Jones/Calzaghe: Roy’s Chances Are All On Paper

Roy Jones Jr.By Matt McGrain: Reviewing footage for this fight tells of a late stoppage for Calzaghe if his hands hold up, and a points victory if his hands do not hold up. That’s just what I see when I (reluctantly) look at the Jones “comeback” footage, his most recent efforts including his failure to stop a 170lb welterweight. Magical Roy Jones. He’s perhaps the most incredible spectacle in boxing in terms of physical ability, footage of him in his prime is not something that is ever far from my DVD player, and my YouTube and Daily Motion accounts are littered with his best work. But I was never a Roy Jones fan.

I didn’t trust his near obsession with breeding fighting animals. I didn’t care for his arrogance. I never, ever considered him a coward or thought of him as anything other than the best in the world but I did think he made the hardest fights the toughest to make, and I certainly didn’t approve of his “on tour” attitude, where he took his unified titles and defended against all manner of municipal workers whilst Darius Michalczewski languished in Europe, the fight between Jones and the man who carried the lineal belt at 175 never to be made. Let’s be clear. Jones would have beaten Darius. He would have stopped Benn. He would have destroyed the past peak Eubank and he would again have out pointed Toney or Hopkins in any rematch. But in the fight game you get nothing for coulda, shoulda. The gap between Roy’s talent and resume made him a fighter I could admire, but never really love.

Then there’s Joe. Joe Calzaghe suffers from the same condition that Jones does - a terrible contradiction between the exceptional talent in his body and hugely underrated boxing brain and the talent on his horribly padded unbeaten record. There is absolutely no question in my mind that Calzaghe’s multiple title defences, 0 and longevity are overrated by his fans. If you’re defending your WBO title at home against Tocker Podwell, the precious zero is not really being threatened, is it? Where Calzaghe is underrated is in terms of talent and ability. He is a wonderful fighter. It is true that he often does not punch with correct form and I am not alone in finding him guilty of slapping rather than punching but as long as he is fighting within the rules (which at times is debateable - you are not allowed to “cuff” technically speaking) how he gets the job done is hardly relevant. It is the fact that he gets the job done. Joe throws punches in combinations that fighters have literally never seen before. Because of his irregular balance he is able to punch quickly and generate punches from almost any angle - in terms of styles he is horrible to fight, impossible to spar for and because of his quickness and irregularity, impossible to contain - if Bernard couldn’t do it, nobody can do it. He is also accurate and perhaps the most adaptable fighter in boxing today. We did not know that until the Kessler fight -it’s often forgotten that Calzaghe out-jabbed Kessler, something that seemed impossible before-hand, and an adjustment Calzaghe made after he realised his “in-out” strategy was going to make the fight very close.

So there were parallels between these two. Both phenomenally talented at peak but underperformed in terms of resume.

Now, there are almost no parallels. Joe Calzaghe speaking about Roy Jones in 2006: “I’m not really interested in Roy Jones fight any more because the guy is shot.” Calzaghe, on the other hand, is arguably still peak if not prime. He is rated #3 pound for pound by the ring. Possibly, they underestimate him. Certainly, he can’t be rated lower than this in my opinion, and both the #1 and #2 spot can be justified. Jones, on the other hand, appears in no top ten lists. Recently, on the Eastside Boxing Forums, I rated Jones inside my top 30 pound for pound and caught some serious flak for it - perhaps in fairness.

So this is how Roy has become one of my favourite fighters. He’s picked himself up and dusted himself off after the parachute he was wearing for the Tarver/Johnson fights failed to open and has taken what is affectively the biggest chance of his career - at 39 years of age, way past his best he is to be matched with one of the best fighters he has ever faced. Popular opinion gives him almost no chance. And it’s very hard to argue with that based upon the footage of the two fighters. I always rated Joe’s win over Hopkins as a great win - the best of his career, in fact. I was in a firm minority, but now Hopkins has destroyed pound for pound top 10 fighter and undisputed middleweight champion of the world Kelly Pavlik, that win is looking more impressive to a lot more people. Roy, meanwhile, seemed to engage in a glorified sparring session last time out, carrying Tito Trinidad to the finishing line in a fight where he looked less than devastating. But the aftermath of that fight is where we begin our exploration of Roy’s chances.

Let me just say quickly - I’m biased. I want Roy to win. And as I say, the footage doesn’t back this thinking, it’s a paper exploration, what’s been said, what we know of Roy the man, what he’s discovered about himself. I don’t insist on any of it and maybe it’s not to be taken to seriously - if you lay money on Roy it’s your own outlook!

Two weeks after the Tito fight, Roy, according to Glyn Lech of Boxing Monthly, Roy ran into one time legal associate John Hornewer. John postulated that Roy could have knocked Tito out at any time - including in round one. Roy’s response was telling: “I know that now.” Ever since those two devastating KO’s, Roy has been a safety first fighter, unwilling to take chances. It is absolutely obvious to me that he cannot outpoint Calzaghe with his legs all but gone, or at least, having the appearance of being all but gone. He needs to knock Joe out. In my opinion, he still has that power and speed. Furthermore, the Welshman is perfect for a fast hard accurate puncher - he is not well balanced (which does carry serious advantages in terms of pressure, and as I’ve already discussed, getting punches off from all angles) and he can come rather square. Roy hits harder than Hopkins. He is faster than Hopkins. He’s shown in the past that he is a better finisher than Hopkins. And Hopkins dropped and buzzed Joe Calzaghe. But Jones’s problem is that he hasn’t got the mentality to attack and then chase that KO. The hope for Roy is that he has watched the fight footage of the Trinidad fight and what he told John Hornewear is true - he does know he has the power and ability to score the knockout, the safety first strategy is not the only strategy.

What does Roy himself say about it all? Most excitingly that “it’s taken my body this long to recover from coming back down from heavyweight”. If that were true, we might expect to see a better Roy physically than we have in the last few years. It is also worth taking into account that for Roy’s last fight he was down at 170 - that for this fight he is going to be moving up in fighting weight for the first time since he stepped up for that historic bout with John Ruiz, adding muscle rather than taking it off. Roy also says that this is the fight he wants the most. He has remarked that, “after I beat Ruiz I felt that I had nothing let to prove. I felt like whatever I did didn’t matter”. But he does seem to feel this one matters. If Roy is coming for a payday, or if he is coming for one last big night at the fights, he will lose very badly, that goes without saying. However, if - and it’s a big if - if we can take Roy at his word for all of this - a new hunger, a body on the road to recovery, a reviewed mentality that will allow him to chase a knockout should he hurt Calzaghe - he has a very real chance, and I mean a chance to win by knockout. I would like to see Roy attack Joe at the outset. I think he has the quicker reactions, I think he has the harder punch, I think he has two very violent rounds left in him. I think if it backfires, only then should he retreat to the ropes and look for that magic counter. We’ll know so much about this one by the end of the first round, we’ll be shaking our heads or on the edge of our seats by the end of the first round - how much does Roy have left of who he was? That’s what we’ll find out.

And I mean more than just the boxer. Roy the celebrity, Roy the basketball player, Roy the rapper - that guy gets trounced this Saturday night. But if he can remember who he used to be, where he comes from - that Roy will not get trounced. He committed the sin that seems to come to so many millionaire boxers - he got soft. But when we talk about tough fighters from tough backgrounds - Liston, Tyson, Dempsey, Dick Tiger, Roberto Duran - why do we forget about Roy Jones? On his father:

"I guess he decided early on to take me in hand. From the age of five I understood he was determined to shape me into some kind of fighting machine. He'd drop to his knees and order me to hit him. But then he'd sway out of the way, the laugh stickin in his throat. When I got tired he'd lash out…sneaky little punches, pushing, knocking me down, just hard enough to make the tears fall."

"Then it got worse. You can't imagine how bad. I ain't never felt so alone or afraid. He'd train me from four in the afternoon 'til ten at night. Six hours straight, day in, day out, double on the weekend - making me fight bigger boys, four or five years older than me. Even now I can feel my hear rattlin'...fear...he'd be waiting out in the field with that damn ring he made. Whenever I made a mistake, or got dog tired, he'd whip me with a plastic pipe. Water hose, sometimes a belt. It was Hell. How do you get away from a man as big and fierce as he looked then?"

The only way - to be the fastest, the hardest, the best. Roy developed his prestigious speed in part because of his natural gifts, of course. But take note. Being slow got him whipped with a plastic pipe. Being fast spared the lash. That there is an inhuman motivator. Roy was on the very edge during this training.

"Killing myself seemed the only escape. I had the picture of me putting a gun to my head, squeezing the trigger...later I got myself a knife. I carried one on me in case he jumped me one to many times. I was sure I would end up in jail - for killing my own father."

Returning, again, to Roy’s remark concerning his motivation - “after the Ruiz fight I felt I had nothing left to prove. That’s what it meant to me. Nothing.” Those remarks interest me. It interests me that Roy called upon his father in his third match with Tarver. I think he felt that he needed to get back to that mud to reclaim his greatness. It did not go well, of course, with Roy claiming that, “I didn’t try because [my father] would have taken all the credit”. Perhaps this more humble version of Roy can find his way back to the coagulation of physical and mental that made him one of the greatest fighters to ever have lived. I really, really like the way things are crystallising for Jones. He claims to be a different man physically and mentally and there is a certain pattern that lends credibility to what he has said, not least his willingness to take on the very best in the sport. In these last weeks, Jones has taken on the look of a different fighter to me - on paper. On paper.

God luck Roy.

Article posted on 06.11.2008

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