Can Roy Jones Jr. Come Back?

10.13.04 - By Ben Cohen: For those of us fortunate enough to witness the blood bath between Trinidad and Mayorga on October 2nd also heard from Roy Jones Junior, HBO commentator for the night. On the replay a week later, Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant further pressed Jones in regards to his 9th round K.O by Glen Johnson two weeks earlier. In the interview, Jones implied that he may not retire. Does the former pound for pound champion have what it takes to return from such devastating losses? Let us examine the case.

Jones has been knocked out viciously twice this year, both with single punches. After he dazzled everyone with his dominating performance over Heavyweight Champion John Ruiz in 2002, Roy has not looked the same. In his first fight with Antonio Tarver, Roy looked flat, heavy, and lethargic. He took the decision, but only just. He took more punches and lost more rounds than he had probably in his last 20 fights. The rematch, although brief, indicated that Roy had lost his ability to see punches coming the way he used to. He was caught with a massive left hook and was for the first time, knocked out. The fight with Glenncoffe Johnson told us a great deal more as to the nature of Roy Jones' decline. Roy lost round after to round to the tough and rugged Johnson, not because he was being out-boxed, but because he could not be bothered. It was true that his reflexes had slipped, but not by so much that he was being beaten up. His power had certainly declined as well, perhaps due to loss of timing, but again, not so much that he could not hurt Johnson. In short, he was flat, uninterested, and unwilling to actually fight. Questions have now been raised as to the solidity of Jones' chin. Unsurprisingly, his critics have come out in force to discredit him.

Roy Jones does have a chin, and he can take a punch. He took Montell Griffins punches. He took flush shots from David Telesco, and Antonio Tarver. Most importantly he took them from fully-fledged heavyweight John Ruiz. He did not take many (apart from Tarver's), but he was certainly hit. Jones recent knockouts were not due to his inability to take a punch.

A knockout happens with several contributing factors. First, a clean shot on the chin will disrupt anyone's faculties. Second, if they are off balance, they will go down if hit correctly. Thirdly, knockouts occur more frequently when a persons' physical fitness is in decline (i.e. Tiredness or age). For example, when Chris Eubanks almost killed Michael Watson in a boxing ring, Watson's doctor stated that it was only because of Watson's supreme physical fitness that he survived. There is also a boxing saying that if you go into a fight determined to not go down, you will not. Witness Danny Williams recovering from a brutal assault in the first round of his fight with Mike Tyson (he had been felled with lesser shots in previous fights). Jones did not go into any of his last three fights determined to win, or not to go down. He went in to please his fans. "Before I won the heavyweight title, nothing could stop me," he said, "I didn't want to say it, but when I was hungry and in the hunt for what I wanted, nothing could stop me. I got up to win a heavyweight title. I haven't been up like that no more. And until I can get up like that again, it's going to be best that I stay out of the ring because until I can get up, what are you going to go in there for? I tried to go back for fans; tried to go back to just do it, but this is a killer sport, and it's not safe to just do it because people want you to."

The factors that probably contributed to his knockouts are as follows; Jones was hit right by both Tarver and Johnson. Tarver hit him on the chin, and Johnson hit him on the temple. Jones was also not as physically strong at Light- heavy as he used to be (possibly due to his coming down from Heavyweight). Jones was also not mentally up for it.

"I felt okay," said Jones. "I felt in shape and decent, which is why I know that's not good enough for me anymore. I was in shape, and I was okay, but I didn't have that hunger - that will, that desire to go out there. I wasn't afraid, I wasn't nervous. Usually I'm worried about looking right, so I'm nervous. This time, it was just another fight. Let's get this over with. That let's me know right there that I'm not hungry."

Feeling 'decent' and being 'in shape' was clearly not good enough. Not to compete at world level. It is exceedingly difficult to put down a strong, competitive fighter. In his prime, Jones would take a punch and come back immediately. He was so vibrant in the ring that it was difficult to imagine anyone knocking the 'life' out of him. Watching his body go limp against Tarver and Johnson was clear indication that something was missing.

Jones indicated that he would take some time off, but refused to commit to a long-term decision. When asked if he would retire, he replied, "I'm not a quitter, so I can't tell you that. The way I look at it is: I know I need to take a break for a minute because my body has been going through a lot."

So what does he have left? During his interview on HBO, Jones looked reasonably chirpy and was very honest in assessing himself. For so long he has constructed himself around his ego, a necessity for those who fight professionally. When you are winning, what you say is true. When you lose, your claims may ring hollow. Jones still claims to be the best pound for pound, but it is doubtful he really believes it. Jones looks a lot calmer these days, like he does not really want it anymore. He has admitted to going through the motions in the ring, so perhaps he will admit to it outside as well. If Jones can regain the fire in his belly once more, then maybe he could risk his health swapping punches again. The answer to whether Jones can come back is not necessarily so clear-cut. If he wants it, then anything is possible. At 35 however, and having accomplished almost everything possible in the sport of boxing, it is unlikely. Jones must be 100% focused and must have the desire. If there is anything less, then further punishment could prove more than just humiliating. There is no doubt that from middleweight to heavyweight, there is no one who can match Jones skill for skill. That, however, is no longer enough.

Article posted on 13.10.2004

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