Roy Jones Jr.: Love him or hate him, you gotta respect him

22.09.04 - By Coach Tim Walker: Roy Jones Jr. is one of those rare fighters who you either absolutely love or utterly hate. There is no middle ground. Boxing fans and laypersons alike have drawn a proverbial line in the sand and argue forth and back in an effort to sway dejecting viewpoints. The Roy faithful believe that he is the most talented boxer to ever lace up a pair of gloves. The enemies of Roy feel that he never sought big enough challenges and for that they loathe his boxing existence. Like all truths it probably lies somewhere in between.

Sixteen years ago Jonesí Olympic experience in Seoul took on a life of its own. In the finals Jones beat the crap out of his South Korean opponent but was robbed of his gold medal by a panel of judges who were later found to have taken bribes to judge against the American boxer. A dejected but prideful Jones refused to accept the Olympic silver medal and what probably would have gone down as another American boxer winning gold became a larger than life act of thievery.

The circumstances surrounding the scandal were widely known but the lesson that Roy learned in that Olympic final would be crucial to his success and largely unnoticed by the public. If you arenít in control of what is going on then someone else is.

Boxing is largely controlled by a few major players which include networks and promoters. In boxing, these two groups make up the means to an ends and in most cases if you are not plugged into the powers that be then your boxing career stops at the gym door. Roy chose a road less traveled as his way to boxing supremacy. He made a conscious decision to be in control of his boxing future and his career. There would be no Kings and no Cushners throwing dollars around then sucking them back. There would be no management team swindling and eating up his purses. There would be no sudden moves up the ranking system which meant that steps up the ladder would have to be earned in the ring. A challenge that Roy accepted.

He managed himself into ring situations that were favorable to him all the while building a substantial following in his hometown of Pensacola. In his seventeenth fight he took on veteran Jorge Fernando Castro whose record at the time was 70 wins 3 losses and 2 draws. Fifty of those wins were via the knock out. What is even more impressive is that Jorge started his professional career less than two years before Roy. Howbeit most of his bouts were in Argentina the ring veteran took Roy the distance and let him know that his endurance was there and he was ready for the next level.

This is largely when Roy started having problems. He was setting a precedent that allowed him to keep most of his money. Uncle Sam got his but there werenít 6 or 7 hands awaiting their payouts at the end of each fight. Many of the big guns in boxing didnít like this but by the time they realized what he was doing he was solid in the game.

In his next 15 bouts he won the IBF middleweight and super middleweight versions of the world title. His opponents in those bouts had a combined record of 395 wins, 54 losses, and 10 draws, at the time he fought them. Within those records you find victories over names like Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Thomas Tate, Antoine Byrd, Vinny Pazienza, Eric Lucas and Bryant Brannon who was being touted as a good prospect. As Roy continued to fight in his hometown his crowds got larger and so did his influence. He was a virtual superstar in an area that was known for hurricane landings and its Blue Angels aviation squadron not boxing.

If this were an elementary school play this is where a minuscule fifth grader would run out to center stage carrying a cue card that reads ďScene 3: Welcome to the Wacky World of Sanctioning Bodies.Ē

In the world of sanctioning bodies, if you are the number one contender in one body you are not allowed to be the number one contender in another body. This is done to keep the wheels financially progressing on down the tracks. This formula allows for basically whomever a sanctioning body decides is the number one contender to be crowned the number one contender. Promoters have been manipulating this for years. Payouts move you up, bigger payouts move you up quicker. Of course there are rules to make sure the number contender is worthy of such a ranking but those can always be overwritten by special exemptions and exceptions.

Roy, who was a multiple world title holder at the time, realized the rules gave him options because of the multiple titles. He was as unrestricted as a boxer could be. No long term ties to anyone. No hidden options in contracts by promoters. Free to deal with whomever he wanted, however he wanted and he could name the terms. Like any astute business mind he sought the terms that maximized his earnings.

Iím sure he had read the stories of boxers being swindled into poverty. Iím sure he had seen the effects of boxing on fighters. Iím sure he said to himself, not me. After all he had experienced being robbed of his due first hand at the Olympics.

Roy entered the light heavyweight division in 1996 and by the time he had bobbed and weaved his way thru the division he was the WBC, IBF, WBA, IBO, WBF, IBA and NBA light heavyweight champions. With every title came more options and more disdain by promoters. He had single handedly locked up the division and any fighter who wanted to be a player in his division had to play by the rules that he learned from the sport itself. In Royís world number one contenders came a dime a half dozen and he was free to pick.

To keep his bargaining power and position Roy defended his titles against number one contenders because he learned a long time ago that championships are hard to come by and good boxers without titles are ducked and dodged more than bikini wax. Without titles boxers like Roy Jones have little bargaining power and would be left to the whims of scandalous promoters and managers.

Most of the time when you hear boxers and promoters complaining against Roy Jones it is because he is dealing with them directly. He doesnít have the luxury of hiding behind a manager or a promoter and saying I can only fight who they put in front of me. He is the manager and every good manager does what is best for his client. In Royís case it goes deeper because the client whose interests he is protecting is himself. Love him or hate him, you gotta respect that he never allowed himself to be pimped by the proverbial boxing machine.

Article posted on 22.09.2004

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