Goodnight Sweet Roy: Deconstructing Boxing’s Prince
By Alex Pierpaoli
Originally published in shorter version on DoghouseBoxing.com May 20, 2004
For most of this past week Antonio Tarver told everyone willing to listen all about how he was going to finish his rematch with Roy Jones long before any judges could decide on the winner. On Saturday night, everyone who laughed off Tarver’s banter as typical pre-fight braggadocio were forced to hear the Magic Man’s left fist crack a sonic boom through the boxing world when it crunched against the jaw of Roy Jones Jr., putting him to sleep in round two of their Light Heavyweight Championship bout at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Antonio Tarver does well when given a second chance. His rematch with Eric Harding, which he won by 5th round knockout, went considerably better than their first meeting during which Harding broke Tarver’s jaw and went on to win by unanimous decision. After his first encounter with Roy Jones last November, Tarver knew it wasn’t a wise move on Roy’s part to grant his longtime Florida rival a rematch. But Tarver also knew that Roy’s ego couldn’t rest easy knowing there was someone, especially someone with as big a mouth as Tarver’s, walking around claiming he should have gotten the decision.
Until his first fight with Tarver, Roy Jones Jr. and his rabid fans, liked to brag about the fact that not many of Jones’ previous opponents could claim to have won individual rounds against His Royness, let alone have the gall to claim they were robbed by the judges. For the first time in his career Jones had a score to settle and Tarver knew that should be motivation enough to get a second chance at the pound-for-pound prince.
But Roy Jones has always found motivation in odd places. Roy is the sensitive man’s pugilist, Hamlet in a pair of Everlasts. In college, a professor of mine used to liken the inaction and careful contemplation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to that of a philosophy grad student dropped in the center of a Norse saga. Roy Jones Jr. is boxing’s Hamlet; the thinking man in a hurt business, except Jones prefers rap and rhyme about his own greatness to iambic pentameter.
Like Shakespeare’s troubled protagonist, Jones often weighs all the potential outcomes and considers the motivations of his opponents—how they get themselves up psychologically to face Roy Jones—as if he is not made of similar stuff. It seems Roy Jones’ motivation is born out of some more dramatic well of inspiration that only he knows. Fighters don’t often think of such things, they don’t weigh every option so carefully. Fighters leap into the breach, first through the door and into action despite the potential consequences and certain harm to life and limb. Roy has always considered his actions carefully before committing to any of them, whether it was in choosing opponents or even in his cautious counter-punching style of combat. Continue reading