Roy Jones Jr.’s Careful Sort of Reckoning
By Alex Pierpaoli
originally published 10/4/05 on KOFantasyBoxing.com
On Saturday night Antonio Tarver bested Roy Jones Jr. a second time in their third meeting as professional fighters. This time in front of an all Florida crowd at the St Pete Times Forum in Tampa; the Magic Man, Antonio Tarver defeated Jones by lopsided unanimous decision. A resident of Tampa, Tarver proved himself the better half of the one-hundred seventy-five pound picture in the Sunshine State by convincingly defeating his Pensacola rival yet again though not as emphatically as he did in May of 2004 when Tarver knocked Jones cold in two rounds. Roy Jones Jr. was beaten by kayo again in September of 2004 by Glencoffe Johnson and hoped to recapture some of his past greatness by coming back Saturday night against the first man that truly challenged him as a professional.
Because Jones’ decline was so rapid and so severe it was tempting to think that Roy would be able to recapture at least some of the skills and style he used in fights past. On Saturday night there were flashes of the Roy Jones that resembled the fighter he once was but for the most part he was stymied by father time and Antonio Tarver, a fighter who would have plagued him with trouble no matter when they met in Jones’ career.
There were only a couple clean blows landed by either fighter in round one and lots and lots of feinting and hesitating which ended up being a preview of the fight to come. Roy Jones Sr. was the chief second for his son on Saturday instead of long time Jones trainer Alton Merkerson, who was close to the action just outside the ropes in the role of co-trainer.
Roy Jones scored well in the second round until Tarver connected with a hard left and then opened up with a volley of brushing lefts and rights. Roy covered up along the ropes blocking some of Tarver’s blows and absorbing others. In their first fight Jones was driven to the ropes by Tarver again and again, but on Saturday he was able to use movement to keep the fight out of the corners and away from the ropes more often.
In round five Jones was able to recapture some past brilliance for fifteen seconds or so when he connected with clean hooks and uppercuts to the body and head and momentarily stunned Tarver. Notably, it was in the fifth versus Glenn Johnson when Tarver faded before catching his second wind later in that fight. With a minute to go in the round Jones actually fought his way off the ropes–landing to Tarver’s belly with both hands just like Johnson was able to do.
But by the middle of round six, Roy Jones was back to circling and feinting and looking for cracks in the Tarver defense while the Magic Man upped the pressure, connecting with long lefts and brushing hooks. Some punches are harder than others but Tarver kept on throwing them, making sure to keep his gloves on His Royness. In the corner it was exactly what McGirt wanted to see.
“Shoot the jab to his chest,” Buddy extolled his fighter. The former welterweight champion turned trainer’s formula to keep Jones on the defensive with pressure and well placed jabs had worked for more than 20 rounds versus Roy Jones, and if Tarver could stay focused McGirt knew his man would end up with another win over the former Pound-For-Pound All-Star.
The eighth round was an example of feinting at its finest and its worst. Feinting is a subtle art that only fighters, mongoose and serpents can appreciate. When it’s performed at as high a level as Tarver and Jones did on Saturday it is intriguing to watch for boxing purists but it isn’t all that scintillating, and HBO’s Jim Lampley and Larry Merchant just weren’t enjoying it. From the scattered boos in the crowd there were numerous times during Tarver-Jones 3 when we were reminded that this trilogy will never be thought of along with the likes of Gatti-Ward or Ali-Frazier.
In the tenth it was a duel–two premier fighters using the same oddly cautious style on each other–Tarver trying to out Roy Jones-Roy Jones at the end of the round and each man scored with a single shot here and there.
To some degree Roy fought Tarver the way he always did but he didn’t have the speed to leap in and out with clean effective punches and instead he brushed at the raised gloves of Tarver with wide shots or bounced lefts off Tarver’s elbows reaching for his ribs. Clearly, Roy Jones tried his ass off and couldn’t come up with even a solid round of brilliance.
But in round eleven Roy gave us a glimpse of the warrior so many of his fans have insisted he held within all along.
After McGirt excoriated him in the corner, Tarver picked up the pressure in the eleventh. Though clearly exhausted, Tarver connected with a hard right hook that rocked Jones all the way to his socks. Sensing the knockout, Tarver hurled himself at his foe and missed Jones with a huge left which almost sent Tarver over the ring ropes and all the way down to the arena floor. Jones was able to recover momentarily before Tarver regained his feet and turned back to the wounded quarry in front of him.
Then, stunned and blinking Roy Jones did what he’s never had to do in his career. A groggy Roy Jones fought his way back from the edge on very spongy legs and by the end of the round it was Jones stalking the exhausted Tarver. On this writer’s card at least he had turned a certain ten-eight round back to a less damaging score of ten-nine and more importantly he never went down.
The twelfth was relatively uneventful with an extremely tired Antonio Tarver unable to follow up on any damage done in the previous round. When the bell sounded Jones had finished on his feet and for the most part it seemed that was victory enough.
The long limbed Tarver, fighting behind that severe southpaw angle would have given Jones problems in his best days but now the physiology of Tarver alone is more of an issue than Roy has had to deal with in so many fights. Add Tarver’s skills to the ideal physique for a Roy Jones opponent and we end up with the full-fledged nemesis that Antonio Tarver became for His Royness.
On Saturday night Roy Jones Jr. wanted to wipe away the specter of the back-to-back kayo losses and he did accomplish that, sort of. He didn’t win and he never looked great but Jones did have his few moments like in the fifth and in that great eleventh where he dug down deep.
Later I caught Roy Jones being interviewed by Brian Kenny on ESPNews and there was some self delusion as could be expected from any aging warrior who doesn’t want to go away quietly.
“Tonight was a good competitive fight,” Roy Jones told him. He went on to speculate on his future, hinting towards more fights with Glenn Johnson and even Antonio Tarver.
“I want a rematch with both of them,” Jones grinned. “You know me.”
If that’s true and Roy is thinking of any sort of rematch he might consider granting middleweight Bernard the Executioner Hopkins one at a catch weight of 170 pounds or growing large again to rematch James Lights Out Toney at heavyweight. He could feasibly recapture a lot of lost luster with big wins over either of those men. But Roy would have to risk life and limb versus both Toney and the Executioner and does he really want to do that anymore when he really never has to do it again?
Send comments or questions to Alex Pierpaoli at: KOFantasyBoxing@gmail.com