Call them The Fabulous Three if you like, or maybe even Champions Forever. For between them, James Toney, Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Junior dominated the middleweight/super-middleweight divisions in the 1990s. A great trio of fighters who rivalled one another for supremacy (Jones and Hopkins fought as did Jones and Toney; what a shame Toney and Hopkins never got it on) each former middleweight king fought on into their forties.
In fact, Jones is still fighting; set as he is to face bare-knuckle legend Bobby Gunn in February. We saw what happened to Hopkins – the oldest of the trio at 51 – when he attempted to have one last fight and go out a winner, while Toney, now 48, last boxed in August of 2015, losing to club fighter Charles Ellis. It seems Toney has retired without announcing so officially (let’s hope this is the case, anyway).
So can Jones go one better than his former rivals and leave boxing as a winner? At 47 and having been brutally KO’d by Enzo Maccarinelli in what really should have been his final fight, it’s hard to say. Maybe tough guy Gunn will catch Jones’ dangerously vulnerable chin and take him out. Such a thing was unthinkable back in Jones’ prime years, but now, anything is possible.
But even if Jones does beat Gunn, will he call it a career there? Jones seems hell-bent on pushing his luck as far as he possibly can and he has now outlasted both Hopkins and “Lights Out.”
The true Champions Forever, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Larry Holmes and Ken Norton all fought on for too long and all five heavyweight greats went out a loser. If they couldn’t go out with a win, and if Toney and Hopkins couldn’t manage it, what chance has Jones really got?
Throughout history, most of the great ones exited on the back of a loss – Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard, Joe Louis, Mike Tyson, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Oscar De La Hoya, Pernel Whitaker, and the list goes on. There are exceptions of course – and interestingly Thomas Hearns managed to go out with a win at the age of 47.
But the odds seem to be against the once untouchable Jones going out whilst basking in victory.