|The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire -- AUGUST 10:2001|
George Jones Fights On|
by Ted Kluck
“It’s when I’m driving into work – seeing the trees, the sunshine, the other drivers…that’s when it hits me. That’s when I appreciate life.”
Light-heavyweight George Jones gets out of bed at roughly 6:30AM. He shuffles to the kitchen like the rest of us and pours himself a bowl of cereal. He solves problems for his small children, answers their questions; drives them to school. The children raise their voices, the children cry, and the children are consoled by their father because that is what fathers do. George Jones kisses his fiancée on the way out the door to work.
It is easy to carry the misconception that after accelerating the end of a life with one’s hands, one’s own life would change considerably. It’s the same misconception that allows us to think that fame will automatically bring an end to crying children, dirty dishes, sickness, and sorrow. Jones’ life is not that of a killer. In an era when the hardened, ghetto-tough image is bought, sold, and worn like a logo by rap stars and athletes alike, Jones is remarkably meek and soft spoken.
“My life hasn’t changed a whole lot,” said Jones. “I still get up, do the roadwork, pray, and go to work. Except now I pray for Beethavean’s family, his wife and kids.” He adds, “The boxing community has been really supportive. The Scottland family has contacted me and his trainers told me at the funeral to stick with it.”
On June 26th, the print shop inventory manager was excited about his moment in the spotlight, and thought his nationally televised prizefight on ESPN 2 would bring a measure of exposure previously unrealized. “All I ever wanted to be was a nationally ranked fighter,” said Jones who has had an on-again, off-again relationship with boxing since childhood. “That was my ultimate goal.”
However, in a matter of days his opponent, Beethavean Scottland would not be alive due to injuries sustained during his match with Jones. The boxing media would use the fight as an example of the ills of the current state of the NY Boxing commission. They would be justified. Tapes would be watched and re-watched by Jones, his fiancée, commission types, and everyone else looking for answers. Tapes would reveal that the fight should and could have been stopped a number of times. The tapes would also reveal that Beethavean Scottland fought like a soldier and ultimately died like one on the deck of the USS Intrepid in New York City. He died a victim of his own courage.
“Everybody lost that night,” said Jones, “There were no winners.”
Since the fight, Jones has had plenty of time to think – for better or for worse: “I think about the kind of father and husband Bee (Beethavean Scottland) was; he was a good one. I think about my own kids and about how much they mean to me. And I think about how it all could be taken away in a heartbeat and that all of our days are numbered.”
These are rather heavy, cautious words from an athlete who makes his living displaying confidence in his fists. Boxing, in many ways, is a study in the art of deception – of convincing the matchmaker, the promoter, and the opponent that you are confident and competent. It is an exercise in concealing weakness and presenting strength.
“The incident humbled me a lot,” said Jones. “There was a time when I would have told my corner to let me die in the ring before throwing in the towel and giving up. I don’t feel that way anymore. It just isn’t worth it for anybody.”
Indeed, similar macho posturing has left three star football players at the college and professional levels dead in the last several weeks. When Jones returns to the ring in mid-November against Montel Griffin, it will be as an older, wiser, and more seasoned fighter – a fighter who has overcome obstacles far more daunting than the man standing in the opposite corner.
“I thought long and hard about giving up the fight game,” he said, “but I’ve given up on a lot of things in my life and I wanted this to be different – I wanted to finish the job.” Jones, like everyone else who has had the courage to lace up a pair of gloves, dreams of a title. He now also dreams of using money he makes in the ring to set up a trust fund for Scottland’s children. His activities are clearly focused on the future.
“I’m going to go back to school eventually,” said Jones, “To start preparing for my life after boxing. My supervisors at work are really supportive of everything I do in the ring, but they also want to develop my business skills by sending me to school.” Jones the man seems as proud of his accomplishments in the workplace as he is of anything Jones the fighter has accomplished in the ring.
In the gym he thumps the swinging, leather covered heavy bag for comfort. For Jones there is comfort in the familiar, and the sounds and smells of the gym are like a well-worn t-shirt or a favorite CD. The gym is the boxer’s church, the place where he goes to worship at the altar of social progress and expunges his sins on leather bags of various shapes and sizes. He goes for the familiar sounds - the thud of glove against bag, the machine-gun rhythm of the speed bag, and the whip of jump rope on canvas.
In the gym, at least, there is the guarantee of toxins leaving the body through sweat, and the faint hope of toxins leaving the soul.
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