Tarver-Jones 3: How Great Is Roy Jones Jr?
By Alex Pierpaoli
originally published 10/1/05 on KOFantasyBoxing.com
Great fighters don’t usually get knocked out cold in back-to-back fights. On the rare occasions when that has happened it has signaled the end of a career; if not to the fighter himself then to those around him that love him and want to see him enjoy his life after the prize ring. For Roy Jones Jr. that life outside the ring ain’t so bad. His Royness is a millionaire several times over, he’s a talented commentator for HBO and he’s in excellent physical and mental condition after a stellar ring career of over twenty years.
What more could Roy want?
For Roy Jones Jr. greatness beckons, and he knows it. Not Hall of Fame quality career greatness, he has that. I’m not going to split hairs about how McCallum was past his prime and Hopkins was nowhere near his when Roy beat them. A win is a win and Roy has plenty spectacular ones over opponents of varying levels of competition in multiple weight classes. Yes, I would put him in the Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible, but without an impressive victory tonight there is a level of greatness that Roy Jones will have never achieved. Without a win tonight Roy Jones goes down in history as a sort of front runner champion similar to Mike Tyson.
Roy Jones Jr is a better fighter than Mike Tyson. But like Tyson’s limitless talents of intimidation Roy had what seemed to be limitless athletic prowess. No one ever questioned His Royness’ abilities in the ring; it’s always been the intangibles that looked to be in doubt with Roy Jones Jr. For Tyson it was character that was lacking, and that missing element resulted in catastrophic defeat and worse for Iron Mike. In Jones’ case it is the intangible quality of chin that seems to be his undoing.
Lennox Lewis got past a weak chin. When motivated by fear or revenge the big man dropped the hammer on Hasim Rahman in a rematch and reduced Oliver McCall to a sniffling retread in a second bout. Chin can be as much psychological as it is physical. Look at Miguel Cotto last week when he was stunned. Lopez rung his bell but the gutty Puerto Rican had it in his mind that he would not go down and he would not be stopped and he persevered through troubled waters. That is chin just as much as weathering bomb after bomb without going down. Last week we saw Samuel Peter swallow right hand missiles from Wladimir Klitschko and next week Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo will redefine chin for all of us again in their rematch. But it is just days since the death of Leavander Johnson when we were so painfully reminded of the terrible toll these blows to the brain can take.
It is my hope that Roy’s chin is not a physical weakness–a re-calcified and reconstructed egg shell that will likely crack again too easily under Tarver’s thumping lefts. If that is the case then Roy will have to use his legs and savvy of angles and distance to protect and shield that fragile chin. And just maybe he can do that. Roy has certainly chiseled his 36 year old frame into what looks like a Marvel Comics character, maybe the Falcon or the Black Panther. And just maybe Roy has dug up legs that are livelier than they’ve looked in a while. Maybe his father’s influence in the corner will bring out the fighting rooster in his soul and style and we’ll see shades of the herky-jerky style Jones used to best fighters like Julio Gonzalez and Reggie Johnson.
Antonio Tarver is coming off a revenge unanimous decision win over Glencoffe Johnson at the FedEx Forum Memphis on June 18. Tarver avenged a December Split-Decision loss to Johnson and this time he left little doubt of the victor. Tarver set the pace early in their rematch with a strict and fierce offense that Johnson was unable to decode or disarm. By the time the workman-like Johnson came on in the fight he had run out of rounds to threaten Tarver mathematically.
Tarver was unafraid to throw and land big shots early and by the third round he had stunned Johnson with hard straight lefts and uppercuts. Johnson would fire back after Tarver landed but the champion could not score with combinations and had to settle for a pot-shot to the body here, or an overhand right counterpunch there, landing periodically as he stalked the Magic Man. In Glencoffe’s best moments he pressured Tarver and stifled his jab with a two-fisted attack–mostly to Tarver’s body. Roy Jones will have to employ similar body work to tire the Magic Man and wear him down.
In the rematch with Tarver, Glencoffe never got inside well. He didn’t apply pressure the whole time because he probably didn’t like eating the uppercuts and big lefts from Tarver that were bolting him with force. Lots more leather was landed between Tarver and Johnson than Roy Jones wants to even consider absorbing. Tonight, Roy Jones’ tactic has to be to avoid the ropes, to twist and turn and angle his way out of corners and never go back in a straight line. Roy will fight like a one hundred eighty-pound fighting rooster tonight, raking at Tarver with hooks and pecking at him with lead rights before stepping out and away to do it again from another angle. Roy needs to control every moment of the fight–he’s done it so often in his career just never long enough against this man named Tarver.
Tarver wasn’t in shape or focused for the first Glenn Johnson fight, we know the thirty six year old can become distracted. Tarver looks to be well trained, but how motivated can he be after flattening Roy in two rounds and then seeing Glencoffe Johnson do it in nine? Can he become over confident and follow Jones around all night cocking back his left and waiting for an opening that never comes? Soon the bell will ring and like the promotion promises there will be no excuses.
There’s a part of me that is rooting for Roy Jones Jr. tonight. I’ve never been very fond of Jones’ fighting style. I like pugs that bite down and hurl themselves into danger. Roy has always fought on his way backwards and out of harm’s way. Tonight I’m hoping that he can stay in that safe zone just out of Tarver’s reach and land his lightning hooks and uppercuts from crazy unorthodox angles. I’d like to see it one last time before he hangs up the gloves. The question is can he do it when the odds are so stacked against him? When he is finally posed with daunting opposition in his stellar career he may be too damaged and too shot to meet it. If looks mean anything they certainly suggest Jones has dug out RJ, his inner gladiator, and that’s good because tonight he definitely needs him.
Send comments or questions to Alex Pierpaoli at: KOFantasyBoxing@gmail.com