Roy Vs Joe; making history

By Tony Mckenna: At his best Roy Jones was a virtuoso. He brought to the ring a smoothness, a sinuousness which was almost hypnotic. Sometimes one could forget that Jones was fighting at all; for the performances he produced were closer to theatre or ballet. And yet. Suddenly he would land a fusillade of punches; blows which arrived from everywhere and nowhere; a flurry which made it seem as though his opponent was suspended in slow motion. Until they went crashing to the ground, that is. At his best Roy Jones was boxing inside a vacuum; every punch was deft, every combination fluid and every movement exact. He was boxing in a place which no one else could reach..

And this is why he was the greatest fighter of his age. But his achievement (unequalled in 105 years) to move up to heavyweight and win the title, would also prove to be his undoing. The effort of coming down in weight afterward produced a different Jones; a fighter who looked drained, tired and bereft of hope. Consequently he suffered three devastating losses in a row.

But now he is preparing to fight Joe Calzahge. On paper, at least, Calzahge should win. Though no spring chicken himself, Calzahge is younger than Jones by 4 years. Futhermore Calzahge is undefeated, and, if not at his physical peak of a few years back, Calzaghe is nevertheless not far from it; averaging a staggering 100 punches per round.

But though Calzaghe should win I’ve got a feeling that Jones just might. Although he is relatively old for a fighter it was the sudden dropping in weight which was most responsible for the series of shocking losses rather than his years. His age no doubt hindered his ability to recover. But it was not the mitigating factor in those defeats. Which brings us to the more important question. Has Roy Jones Jr recovered?

The short answer is not entirely. In his recent fights with 2 unknowns and a rusty, overweight Felix Trinidad, he showed little of the sublime athleticism which was his trademark from the day. Particularly there was no spring in his step; he did not have the locomotion which had formerly allowed him to move in with lightening shots and be away in almost the same instant. The Jones who fought Trinidad seemed to have concrete feet; he shuffled forward and often lay back against the ropes.

But having said that, some of Roy Jones’ hand speed remained intact. He was able to unleash combinations which were at least reminiscent of old. Not only in terms of speed but also in terms of accuracy. And herein lies his biggest and only advantage over Calzhaghe. Though Joe is also gifted with extremely fast hands his speed belies the fact that often his punches are wide and scrapping. Roy’s shots, even though his work rate is now far less, still tend to land with missile like accuracy. If Jones is able to use a clever defence in order to compensate for his slower footwork, he may still be able to land the more telling blows. He won’t outwork Joe, nor will he knock him out but he can out point him.

This fight is extremely relevant because Joe is a great fighter but Jones is something more. He is a genius, albeit one with diminished skill. For the first time in his career Jones must rely more on his boxing brain than his boxing ability. Some decades ago Ali found himself in a similar position in Zaire when he faced another younger and undefeated fighter. The rest is history.

Article posted on 02.11.2008

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