This is not meant to be a "ten greatest" for Roy Jones, Jr., so don't take it that way. Rather, this is simply a list and "ah, memories"-type thing where we look back and recall some of the biggest, most impressive, and most important nights in the career of Roy Jones, Jr., the former pound-for-pound king of the world who, perhaps unfortunately, seems to plan to continue fighting after a lopsided beating at the hands of Joe Calzaghe last Saturday.
Make no mistake -- while I think a prime Calzaghe with his boundless energy and goofy angles would have given even the prime Jones a tough test, I do not think that Jones would have lost to Calzaghe if we're talking prime versus prime. As great as Calzaghe has been, and as much of a Hall of Famer as he is, Jones is one of those rare fighters that has truly captivated the sports world at one time or another.
He was, without question, THE fighter of the 1990s. But he was also a polarizing figure; for those that criticize Calzaghe's record and some opponents, let's not forget that Jones took a brow-beating eventually for what many deemed soft opposition. If Calzaghe copied a playbook from any star fighter, it's Roy Jones.
There were times when Jones irked the boxing diehards for a seeming indifference to the sport, such as when he played in a semi-pro basketball game the day of a fight with Eric Lucas -- a fighter Jones knocked out. He was criticized for fighting Rick Frazier, a 39-year old New York City cop with an 18-3-1 pro record, in 1999. Frazier, after being demolished in two rounds, never fought again. That fight, quite frankly, was a farce, and an insult to boxing fans.
But he was also without peer in the ring, or at least was so good he could make it seem that way. His hand speed during his prime may legitimately be unrivaled throughout boxing history. He didn't have one-punch power, but he had real power. He was so elusive that many opponents struggled to even find an opportunity to throw a punch, because when they might have seen an opening, suddenly, he was gone.
With all that said, let's look back on ten of Roy's greatest wins, and hope that maybe, he'll change his mind and get out before something bad happens. As Wallace Matthews of Newsday recently said, "It happens to so many boxers, it seems, and now, it has happened to Jones. They find the love long after they have lost the ability."
May 22, 1993: Bernard Hopkins (UD-12)
"Jones says that Hopkins is the best man he's ever fought, Hopkins says the same thing about Jones." -- Jim Lampley, HBO
On January 15 of 1993, Bernard Hopkins turned 28. The next day, Roy Jones turned 24. A few months later, the two would meet at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., for the vacant IBF middleweight crown. Jones was ranked second, Hopkins first by the sanctioning body.
It was not at all the world's most memorable fight, positioned in a prime spot on the undercard of Riddick Bowe's heavyweight title defense against the hopelessly overmatched Jesse Ferguson, who had stunned Ray Mercer in February. With three scores of 116-112, Jones won the unanimous decision, having clearly outboxed Hopkins over the course of the fight. Some even thought the scores should have been wider than they were.
As Lampley put it after it was over, "it was, at best, a tactical fight." But it is quite something to think these 15 and a half years after the fact, that when Lampley noted that both men said they'd never fought a better fighter, it may still hold true.
Nobody knew back then that these were two Hall-of-Famers-to-be. It was just a couple of good, young fighters, Jones a former Olympian, Hopkins a rough young man from Philly, going at it for a vacant title. You would have been forgiven for not expecting a whole lot more out of Hopkins than what you saw that night. Goes to show you never can tell.
Years later, with both near the top of the pound-for-pound ranks, the boxing public wanted a rematch. The two memorably argued live on HBO for nearly five minutes, "negotiating" a rematch ("60-40 I kick your ass!"), and they even signed on for a March 11, 2006, rematch, which fell apart over -- of course -- money.
November 18, 1994: James Toney (UD-12)
Of course, gotta have the clip:
That ridiculous knockdown showed just how good Roy was by 1994. James Toney was no slouch, and Jones not only embarrassed him by baiting him into one of the silliest damn knockdowns you'll ever see in boxing, but he flat-out dominated a great fighter and took his super middleweight title in the process. Jones won unanimously on scores of 119-108, 118-109 and 117-110.
And I think in a lot of ways, it's a loss that Toney, then 44-0-2, never really got past in his career. He's certainly gone on to a great, memorable (good ways and bad) career regardless, but that's the fight people are going to most remember Toney for. Roy Jones outclassed James Toney for 12 rounds.
June 24, 1995: Vinny Pazienza (TKO-6)
Jones' slaughter of double-tough pug Vinny Pazienza in 1995 was one of his most vicious performances, no doubt about it. Though Pazienza was outgunned in every way, he valiantly stood in and not only took a beating from Jones for six rounds, but did everything he could to get inside and keep Jones from turning his face into hamburger meat with jabs.
He couldn't actually accomplish the getting inside very well, but damned if he didn't keep coming. The shrug that Jones gives after Pazienza tries to come back from two sixth round knockdowns gives me goosebumps, and so does the nasty, six-punch shredding that finishes the fight.
August 8, 1997: Montell Griffin (KO-1)
I wonder what one loss of his five that Roy Jones would most like to have back? If it was me, it would be the loss to Montell Griffin in March 1997, which came when Jones was disqualified after hitting Griffin twice while Griffin was knocked down. It was a close fight -- Griffin was even ahead on one card at the time of the DQ, and he fought a lot better than many expected. Jones, admittedly, might have overlooked Griffin, a hell of a good fighter in his own right who held two wins over James Toney and came into the first Jones fight with a 26-0 record.
But the first fight, memorable itself, was all but erased by the rematch, where Jones refused to show Griffin any respect. On his first punch of the bout, he threw a violent left hook that staggered Griffin. Moments later, Griffin went down for the first time.
With about 30 seconds left in the round, Jones threw a leaping left hook that sent Griffin down again, and despite his best efforts, Montell had no hope of reaching his feet. With the dust settled, Jones had so heartily avenged the defeat to Griffin that when we talk about Jones today, it may as well not even have happened.
April 25, 1998: Virgil Hill (KO-4)
Virgil "Quicksilver" Hill was a 1984 Olympic silver medalist who had long held the WBA light heavyweight title and would later win the body's cruiserweight title. Though he had lost the fight before Jones (to Dariusz Michalczewski) and probably wasn't the strongest titlist of his era, either (he'd long defended almost exclusively at the Bismarck Civic Center, against some questionable opposition), he was a fine fighter.
In the fourth round, Jones hit him with a gruesome body shot, breaking one of Hill's ribs and ending the fight in the dramatic fashion. To this day, it is another one of those Jones highlights that will play in any video package meant to hype one of his fights.
June 5, 1999: Reggie Johnson (UD-12)
This is the one that truly may have been the most dominant 12 round exhibition I've ever seen. Reggie Johnson was no superstar, but he was the IBF light heavyweight titleholder, he was a legit fighter, and Jones had just come off of the Rick Frazier joke. Jones had overlooked fighters before, and he seemed to be taking it just about as easy as ever before this one.
But instead of being tested, Jones wiped the floor with Johnson for 36 minutes. He dropped him in the first round, and put him down again in the third. It was never even a question of who was going to win this fight, it was only a question of when it would happen. It went all 12 rounds, partially because Johnson was, again, a legitimately good fighter.
All three judges scored it 120-106, a complete shutout for Jones. The most amazing stat of all was the punches landed. Jones landed 273. Johnson landed 49 punches in 12 rounds -- about four per round.
Johnson, now 44, made a comeback last year after two and a half years off, and upset Julio Cesar Gonzalez.
September 7, 2002: Clinton Woods (TKO-6)
Like Johnson, Woods was a credible fighter, which time has taught us a little more than was accepted at the time. Woods is no world-class athlete. He's a workman-like, capable guy that can take a good shot and give some back.
All he really proved in 2002 against Jones was the "take a good shot" part, though. In fact, he took so many good shots that in the sixth round, with Woods hopelessly behind on the scorecards and clearly out of his depth (as most all Jones' opponents were, frankly), his manager threw in the towel. That sixth round, really, was one of the last times we would get to see the dominant, overwhelming Roy Jones that legends are made of.
March 1, 2003: John Ruiz (UD-12)
Roy Jones had talked for a few years of moving up and winning a heavyweight title, which would have made him the first man in 106 years to win a title as a middleweight and later as a heavyweight.
He signed to do it against John Ruiz, one of the most consistently dissed performers of his era, fair or not. Ruiz was never exactly one for the exciting fight, and wasn't a big puncher. The fight with Jones afforded him a chance to beat the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, get a lot of media attention, and cash a nice paycheck, too. He was part of history. He wound up being the part he'd have rather not, though.
For 12 rounds, a 193-pound Roy Jones danced around, popped, and outworked the 226-pound Ruiz en route to a landslide decision win (118-110, 117-111, 116-112). He had done it. Roy Jones had won a heavyweight title.
In essence, it was the end of the line.
November 8, 2003: Antonio Tarver (MD-12)
On one of his worst nights, Roy Jones still did just enough to outpoint Antonio Tarver in Las Vegas. Tarver may complain to this day that he won this fight, but I still feel Roy gutted this one out and eked out a decision. You can argue the other way.
We know what happened in the second fight, when frankly Jones looked great for the opening round and got drilled with a closed-eyes, counter left-hand bomb from Tarver that nobody was going to get up from. We know what happened in the third fight, when Tarver clearly outpointed Jones.
And while this one doesn't stand as one of Jones' greatest wins, it showed him responding to some adversity, which is highly rare in his career. In fact, this may be the only victory of his career where he really had to dig deep and find something within himself. That alone makes it sort of special, I think. He was obviously drained from dropping 18 pounds of fight night weight between Ruiz and this fight, which were eight months apart. That's a huge drop for any person, let alone a professional fighter. In the end, Tarver gets the last laugh in this rivalry, but Roy can be proud of this fight. He showed the guts that many had wondered if he had over the years. It's easy when you're dominating and feeling great. It's not so easy when you're running on fumes.
January 19, 2008: Felix Trinidad (UD-12)
Jones-Trinidad, in my view, does not really matter. But for Jones, this had to have been a special night. He was fighting another one of his era's greatest, former welterweight and junior middleweight thumper Tito Trinidad, one of the most popular fighters in the long, great tradition of Puerto Rican boxing.
The two of them hooked up at Madison Square Garden, Jones an old, faded star, and Trinidad an inflated, twice-retired star who hadn't been in the ring in almost three years.
For three rounds, Jones felt Trinidad out. Saw what he had to offer. Once Jones came to the conclusion most expected he would, that Trinidad simply was not big or strong enough to hurt him, he took it to Tito for the rest of the fight and won it going away, twice flooring Trinidad. He did what he could to make the performance feel like the Roy of old. He taunted, he showboated, he shimmied around, he toyed with Trinidad.
But he did this simply out of the ease of doing so; there was nothing to fear with Trinidad, and he knew it. Tito was not going to catch Roy screwing around and knock him out. And if Roy ever felt threatened, all he had to do was turn up the heat and watch Trinidad wilt.
It may not truly be among his greatest victories, but I'm sure it was a great honor for Roy to fight Trinidad at Madison Square Garden. As it stands right now, it may wind up being the last "great" win of his career, flawed though it may be.
I will admit one thing right now. It is undeniably selfish of me, or any other fan, to demand a Roy Jones retirement. It is selfish because I want him to do this mostly so that I can "remember Jones as he deserves to be remembered."
It's also stupid of me to put that on Jones or any other fighter. How I remember them should not be affected by how their careers end. No one thinks first of Cal Ripken flailing away his final few years; no one has their mind spring to Joe Montana on the Chiefs; Michael Jordan's Wizards career is not going to pop into your head immediately.
And Roy is that class of athlete, too. He is memorable not only because he was so good, but he is memorable because he inarguably defined his era.
For me to request Roy hang it up is -- and why lie? -- not simply because I don't want him to get hurt. That's part of it, and it's sincere, but I don't want any fighters to get hurt, and they risk that at 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and beyond, every time they step into the ring.
If Roy Jones feels good, feels he'll be able to defend himself in the ring, feels he can still compete, then as much as I may not personally like it or really want to see him fight anymore, it's not my place to say he should stop, probably. Besides, we know fighters don't listen to the retirement calls of the fans.
And when he does finally retire, I'm not going to think of Roy Jones getting lashed by Joe Calzaghe or getting whacked around by Glen Johnson. I'll think of him humiliating James Toney, making history with John Ruiz, and breaking Virgil Hill's rib.
I'll think of him as he deserves to be thought of -- as a legend we were blessed to see perform.