30.09.05 – By Aaron King: After being knocked out in each of his past two fights by Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, Roy Jones Jr.’s future in boxing was in limbo. However, this weekend Jones will have the opportunity to exact some revenge when he meets Tarver in the rubber match of their trilogy..
The Oct. 1 meeting on HBO PPV will mark Jones’ first fight since being knocked out in the ninth round by Johnson on Sept. 25 of last year. During that time, Jones (49-3, 38 KOs) has been intent on getting one last shot at Tarver, a rival since their amateur days in Florida.
“Since May 15, 2004, Square Ring and Roy Jones have had one item on our agenda, and that is to reclaim the light heavyweight crown from Antonio Tarver,” said Brad Jacobs of Square Ring Inc., the promotion group that is headed by Jones.
Actually, Tarver (23-3, 18 KOs) will not bring any crown of the major sanctioning bodies with him to the ring on Oct. 1, save for his recognition as the champion by the Ring magazine. Even so, there is no loss of significance in this bout, and the “Magic Man” certainly recognizes that.
“I think Roy now understands that his legacy is on the line, and he don’t want to go out on his back. I mean, you gotta compliment the guy for that. He’s saying, ‘If I’m going to fight anybody, I’m going to fight the guy that makes sense, the only fighter who can give me redemption and vindication,’” he told HBO.
After losing to Jones in the first fight via a controversial majority decision, Tarver, displaying his prowess as a counter-puncher, surprised Roy and the boxing public when he knocked Jones out with a single left hand in the second round in their rematch six months later. Tarver then fought Glen Johnson after he too knocked out Jones. Johnson beat Tarver by split-decision in a highly competitive fight. The rematch, Tarver’s most recent bout, was another superb one, this time resulting in a Tarver unanimous decision victory.
An underlying question remains: Is Roy Jones finished? Even in his first fight with Tarver, the hand and foot speed that were such a wonder to observe seemed sapped from him. Obviously, since then there has been ample reasoning to support the assertion that Jones is on his last leg. He absorbed a lot of punishment from Johnson, a much lighter puncher than Tarver, and didn’t react well to it at all. With his speed diminished, there is a much greater chance he will have to take more of the bombs from the 6’2” southpaw this time around. For Tarver, what warranted a third match with Jones instead of what would likely be a more relevant match with Johnson?
These questions alone and unanswered are part of what makes this fight so intriguing. Does Jones have anything left? If so, this would be the showcase for it. The saying that every great fighter has one great fight left in him will be put to the test. As for Tarver, this is the culmination of a rivalry that began long ago, a rivalry that, for many years, hid him in the considerable shadow of Jones. Tarver admitted this much when he said that he was to Jones “the only fighter that, if I can beat him, I can be considered one of the best to have ever gotten in the ring once again.” For Tarver, at 36, this is his best, and perhaps last, chance to insert his name side-by-side with other great champions of the past. That’s the reason this fight is more significant to him than a third fight with Johnson.
Nor is Tarver expecting a slower Roy Jones Jr. “People say that Roy’s not himself. Well, I’m not gonna make the mistake of just relaxing and allowing this guy to even have a chance. What we’re doing now is removing any remote possibility of luck. And the only way we can do that is to work hard, and come prepared for anything and be ready to face the best Roy Jones ever.”
The broadcast has been dubbed “No Excuses”, presumably in imitation of Tarver’s pre-fight comments to Jones last Sept., in which he asked the then-champion, “You got any excuses tonight, Roy?”
The implications of this fight are enormous. If Tarver wins, the end of the career of one of boxing’s most brilliant performers will be imminent, and Tarver’s own legacy will begin to take shape. On the other hand, if Jones wins, the deck would be shuffled again, throwing extraordinary excitement into the light heavyweight ranks. Potential rematches between Jones and Johnson, as well as Tarver and Johnson, could breed a series of significant fights for some time to come.
Either way, Jones-Tarver 3 has more to it than meets the eye. Consequences are abundant on both sides. The rift runs deep and has a long history. One man is trying to establish his place in history, and another trying to write a storybook ending to a fabulous career. No matter the outcome, the atmosphere will be electric this weekend in Tampa.