You Got Any Excuses Tonight , Roy?!

15.08.05 - By Kevin Kincade: The pre-fight instructions before Tarver-Jones II will live in the memory of fight fans almost as vividly as the stunning one-punch knockout nearly five minutes later. I can still recall the reaction around the bar to Tarver’s impromptu reply to Jay Nady’s standard “Do you have any questions?” At first, all was silent. Then, the oh so brief lapse in bar chatter was replaced by a chorus of “Oh, Man! Roy’s gonna kick his ass, now!” A round and a half later, cell phones were being activated spreading the shocking news.

So, here we are, closing in on Round 3, October 1st, 2005 and the sixty-thousand dollar question is: Is Roy Jones Jr. shot…or have so many of us rushed to the wrong conclusion? “There are no questions”, you say? “Roy’s through?” How can you be so sure? Oh, that’s right; two stone cold knock outs in his last three fights. Well, let’s look a little closer at those last three fights and see what the signs say.

Going into the first Tarver fight, Jones was coming off the biggest win (literally) of his career, having embarrassed the woefully inept John Ruiz out of his WBA heavyweight title and, thus, becoming only the second man in HISTORY to own both a version of the middleweight and heavyweight championships; add to that being only the second reigning Light Heavyweight Champion in HISTORY to defeat a heavyweight title holder.. There was little left for Roy to prove. Many, including this writer, wondered why he moved down to fight Antonio Tarver when mega-dollar purses and more fame awaited him in the form of match-ups with IBF King, Chris Byrd, Methuselah Holyfield, the ever present jabberwocky, Iron Mike Tyson, and, yes, even the Real Heavyweight Champion of the World, 6’, 5”, 240 Lb Lennox Lewis.

Whatever his reasons were, Roy challenged the Magic Man on November 8th, 2003 for his piece of the Light Heavyweight crown Roy had abdicated months before. At the weigh-in, Jones looked gaunt, and not in a good way. He looked drained. No real surprise when one considers he lost at least 20 Lbs of Muscle in order to make weight for the fight. Throughout most of the early rounds, Jones voluntarily went to the ropes while Tarver obliged to press the action. Roy was obviously far from his best just 8 months after a spectacular display of boxing; but he had enough heart and will to win to come back in the mid to late rounds to take a majority decision from the badly fading Tarver. Jones, at his worst, showed us the best qualities a champion can possess.

So, what happened in Jones-Tarver II? Two things: A Huge Tarver Left that separated Roy from his senses and the antithesis reaction to a widely expected repeat of Jones-Griffin II. Jones reputation was so exalted that very few expected a Tarver victory; and those that did surely didn’t envision a one punch kayo in the second. Now, compound the shock of the result with the braggadocio Tarver displayed going into the match and what we have is a historic moment; one in which Jones came up short in the bragging rights department. That is the kind of moment Jones’ detractors had been waiting for as vultures await a wounded animal to expire; depending on your point of view, the social reaction to that fight was either beautifully or horrifically psycho-somatic.

Enter Glengoffe Johnson, or as I like to call him, shock factor # 2. Nobody and I mean nobody outside of Glen Johnson gave “The Gentleman” a snowball’s chance in hell of defeating Jones. Everybody knew the outcome of their match was a foregone conclusion; a warm-up for Tarver-Jones III. No disrespect to Mr. Johnson; but, after all, he had won just 4 of his last 12 bouts going into the Jones fight. I will concede several of those losses could be considered controversial “hometown decisions”; but I submit those losses were also due, in large part, to Johnson’s style. While I am not disputing Johnson’s toughness, the fact of the matter is he is an unspectacular fighter; which is why his win over Jones was, in many ways, more shocking than Tarver’s. As a result, the psycho-somatic effect was even more intense in the masses: “Roy Jones Jr. is done as a fighter!” Jones reputation as the unparalleled best of the last decade, ultimately, worked against him in the court of public opinion. He must be shot, how else could he lose to Glen Johnson?

Boxing, it has been said, is 90% mental; meaning if a fighter’s mind is not right, it doesn’t really matter what kind of physical shape he’s in Without going into too much detail for fear of the excuse-hounds coming out, I want you to think about something. Roy Jones Jr. resides in Pensacola, Florida and has his whole life. That means his closest friends live in Pensacola, his family lives in Pensacola, or to put it more poetically, Roy Jones Jr.’s roots run deep in the Pensacola sand. During the early morning hours of September 16th, 2004, Hurricane Ivan blasted Pensacola with 125 mph winds, destroying almost everything in their wake, which equals millions of dollars in property damage, to say nothing of the personal and emotional toll such natural disasters cause. Nine days later, Pensacola resident, Roy Jones Jr. climbed into a ring in Memphis, TN to fight Glen Johnson for the IBF Light Heavyweight Championship. You tell me his head was in that fight.

Roy Jones Jr. is one of those guys you either love or hate; there's no in between with R.J. He's cocky, arrogant, and speaks of himself in the third person; but until the second Tarver fight, like Ali, he always backed it up. Now, he's on the downside of his career and those who hate him are frothing at the mouth over the possibility of seeing a threepeat in Jones' kayo losses; but fear deep within their walnut-sized hearts that he might defy the odds and prove them all wrong by turning back the clock and avenge his loss to The Magic Man.

One thing is for certain: the first time I ever saw Roy Jones Jr. in the ring, I knew he was special. And, I would be willing to bet even his harshest critic had his mouth agape the first time he saw R.J. uncork one of those blindingly fast combinations on an opponent. I can think of no fighter I've ever seen live or on film who had the combination of speed, power, and reflexes Roy Jones Jr. possessed in his prime.

Roy Jones Jr. is one of the greatest fighters of all time, like it or not. He's a multi-division titlist and only the second former middleweight and reigning light heavyweight champion in history to win a version of the heavyweight title. He embarrassed then pound-for-pound king, James Toney over 12 lopsided rounds, beat future hall of famer Bernard Hopkins before B-Hop got old, was the first man to stop two-time WBA Light Heavyweight King Virgil Hill, and possessed more natural talent than just about any fighter who has ever lived. His combination of speed, power and agility would have given any middleweight or light-heavyweight who ever owned a belt a hard time. Whether Jones is liked or not is irrelevant to his place in history.

The thing that removes all doubt about a fighter's greatness is his abiltiy to come from behind and defy all odds and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Up until this point, with the exception of the first Tarver fight, Jones has never had his back to the wall; he was just too damn good. In "Now It's Personal", as the fight was billed, we saw Roy's championship heart on display as he pulled a rabbit out of the hat and rallied down the stretch to take victory away from The Magic man; but that was two knock-outs ago.

Now, here we are, watching a once super-human fighter humanized by age and two devastating losses trying once again to climb Mount Olympus and steal the Thunder from Zeus's throne. Now, Roy is in the role of underdog, a proud warrior with nothing to lose, looking to ride the lightning one last time and leave his critics and detractors speechless and dumbfounded.

That being said, there's an old boxing addage that a once great fighter always has at least one great fight left in him. October 1st, 2005 will be the curtain call of a great or lose, there will be no excuses. There is no need for excuses where Roy Jones Jr. is concerned; his record speaks for itself.

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Article posted on 15.08.2005

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