Which Jones did Tarver beat?

27.09.04 - By Richard McManus: Let me start out by saying that I picked Roy Jones to win against Glen Johnson. And I picked him to win both fights against Antonio Tarver. All week fans and pundits have wondered which Roy Jones would show up. Would it be the Jones that terrorized Montell Griffin in their rematch? Would it be the Jones that coasted on his speed and skills to so many consecutive Light Heavy title defenses? Would another Roy Jones show up?

No one seemed to surmise the obvious. That the Roy Jones that fought the two fights against Antonio Tarver and who was summarily knocked out in two rounds in their second meeting by Tarver would show up. Even as we were watching it take place on HBO it was hard to accept. Roy Jones is simply slower than he used to be. Anybody can see that.

Even as Johnson was a mere few seconds from landing the right hand that would end things for Jones Emanuel Steward said, "I think he's (Roy Jones) gonna start doing whatever he wants to do or has to do, he's gonna start doing it this round." As absurd as that sounds now, it sounded just as reasonable at the time he said it. And five seconds later Roy was out.

The cat like reflexes and blistering hand speed is gone. The power is therefore gone, as speed is power. He'll never get that back. And the hesitancy Roy Jones showed his whole career at the prospect of getting legitimately knocked out is unfortunately manifesting itself right before our eyes. This is Roy's nightmare come true.

There had been some legitimate, if not accurate, excuses for Roy Jones performance in the first two Tarver fights. First, there was the fact that Roy was moving down in weight from his adventure in the "no weight limit" class. He had to gain and then lose an incredible amount of weight leading up to and following the Heavyweight fight against John Ruiz. So there was
the obvious excuse that his body was drained and worn from the experience. It seemed like a reasonable excuse. Most fans accepted it as true, myself included.

So when the rematch with Tarver came around most believed that we would get to see the "real" Roy Jones and that would be enough to take care of Tarver. Some even expected the 1997 version of Roy to show up. The one that nearly decapitated Montell Griffin. Then Roy was knocked out by a left hook he didn't see. The excuse there was that it could happen to anyone. But is that true? Could a prime Roy Jones have been caught by a blind side left hook thrown by Antonio Tarver? Maybe not.

Jones was hit with more clean punches in the first Tarver fight than in any other fight in his career. Maybe in all of his fights combined. He was hit with a punch he didn't see coming and knocked out in the second Tarver fight. And he was simply dominated with power punching aggressiveness by Glen Johnson. There has been a steady and visible decline in Roy's skills. Johnson had no business landing those punches against "Roy Jones". But that wasn't the same Roy Jones. What I've said so far is what fans already know. However, there is a question that must be raised.

Johnson deserves credit; after all he beat Roy Jones. No one can take that away. But even as we all (HBO announcers included) watched in stunned denial as Johnson essentially battered Roy for 9 rounds we have to ask ourselves: Which Jones did Tarver beat? Is Tarver simply the beneficiary of some great timing? Could Glen Johnson have done the same thing if he had gotten to
Roy first? It's very possible.

Is Antonio the man that finally figured out Roy Jones? Is he better than Roy Jones? The answer is yes and no. Obviously the answer is yes because he did beat him. He knocked him out and there is no taking that away. The better man almost always wins.

But the answer is also no because Roy Jones career and reputation was based on speed, reflexes and instinct. He was never a big puncher and never really had great technique. He was simply able to rewrite the boxing instruction manual because of his superior (and rare) combination of hand speed and reflexes.

Article posted on 27.09.2004

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