroin possession in 2011.
Police, responding to complaints of drug activity, arrived at an apartment on Kelly Road, where Jones answered the door and allowed the officers inside. His girlfriend at the time handed over a plate with 10 lines of heroin, which Jones admitted belonged to him.