Will Roy Jones Ever Exemplify His Claim To Greatness?
By Francis Walker
Roy Jones, Jr., arguably the best fighter in the world, "Pound-For-Pound," has been a professional prize fighter for nearly 9 1/2 years. At 29 years of age, Jones, a native of Pensacola, Florida, has won world titles in three weight divisions. Despite his various achievements from 160 to 175-pounds, Jones (37-1, 31KOs) still lacks the appeal and the drawing power to be recognized as an all-time great. Its a shame how a fighter like Jones, whose skills and impact are reminiscent of those of Ray Robinson, Ray Leonard, and Muhammad Ali, does not have the same following of an Oscar De La Hoya, or a Mike Tyson. What is it going to take for Jones to exemplify his claim to greatness?
Coming straight off one of the biggest robberies in Olympic boxing history, Jones, a sliver medallist in the 1988 Olympics, withered into obscurity after his pro debut in May 1989. Despite winning his first 17 pro fights by Kayo, Jones was virtually unheard of by fans and boxing writers for years. Aside from several appearances on HBO Sports, Jones didn't start to gain star status until May 22, 1993, defeating Bernard Hopkins (W 12) for the then vacant IBF middleweight championship. Jones' reign did not last long, having successfully defended the title once against Thomas Tate (KO 2).
Everyone thought Jones' one-sided decision against former IBF super middleweight champion James Toney (W 12) in December 1995 would make up for Jones' various setbacks... Although the fight did land Jones a lucrative multi-fight contract with HBO, Jones' aura was still a mere question mark. How can a fighter, billed as "The Next Chapter In Boxing History," have a career with no direction?
Between 1995-96, Jones made six defenses of the International Boxing Federation 168-pound title. But against whom??? Who will remember Antoine Byrd (KO 1)? Does anyone really care about "The Punching Post-Man" Tony Thornton (KO
3)? How about Bryant Brannon (KO 2) and Merqui Sosa (KO 2)? Although he still has a following, Vinny Pazienza (KO 6) is not in the same league of a Roy Jones. Its nice to have recognizable names, but Jones-Pazienza was a fight that should never have been made! Not to mention, the fact that on one occasion Jones played basketball and fought in one night. Against someone like a Evander Holyfield it would have been great! But an Eric Lucas (TKO 11)? I rest my case!
On November 22, 1996, Jones moved-up to his third weight class to defeat Mike McCallum for the WBC light heavyweight crown. It was clear Jones was going to win, but is was also clear Jones carried McCallum through 12-rounds!
Last year, Jones' career did spark a little interest when he suffered the first loss of his career. On March 21, 1997, Jones, barely leading on the judges scorecards, was disqualified for twice hitting Montell Griffin (L DQ 7) when he was down on the mat. Since Jones avenged his the loss with a savage first-round kayo of Griffin last Summer, Jones has taken a rather unique
approach in 1998.
In two fights this year, Jones answered some of the many questions fans, writers, and boxing supporters were asking for years. What would happen if Jones were to fight a relatively larger man? Last April, Jones answered that question when he knocked out former two-time light heavyweight king Virgil Hill (KO 4) with a single right-hand to his ribcage.
As recently as July18, at Madison Square Garden, Jones was dropped for the first time in his career when he fought WBA 175-pound champ Lou Del Valle. Jones, who rose to the occasion, managed to shut Del Valle out in front of his very own hometown, unifying both the World Boxing Council/World Boxing Association light heavyweight championship.
On November 14, a more humble and likable Jones will meet Canadian middleweight Otis Grant. Like Del Valle, Grant, 30, Montreal, Canada, is a southpaw (left-handed) fighter. Grant (31-1-1, 17KOs), a College Graduate in Special Education, has a technically-aggressive style. Styles make fights, but it is difficult to determine what exactly fans are to expect. However, it is
not too difficult to project the path Jones' career may be headed....
Providing of course Jones does not move-up anywhere from 185-198, Jones may hang around 170 to 175 pounds. Why? Because fighters like Hopkins, De La Hoya, and Felix Trinidad will advance in weight. In the professional ranks, there is
no law in sanctioning "catch-weight" bouts. Since Jones would make more money fighting guys in the lower weight classes than above his own weight, Jones would be more willing to take that risk. The only downside is that promoters are going to wait until they think Jones skills are diminishing. They are going to wait until any quality fighter has a chance to beat Jones. If Jones is to fight past his prime, an ordinary fighter is going to beat him.
Jones, I believe, is one of those fighters who will finally find the best fights later in his career. If he does have any early, it's not that many. Maybe about one tough fight every year and 6 months. In fact, that tradition is already in place in Jones' career.
Jones may have spoke of retirement from time-to-time a couple of years ago, but I do not see him leaving the sport anytime soon!!!
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